Abroad Lesson #3: Culture Shock is REAL

I love Rome, I really do. I love learning about a new culture and fully immersing myself within that culture, but I would be lying if I told you that I love everything about Italian culture. Before coming abroad as students we were all warned that we would most likely experience some sort of culture shock at some point. I never really gave it much thought because I assumed people were just talking about the fact that I would be shocked and surprised at how different some aspects of society are here, but no...

We were told that culture shock might not hit us until we were about a month or so into our trip. I experienced culture shock right away because upon arriving to Italy, nothing was what I expected it to be. The Italy I had envisioned was one in which I had seen in movie after movie, all the cobblestone streets, and little cafes. Yes, Rome does have all those beautiful cobblestone streets and friendly little cafes, but there is so much more than that. There are palm trees, and it has rarely rained since we got here. 

When you think of Rome you think of how beautiful the Colosseum is, but until you're there you never realize how some of the beauty is taken away by the never-ending crowds of tourists. I never expected to see so many people trying to sell selfie sticks, that is something you would never expect to be seen outside the Vatican, and yet regardless those people are there. 

My culture shock has continued from my first week here. I am less shocked by the scenery and my surroundings and more by the actions of the people around me and the culture itself. I find myself getting annoyed at how long meals take and how it bothers me when the waiter never comes over to the table. I miss ice coffee and getting a decent sized American breakfast rather than a cappuccino that you drink while standing up and a croissant that has a hint of lemon flavor to it. I still don't understand how cars and vespas all drive here, and I really don't understand why it's unacceptable to go out in public with wet hair even if it's above seventy degrees outside and why even though it's October it's not socially acceptable to wear shorts out of the house. 

And now I finally understand what everyone said when they told me the real culture shock would hit later on. There are lots of little adjustments that lead to such big differences here that are not as obvious on the outside. Don't get me wrong I do love living here so much, and maybe some day when I am back in America I will miss eating my meal without my server coming gup and checking on me every five minutes, but trust everyone who tells you that culture shock is real because they are not lying.