Note: I just arrived back in the States, but I wrote this post while I was in Italy.
Bear thought it would be an interesting idea for me to write about my experiences and impression as an American in Italy while I’m here. I think it’s a great idea to reflect on my time here for my memories and also to share with our readers, especially Americans who would like to live or travel in Italy…or maybe even Italians who are curious what an American thinks of their country.
When I’m in the US, I am constantly longing for Italy (especially the food!). But when I’m in Italy, there are surprising things that I miss about the US. These don’t include personal things like family, friends or my puppy (because obviously I miss them the most!)
What I miss about the US
As much as I love Italy and all of its cozy, narrow, ancient streets, sometimes I feel *slightly* claustrophobic, and I’m not usually the claustrophobic type. Let me explain.
I was born and raised in Nevada, the seventh biggest state in size, but one of the least populated. Nevada’s population density is misleading though because most of the population is concentrated in Las Vegas. Where I’m from in the north, it’s miles and miles of sweeping mountain and valleys where you can see the horizon from anywhere, which makes for some spectacular sunrises and sunsets.
On the other hand, the region of Veneto where Bear lives is one of the most densely populated regions in Italy. It cracks me up because while it takes nearly an hour to drive from north to south in my town, there’s a new town every 5 minutes in Veneto. A few weeks ago I saw the most incredible vivid red sunset peeking through the houses in the neighborhood, and I tried in vain to catch an unobstructed glimpse of it. Bear thought I was crazy because he said you can never see the horizon in Veneto. Not to mention, the humidity in Veneto makes it feel like you’re trying to breathe through a heavy blanket. Nevada is so dry and my city is located at a higher elevation and surrounded by mountains, so the air is much more crisp and fresh. This part of Veneto reminds me of the flatland in central California, so I definitely feel this kind of claustrophobia in the U.S. too…even beautiful places like Oregon where all you can see in front of you is another pine tree!
Of course there are more remote places in Italy with sweeping views of the horizon but it’s not just the population density…it’s also the lack of a personal space bubble. Even innocent looking grannies will try to wedge their grocery cart to beat you in line at the grocery store! One time while waiting in line at the mall, these teenage girls were so close they were breathing down my neck. My first thought was, “how rude!” (Stephanie Tanner voice). Bear assured me that they weren’t being rude…it’s necessary to get this.close in line so nobody else cuts in! Americans are cutthroat about their place in line – I once walked up to my cousin who was already in line at the Costco food court, and a mother with her young daughter cussed me out and told me she hoped I choked on my food!
I totally didn’t see this one coming! In the US I am always longing for a nice Italian caffè (what we Americans refer to as espresso, or more like eXpresso, lol). I am very adaptable with my coffee drinking habits though, and I approach coffee drink with a “when in Rome” mentality. For some reason though, I really miss my morning brew from Mr. Coffee. I think I grew accustomed to its milder flavor and being able to sip it for a good 30 minutes while I do some morning writing. I could easily drink 3 cups of American coffee, but the flavor of Italian moka coffee is so intense that I can’t drink more than thimble-sized cup! I miss coffee being with me while I work. I think it’s a comfort thing, like my very own version of an adult sippy cup.
Okay, so it’s not so much that I miss speaking English because I probably speak too much of it with Bear anyways, so I’m not lacking in the English department. What I do miss is being able to fully express myself the way I can in English. The most frustrating this is I would say that I mostly understand Italian, but my speaking is sub-par. I need to take advantage of the opportunity to speak Italian while I’m here, but I feel super shy and awkward when I don’t know what to say in Italian or I sound like a two year old. I guess what I really miss is being in my comfort zone…but how boring to stay there! Even a waitress jokingly called me pigra (lazy) when she found out I could understand Italian…It’s not that I don’t want to speak Italian, it’s that I want to be as good as I am in English without going through the awkward stages of language learning. Yeah, I know. Idealistic much! I always have to remind myself that I’ll get nowhere by being a perfectionist.
There is just something about Target…it’s my happy place, my adult Toys R Us. I love that I can find a Target in almost any city in the U.S., and usually everything I need is there. Makeup, clothes, home goods, food…it’s all there! I miss the comfort and convenience…the ritual of walking around with my Starbucks coffee in hand. There’s been a few things that Bear and I wanted to buy but couldn’t find. All I could think is I Target would have that!
What I don’t miss about the US
Bear and I have been cooking almost all of our meals from scratch. It makes me realize how much processed food I ate in the US – from getting a quick bite out for lunch while working (Panda Express….why did I???), or lazily popping a burrito into the microwave because I didn’t feel like doing dishes after cooking (go, go, go American lifestyle). Homemade food is so much tastier and healthier than processed food. I’m on a mission to eat as many whole foods as I can, and the mission of our blog is to show people how easy it is to make delicious, healthy homemade dishes.
Driving long distances
I do kind of miss having my car, but in the States I almost never wanted to leave my house because almost everything is nearly 30 minutes away by car. Unless we go sightseeing somewhere we hardly drive here. “Far” for Bear is 10-15 minutes away. I have to admit though, even though things are closer here they take longer to get to because of the traffic and lack of freeways between all the little towns. In Veneto there’s a new town practically every 5 minutes! In my city it can take over 45 minutes to drive from one end of town to another!
Italian girls wear a lot less makeup than American girls (from my observations). In fact, in the US I feel super self-conscious going out in public without makeup. I’ve been wearing minimal makeup here because not only does it feel liberating to be free of spending useless time in the bathroom, and the slavery of consumerism thinking I need to contour my face with blush, highlighter, and bronzer etc. but also because the humidity here will make it melt right off your face and it feels disgusting.
In the US I always have to ask for water without ice (it gives me goosebumps!). I love that I know when I order water in Italy I’ll get a chilled bottle of water senza ghiaccio (without ice!) – and they always ask if I want my water gassata (sparkling) or naturale. I’ll take the bubbles, please! I also appreciate that fast food is hard to come by, and drive throughs are nearly nonexistent. Not that I use them often in the US, but I can never resist Starbucks (see adult sippy cup reason above). There’s also less frozen food choices, and the majority of them are frozen vegetables. In addition to having better ingredients in general, there’s just less opportunities to make bad, lazy food choices.
Eating in Italy is a pleasure to be savored, and even eating out at a restaurant is more relaxing. True, sometimes you have to hunt down the waiter, but at least they’re not not so subtly trying to get you out by giving you the bill before you’ve even finished.
There are things that I prefer about the U.S. and others about Italy, but the two countries balance each other out perfectly. The best of both worlds, in my opinion.
Leave a comment: What is something that you miss when you’re abroad?