I touched down in America almost exactly a month ago, Monday, May 7 at 1 a.m. I hit the ground running.
My friend (shout out to Dilara!) picked me up from LAX in the wee hours of the morning. I stayed the night at her place, and the next morning, I picked up my car and started unloading things from my storage unit into my new apartment. (Side note: Some of my Italian friends were so intrigued by American storage units, which one lovable Italian character I met referred to as “garages for your things.”)
Since being back in America, I have felt all the feels. (For my Italian friends reading, no that is not proper English. The feels just means a lot of emotions.) I have felt excitement to be home, exhilaration to be back in Los Angeles (the city I love), nervousness for the job hunt, fear of starting over (four months away from L.A. certainly feels like starting over), stress, newness, uncertainty.
Like I said, I have felt all the feels.
I left L.A. and took on the challenge of life abroad after a year of job hunting and experiencing major burn out. I am reminding myself that starting over is not a bad thing. A fresh start, a new chapter, a second beginning can be an amazingly beautiful thing, a gift. I am back in L.A. ready to do what I love and create impactful media and write! (Gah, I am such a words nerd and I love it!)
Since returning to the states, there have been a number of “very American” things that have stood out to me like a sore thumb after living in Italy. Reverse culture shock is real people. Even though I am American, there have been several things, some good, some bad and all funny, that I have had to adjust to.
It is impossible to live in Italy and to not have Italian style leave an imprint on your personal closet. Since living in Italy, I am obsessed with neutrals and blacks, clean, crisp lines and simple but eloquent looks. When I arrived in New York in May, the first thing I noticed about Americans is that we literally wear anything. Flip flops, Ugg boots, leggings, running shorts, over-sized tees. We mismatch all of these items together and call it fashion. Americans dress more for comfort and less for style. While Italians are always stylish (even when they do not try.)
– The food
My body has literally been rejecting food. American food has so much sugar, additives and hormones. You hear people talk about how bad American food is, but it wasn’t until leaving for a long-period of time and returning that I actually understood. American food tastes so different- the texture, taste and flavor- from food in Europe. I could eat pasta every day in Italy. That is not a thing in America!
– Friendly strangers
My second day back in Los Angeles, I went to my favorite coffee shop and a man greeted with a hello and a smile. This man was a complete stranger. Now this may sound unexciting, but I felt my heart do a mini cartwheel. In Piemonte, the region of Italy where I lived, the culture tends to be more aloof and distant. People don’t tend to smile and make eye contact with strangers. Of course, none of this is to be rude, but it’s just not normal there. The people of northern Italy are not overly warm or friendly. So if a stranger smiles at them, they are more likely to be concerned than see it as a greeting. It is nice to be back in America and to have strangers on the street smile, make eye contact and speak to me.
– Understanding the language
It is funny to be back and completely understand what people are saying. I got used to walking around Bra or to coffee shops or the train station and speaking the little Italian I knew. I learned to tune out words because I did not understand most conversations happening around me. To hear conversations from a distance that I completely can understand was a bit of a shock. It has also made ease dropping a lot easier!
– Not being stared at
One thing I always laughed about is how I often got stared at in Italy. While I’d love to think it was just because people thought I was pretty, it more so had to do with being a foreigner and speaking English. One thing I have had to adjust to in America is nobody looking at me, like at all. I’m just another person walking by. It’s quiet ironic!
I did not drive for four months- FOUR! For the three months I was in Europe and the month before that I traveled around America, I had the pleasure of being driven around by others or taking public transportation. In Los Angeles, all you do is drive! My parallel parking skills have suffered a lot since being gone. I also have grown unaccustomed to L.A. traffic. (It’s a beast!) My road rage has grown in my time away most definitely.
How I have changed since living in Italy:
– I understand the value of speaking different languages.
I am currently working on fluency in Spanish. I was super impressed by the Italian people I met who were fluent in English, French, German or some other language. Language is a powerful tool in connecting people. It’s a big world out there, and I realized how much I am limiting myself by only speaking one language. I want to connect with as many people as possible and part of that is learning languages.
– I have learned to question my country’s leadership and the importance of being politically active.
Even though Italy is currently going through a rough political climate, one thing I respect about the Italian people I encountered was their willingness to question government and political leaders. They even question American government. “Why is gun control such an issue in America?” is one question I got a lot. I realized in my time away, often Americans are more focused on patriotism and loyalty that we neglect to educate ourselves on issues and to hold our leadership to ethical and altruistic standards. Americans get a little lazy when it comes to politics, and we lose sight of facts, research and questioning.
– I love Nutella.
I had my first taste of peanut butter (which is super American) the other day. And oh my! Nutella is leaps and bounds better.
– I talk with my hands.
When I am excited for something, annoyed or confused, I watch my hands automatically fly in the air. Italian people talk with their hands. They use big gestures, and they talk fast and with lots of passion. The hand gestures that used to make me laugh, I now find myself doing.
– I am more aware of how much we let go to waste in America.
In Italy, every home I visited, the families recycled. There was a section for plastic, paper, food and waste. Also, no light was left on or used unnecessarily (like in the middle of the day when the sun is out.) I have never been one to leave a light on (hello, light bill?), but now I am super aware of conserving energy and how much we let go to waste here in the states.
– I want to travel more.
Even though my time in Italy wasn’t picture perfect (because what in life is ever perfect?), it was an adventure! I would do it again in a heartbeat. I plan to go back to Italy. (I didn’t see Rome or Sicily!) I also want to travel to other countries. I’ve got the travel itch, and it needs to be scratched!
My time in Italy challenged me in so many ways. It definitely taught me a lot. I will always hold my experience and the beautiful country of Italia close to my heart.
Check out these photos from my last week in Italy: