How to Thrive as an American in Italy

Courtney Cranford is a student at the Emporia State University, and an ISA Featured Blogger. She is currently studying abroad with ISA in Florence, Italy.

La Milkeria, Florence, Italy, Cranford - Photo 1
This was one of the easiest transitions to Italian living (nutella crepes and waffles for breakfast)

Of course we are proud to be Americans, we have a lot going for us. Whether it’s our deep respect for our founding fathers, our love of American sports, our fast-paced lifestyle, or turkey for Thanksgiving, we have pride in EVERYTHING we do. And we earned it, right? I mean who brought jazz into existence? Or apple pie? But studying abroad is kind of like the Wizard of Oz, you’re not in Kansas anymore.

So heres a guide to rocking that American pride, while also getting the most out of your experience living in Italy.

  • Enhance your European wardrobe. This is basically an excuse to have a shopping spree. Observe what the locals are wearing. Its more of an attempt to appreciate their culture than an attempt to be cool. Italians wear black, lots of it, and avoid flashy colors in the winter. They also dress according to the season, not the weather, so in winter you wear a coat and in February you bring an umbrella. Also buying supportive, waterproof shoes is a necessity. I repeat, an absolute NEED.
  • Avoid giant groups like the plague. I mean we all love our posse, but a giant caravan of young individuals makes it really hard to get to know any Italians. Just as it would be intimidating for us to walk up to a group of international students studying in the States, it also becomes intimidating for Italians to talk to you. Also the streets are narrow and it becomes quite a roadblock for oncoming traffic.
  • Have street smarts. Italians walk almost everywhere. They walk slowly and are not in a rush to get from Point A to Point B. Americans tend to power-walk, so take the extra time to look at your surroundings and enjoy the journey more. Also, Italians talk much quieter to each other while walking on the streets, so be aware of your noise level and bring it down if you think the person behind you or across the street can hear your whole conversation.
Street Art, Florence, Italy, Cranford- Photo 2
Florence is full of street art, and it will blow you away if you take the time to appreciate it.
  • Make dinner a big deal. Italians LOVE their food, and go all out when it comes to dinner. There are usually multiple courses if it is done right, and wine is a must. So take your time when you go out for an evening meal, and enjoy your company. Waiters don’t come by and give you the check until you ask for it, so they really don’t mind if you stay there for a long time. Italians eat later too, so if you and a couple friends go at 9 p.m. you might actually convince them you’re a local.
  • Explore. There are a lot areas that are “Americanized” in Italy. Take the time to find the real, authentic parts that give you a better taste of Italian life. Whether that’s getting recommendations from Italian neighbors or your professors, do what you can to get outside your comfort zone and give Italy a shot. Trust me, authentic Italian cuisine is way better than spaghetti at a mainstream, touristy restaurant. It’s also a good way to practice your Italian, and there’s a lot to see that isn’t highlighted on a map.
L'Arcano, Rome, Italy, Cranford-Photo 3
Ran into this restaurant in Rome as we were exploring. Totally worth it.

The world awaits…discover it.


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