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My Weird American Habits (According to Italians)

One of the things I love most about living abroad is how it makes you reflect on yourself and where you come from. You would think that when immersed in a foreign country your focus would be on that culture, which you inevitably do, but it also stimulates a lot of introspection. I love noticing what is “American” about me.

1) I have wet hair, and I don’t care.
I have no problem letting my hair dry naturally (also it’s healthier to lay off the heat). And since I have a lot of hair this can take a while. At home, nobody looks twice when I leave the house with damp hair. In Italy, however, I get so many stares! Italian women wouldn’t be caught dead in public with damp or wet hair.

2) I dress for the high temperature of the day.
I dress for the temperature of the day, not the season. This means that on a warm day in April (like yesterday), I am wearing a skirt, espadrilles, shirt, and denim jacket, while the Italians are still wearing puffy jackets, boots, and scarves. Italians wear a lot more clothing (even year round) to protect themselves from “bad air.” Italians believe that sudden fluctuations in temperature will make them sick (this is why they eschew air conditioning and leaving the house with wet hair). I really don’t know how they do it. I start sweating just looking at them in puffy jackets when it’s 70 degrees out.

3) I love lines.
I am really into lines. There is something about queuing that eases my anxiety and assures me that everyone will be served in a timely and orderly fashion. The lack of queueing in Italy seriously stresses me out!

4) I am always smiling.
This might be partly because I am from the south, but I smile at everyone, always. Some Italians find this endearing while others seem more perplexed. But, I have no intention of stopping!

5) I dress loudly.
Sorry, all-black everyday just isn’t me.

6) I need lots of personal space.
I never realized how much personal space I required until I started living abroad. And for all of my time in Italy, I am still not 100% comfortable kissing strangers or cozying up to random passengers on a bus.

7) I am deceptively polite.
As an American I feel obligated to ask how you are doing. But often when Americans ask that, we don’t really want to know, we are just being polite. We often give the canned reply “Good, thank you. How are you?” It’s funny that when I ask in Italy I get honest and often more in-depth answers to this question.

8) I am always eating.
First, I am always hungry. Second, I eat when I am hungry. Thus, unlike Italians, I don’t stick to a regular meal schedule, I like to snack all day!

9) I am always on time.
I am not just on time, I am often early. This of course is unheard of in Italy.

10) I have no patience for smoking.
Since smoking is (thank goodness) a dying habit in the U.S., I forgot how much I abhorred it, especially the smell!

Anyone else notice anything about themselves that was decidedly American when studying or living abroad?