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Culture Shock! My First Week Abroad

As most of you already know, I am currently studying abroad in Florence, Italy. So far the journey has been a little crazy but ultimately – AMAZING!

That isn’t to say my journey here didn’t have a rough start… Air France lost my luggage!  I was totally overwhelmed. Not only was I in an entirely new country, but I had none of my belongings!  I was stupid enough to pack only one change of clothes in my carry on. Fortunately, H&M exists here, and I was able to purchase a few pieces to get me by until my luggage was finally found.

Of course, I am extremely grateful for my wonderful and fabulous roommates. In total, there are six of us. Four of us are from SNHU so we knew each other before the trip. This definitely put me at ease, especially since we are all Fashion majors and share many of the same interests. We also have two other roommates from Albany, New York and they are some of the sweetest people I have ever met!

Together, we are slowly- but surely- adjusting to the many cultural differences that exist here in Florence, Italy. Things are certainly a whole lot different here….

Shopping at the Grocery Store

To save some Euros, we figured it would be a good idea to not eat out all the time and buy some groceries. You know, fruits and veggies, yogurt, eggs, bread, peanut butter…

But peanut butter doesn’t exist here! You literally cannot find it anywhere.  Italians really love Nutella there are jars of it EVERYWHERE – and Nutella flavored candy bars, gelato…but alas, no peanut butter.

As I looked up and down the refrigerated section for eggs, I began to get a little impatient.  That’s when I realized that Europeans keep their eggs at room

Our first night in Italy we celebrated with some Sangria.


We also  picked out some apples and oranges, and brought them to the register. The cashier gave us a confused look and pointed to a scale. That’s when we realized we actually had had to weigh our own fruits and vegetables.

Oh and I almost forgot to mention -we have to pay for plastic bags!

But the great part of shopping at the grocery store is the wine. You can buy a good bottle of wine for as little as three Euros, cheaper than buying water!

Conserving Energy and Recycling

Italians only get up to six hours of heat in their homes per day. We also have to be mindful of how much electricity we are using, as we will have to pay the difference if it goes over 200 Euros in a month.

Guidelines for recycling here are very strict.  All paper and plastic must be separated from the rest of our garbage, and failure to do so results in HUGE fines. Not only that, but we cannot let any hair go down the sink or shower drains, and we cannot let any food go down the kitchen drain either. We have to be super super careful! And if we throw out a piece of paper that has our name on it (such as a receipt) and don’t recycle it properly, we are in big trouble.

Also, nobody here has drying machines. Our own washing machine is located outside on our porch. We have to hang all of our clothes outside to dry!

  Eating Out at Restaurants

The Springtime sandwich at Pino’s. This sandwich shop is my new favorite. Absolutely delicious!

Although Italians here do not tip the waiters/waitresses, each restaurant typically has a cover fee  of about 2€ per person. Also, every restaurant we have been to has charged us for water, which comes in tall glass bottles and you can either have it served sparkling or still.

Italians also typically order three to five course meals. The antipasto, the primo, the secondo, the contoro, and the dolce. But I have ordered one dish and been satisfied with that.

We recently ate at Dante’s, which is a very nice Italian sit-down restaurant. There, I ordered penne with salmon and zucchini. They served us wine and after we finished eating dinner, we were each served a shot of Fernet, an amber-colored, syrupy, bittersweet Italian liquer. Italians commonly drink  this after their meals as a digestif.

Italians move very slooooow

Americans are extremely fast-paced. They are always on the go and moving towards their next destination. Italians? Not so much.

As my friend and I were walking towards our first class of the week, Tuscany and Its Wines, we somehow realized that our class didn’t start at 12:30pm, it actually started at 12:00. My apartment was located about twelve minutes away from the class, and it was already 11:55…

As we quickened our pace, we realized that nobody else was doing the same. Nobody was in a rush and everyone was walking slowly and taking their sweet time.

And that’s just the thing..Italians love to sit, relax and absorb every second of their day. In those five minutes we were rushing to class, I couldn’t appreciate this aspect of their lifestyle, but now I totally do.

Italians will sit, enjoy a glass of wine, and chat after a meal. They will stop in street cafés and read for an hour just because they can. They take the time to enjoy their surroundings for all that they are worth, and this is something that I am learning to embrace.

Language Barriers

Upon arriving to Italy, I was under the impression that pretty much everybody here spoke English.

But I was wrong! Although there are many people here who are fluent in English – especially merchants and waiters, there are others who barely understand it.

The first night, my roommate and I decided to explore the city a little. We also wanted to do some shopping at H&M and Zara  but we needed some help. We stopped several people on the street  for directions, all of whom had difficulty comprehending what exactly we were asking.

Although we finally reached our destination, we realized that communicating with Italians was a lot more difficult than we thought it would be. It took a lot of time and patience, and I struggled to recall phrases and words  that I had picked up from my guide books and Rosetta Stone.

The entire experience makes me more determined to pick up the language while I am here. I am also certain that my time here will succeed in making me a more cultured, well-rounded human being.


Whether it be going to class, stopping for a cappuccino, or just exploring the beautiful city, we do so much walking every day.

Briana, Amber, and I outside of Basilica of Saint Mary of the Flower.

And although we only have to walk up one flight of stairs to get to our apartment, most of my friends have at least three or four flights to theirs.

At first, I thought it was weird that Italians wore sneakers with all their outfits. They could literally be wearing, the classiest, most fancy outfit, and you look at their shoes and see they are sporting a bright pair of Nikes. It kind of makes sense now…My booties are seriously starting to hurt my feet.

I really don’t mind the walking. It’s great exercise, and I’m hoping maybe it will counteract all the pasta, bread, and wine I have been consuming. One can only hope.

And, with every step I take, I am discovering new and more beautiful parts of the city each and every day! I really can’t complain about that.

As expected, Italians do things a whole lot differently, and these are just a few of the many differences I have noticed.

But we are all adjusting, and I wouldn’t want to do it with anyone else. With these girls, I am sure we can accomplish anything! 🙂




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