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Beware - American Abroad


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McElroy Translation Company Marketing Manager Lisa Siciliani received an email recounting the personal experiences of Carryn Bellomo, an English professor who spent time in Italy over the summer thanks to a Development Award through the University Studies Abroad Consortium available through the University of Nevada Las Vegas (UNLV). The primary goal of the Development Award is to “allow faculty members to improve their foreign language skills, enhance their knowledge of different cultures, and to create a network of individuals who are familiar with the international academic activities sponsored by UNLV.”

Carryn’s account of her adventure can be found at http://www.unlv.edu/faculty/bellomo/Italy/Italy.html. We provide some fun and funny excerpts which underline the traditional mentality of Americans. We see this as a grass roots account that is reflective of how mindsets can change and are changing. The good news – more executives “get it.” It is heartening to see an appreciation for other cultures becoming more integral in the way companies conduct business. And that improves the bottom line. McElroy Translation Company stands ready to help clients implement this realization with investment in translation and localization.

WHO MOVED MY CHEESE?

Mom gave me a book titled ‘Who Moved My Cheese.’ It was a great book describing the different ways one can react to change — strict denial, complaining, balking at it and refusing to change, or just going with the flow. I've considered myself an adapter for years now, but I have never been challenged to the extent I have over these past weeks. It amazes me how little I am aware of, how American I really am, and how ingrained that is in my actions. I may not be a genius, but I am by no stretch an idiot. But lately I have been astonished about how little I really know outside my own protected world. For example...

  • I took 4 showers and did 2 loads of laundry in freezing cold water before realizing that you actually have to turn on and off the hot water heater with what appears to be a light switch.
  • In train stations and other public places, you have to actually pay to use the toilet. After a long train ride perhaps it would have been wise to  ensure I carry change at all times. At least that is how I felt riding endlessly on a bumpy bus.
  • Um, exactly how do you flush the toilet? Oh, it’s on the wall. Duh. And do you seriously expect me to squat over that hole?
  • On the train the conductor was mumbling something to me I couldn’t understand, and the other passengers were staring at me.  They all began to point at the top of my train ticket.  Oh, I realized, that is why everyone was sticking their tickets in a machine outside the train, to validate the time.  Sorry.
  • I have waited in restaurants after finishing a meal for LONG periods of time, not realizing they don’t bring you the check unless you actually ask for it.  And not speaking the language or knowing how to ask for it doesn’t help any either.
  • I am only starting to feel comfortable with the keyboard, to find the @ key was a struggle, and to find the apostrophe key was worse.
  • I literally sat in front of the washing machine on the floor twice, trying to be patient, turning knobs and pushing buttons.  Why won’t the door open?  What exactly is the problem here?  Turns out you have to wait about 5 minutes before it will open, a safety mechanism since it loads from the front.
  • Out of desperation I ate a half a watermelon with a serving spoon, trying to fit the large thing in my mouth with each bite.  They have everything else in the apartment, why not utensils?  I found them two days later in the dining room hutch.
  • Keys seem to operate different, you have to turn them more than once to lock and unlock doors.  And I never seem to turn them the right way. I’m sure people think I am trying to break in every time I go home because I stand there for so long, turning and turning, back and forth, back and forth.
  • Are you sure you gave me the right change?  It doesn’t seem right, but I don’t know how to say that to you.  I hold up my hand, 5, with a puzzling look on my face. I probably look like I’m saying, ‘hi, I’m 5'.
  • What do you mean there are no restaurants open before 8pm, that couldn’t possibly be right, could it?  And what do you mean everything closes between 1:30 and 3:30, clearly that is an exaggeration, right?
  • What do you mean this is a supermarket?  There is nothing ‘super’ about it at all.  Where are the bagels?  How can you have so many choices for fresh olives and no choices for sliced bread?  Have you not heard of sliced bread here?  And which milk is skim?  I can’t read the labels.
  • I would have sworn my compact fridge was broken; I just couldn’t get it to turn on. I even pulled it out from under the counter looking for a plug.  Hours later after giving up I found a strange plug just hanging near an outlet on the wall farthest from the fridge.  What the heck, I’ll just plug it in and see.  Lo and behold the fridge starts to hum.
  • Why did all my clothes turn pink?  That doesn’t happen at home.  Oh, temperature is measured in Celsius, not Fahrenheit.  I washed them in 70 degree water not realizing that it was 158 degrees Fahrenheit!
  • What do you mean I weigh my own fruit in the supermarket?  Is that what those people were doing printing out bar codes and sticking them onto bags?  This kind of technology seems pretty out of place next to the guy sweeping the floor from what would appear to be a bundle of sticks tied together to make a broom.
  • How can I not read the menu?  Shouldn’t some of the words be the same, like ravioli or lasagna or manicotti or something?  I swear none of this looks familiar to me... please tell me I don’t have to eat ice cream AGAIN for dinner.
  • Why does nobody say ‘bless you’ to me?  It’s bad enough that I seem to be allergic to something here, but am I invisible as well?  Sometimes I think I’ll never stop sneezing until someone acknowledges me.  One day a British man said bless you and I nearly wanted to knock him over in a warm embrace.
  • Um, where is the AC?  What do you mean there is no AC?  Anywhere?  How is that possible with this heat and humidity?  What do you all do between 1:30 and 3:30, lay in tubs of ice just so you can tolerate the rest of the day?
  • What the heck am I supposed to do with this thing that is not quite a toilet but looks like one? Do people seriously use these?

I am truly getting what I asked for — to understand what it is like to truly be lost, to force myself to change the way I think and adapt to my surroundings. Some things I may actually miss when I am gone...

  • There is an easy way of life here.  Italians work hard, but don't take themselves too seriously. They devote a large amount of their time and energy to their family. They know how to work, but more importantly they know how to relax. They take time out to be with each other... you often see them hanging around shops, stores, parks or balconies, while the kids quietly play nearby.
  • Dogs are allowed everywhere.  You see them in bars, in the mall, on the bus, in restaurants.  Actually, compared to the kids in the states they are quite pleasant to be around.
  • There is no tipping in Italy.  And still the waiters and waitresses are in general much more friendly and helpful than they are in the states.
  • Nothing beats an afternoon nap, and you are almost forced to take one because everything closes from 1:30 to 3:30.
  • The Italian people are kind and helpful.  Now this means that even if they can’t help you they will try, which is why you can almost never trust them when they give you directions.
  • Gelato.  You can’t turn a corner without running into a shop that sells it.
  • It’s light until almost 10pm here.
  • The whole time I have been here, fast food has not really been an option.  It’s nice to be forced to make a meal about more than just eating.
  • Public transportation.  It’s cheap and easy.   Fresh parmesan on everything.
  • No matter how oddly dressed the teenage boys are, or how crass they seem to be acting, one in the group will always give up their seat on the bus to a woman.
  • The whole time I have been in Turin I have never heard a parent raise their voice to their child. Quite a difference from anywhere else I’ve been. Granted, I don’t understand what they are saying, but their tone is always gentle and loving. Maybe it’s because they don’t have Wal-Marts or McDonalds here.
  • Walking. I can’t begin to imagine how many miles I have walked since I have been here. I walk to explore and see the sights, walk to get somewhere, or walk because I have absolutely nowhere to be.








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