When I first arrived in Viterbo a little over a month ago, I had no idea what to expect. Honestly my biggest concern was whether or not I would fit in and feel comfortable. Not among the other American students, who were probably as nervous as I was, but with the locals. I remember my head being filled with so many different stereotypes and expectations, both good and bad. However, what came as a pleasant surprise to me was the way the locals in Viterbo welcomed all of us and the way they interact with one another.
I must admit I put very little effort into learning any Italian prior to my arrival. Within just my first few days in Viterbo I automatically began to hate myself for not learning at least the most basic terms, such as “you’re welcome”. The locals however never seemed to get frustrated with me and were willing to spend their time trying to helping me learn and understand.
“Piano, Piano” a lady who works at the cafe right under my building, would tell me. Now I go to Caffetteria Oslavia at least once a day. Here I am either greeted by a man who knows my order off the top of his head, or his lovely wife who always draws hearts in the foam of my cappuccino.
I love seeing them take turns picking their daughter up from school and bringing her to the cafe everyday around 2:00pm. In the United States it is most common for children to be picked up from school by their nannies if their parents are at work, or attend after school programs, which is what I did until my parents could pick me up. At Caffetteria Oslavia however, things are different. Its a family environment. They work together with the presents of their child which makes this location all the more welcoming and comforting for me and my roommates.
I remember being told by others who have studied in Italy before me that I would be amazed by how slow paced and relaxed the Italian lifestyle was. And they were right! At first, pausa pranzo for example, seemed like a big waist of time for me. It frustrated me that most things were closed, and hardly any one was out in what I always thought of as “prime time” in a day. What frustrated me most of all about this tradition was that I was the only one frustrated. I couldn’t seem to relax without feeling guilty or like I could be spending my time doing something “more productive”. I now realize that this is all very much a part of my personality. The inability to enjoy time relaxing is common in American culture because we stress the importance of always being productive, and we embed these values in our children very early in life. “Time is money”, “work hard, play hard”, and “the early bird gets the worm”, are just some sayings all Americans know and probably unconsciously live by.
I also admire the friendships Italians have with one another. They value their friends and express this in many different ways. Young teens often meet each other in the streets, greeting each other with kisses on the cheek and hugs. In the United States I was taught that hugs and kisses were only for people in romantic relationships and social time with friends was only to take place on weekends.
In a short period of time Viterbo opened my eyes to the simplest beauties in life. The relationships we have with others are so important and so relevant in our everyday lives, however we Americans tend to take them for granted quite easily. We are molded in a very “every man for himself” environment. Whereas here working with family and indulging in time just hanging out with friends is nothing to be ashamed of.
Im sure that if Americans adopted a more relaxed and family oriented lifestyle, we too would find greater appreciation for the simple things in life.
Hey there reader! My name is Mina Marjanovic and I am a second year college student, majoring in journalism and public relations at Chico State University in California. I was born in Serbia and have lived in the U.S from the tender age of four. On my free time I enjoy traveling as well as writing and taking photographs. A lot of my most recent pictures can be viewed on my blog at minam96.vsco.co. Currently I am studying abroad in Viterbo, Italy, where I hope to expand my knowledge and gain memorable experiences.