Culture Mild Interest

Before coming to Florence I attended a mandatory Study Abroad Orientation. Most of the subject matter consisted of something called, "Culture Shock." In fact, our orientation leaders informed us that due to this strange phenomenon, we would be depressed for a large part of our stay in each foreign country, some more than others obviously. I refused to accept this fact - after all, I didn't sign up to go to Florence, Italy to stare out of the window forlornly, pining for the United States (though it still does happen occasionally).
Upon arrival, sure, there were things I noticed that were different, but, as Beth and I discussed once, we took note of the differences, adapted, and moved on. This strange practice is what I like to call, "Culture Mild Interest."Culture Mild Interest happens in moments such as these:
-Upon arrival at the Frankfurt airport I noticed that the stall doors were large enough that there was no space at the bottom. Therefore, when you shut the door to these public restrooms, a complete vacuum was almost created. I found that mildly interesting.
-I was mildly interested as well as annoyed, when I found that in Inverness, Scotland, we had to pay 20 "pound cents," sometimes known as pence, to use the public restroom. I was confronted with this inconvenient truth again in the Milano trainstation. God Bless America and its free restrooms.
-Have you ever noticed that we usually pull on doors in the US to open them when entering a public building? I could be wrong, but I'm pretty confident that it's a rule of thumb. I figured this out when every door I approached in Italy wouldn't open for some reason. Ah, push, that's why.
These things were relatively easy to adapt to, and honestly I think Reverse Culture Shock will be more of a problem. I'm now accustomed to staring unabashedly at strangers, pushing on doors, being able to order drinks, attempting to formulate questions in Italian before I approach a stranger, etc.
In other words, it could be a rude awakening when I return to the US and discover that someone gets offended should I stare at them for an extended amount of time, or I begin to order a drink at a restaurant, only to be carded and subsequently judged afterwards. I find it interesting that upon traveling in a foreign country (Scotland, and now, France), I find myself missing Florence and Italian even though I'm not quite fluent and far from a native. I'm now of the opinion that traveling is an essential ingredient in that feeling of belonging somewhere. As is said in that wonderful Joni Mitchell song, "You don't know what you got til' it's gone," and it's certainly true in many facets of life - home, love, friendship...I often find myself back in Madison County, exploring the tall grass with Taz, laying in the hammock looking at the sky. Now, upon leaving another home, I surprisingly hear Italian come rushing from my vocal chords, attempting to ask where something is. I find that a little more than just mildly interesting.

Love from Paris, pictures and stories to come.

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