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,
- 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
- 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
- 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
- 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
- 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
- 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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