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I'm a 21-year-old journalism student. I spent last semester living in Florence, Italy. These are my adventures.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Diversity Diary #2

Note: I am catching up on posting these diversity diaries. I apologize that this comes so much after I actually visited Switzerland.

A couple of good friends who studied abroad through the Florence program before prepared me for most of the cultural differences I've encountered thus far.
Last weekend when I traveled to Switzerland, I didn't even consider what cultural differences I might find. It's amazing the change in environment and personalities an eight-hour drive can bring.
The first sign I was somewhere entirely new was the driving. As I mentioned before, Italian drivers aren't the most courteous motorists. So when I needed to cross a traffic circle in Interlaken, I stood patiently, expecting to wait for every car to clear out. Much to my surprise, the very first car slowed to a stop and waved me across — as did the next, and the one after that and every car at every intersection for the entire weekend. And every time I was flattered, overjoyed and still shocked at their kindness. It didn't get old.
That wasn't the only difference.
In Italy, Americans are either welcomed or scoffed at. It's one or the other, and some days I run into a lot of the latter. As soon as they realize I'm an American, which doesn't take long despite my keeping up in Italian, they respond in English — or rather they spit English responses at me as if it tastes bad on their tongue.
In Switzerland they don't scoff or mock. They either welcome or ignore Americans — and much more often the former! There's just a general relaxed atmosphere. It's different from Italy in so many more ways than the nature and architecture.
This is not to say Italy is a bad place in any way. Florence and Interlaken just contrast very sharply in ways I didn't expect to find.
I love them both.

Also, in my crowning moment of stupidity for the weekend, the following exchange happened.
Me: How do you say "thank you" in German?
Kind cashier: Danke
Me: Grazie!... erm... Thank you! DANKE! I MEAN DANKE!
She laughed, but with me not at my stupidity. It was a nice change.

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