DRIVING: Driving in Milan is a little crazy and it scared me at first. People drive really fast and there aren’t painted lines on the city streets. But after a while, I realized that everyone on the road (with a few exceptions) understands the rules of the road and are good drivers. The only difference is that people drive faster. When I arrived back in MN and drove for the first time, I got really nervous. People in Italy may drive fast, but at least they know the rules of the road!! It was my first experience back on the highway in MN and some person was driving 10 UNDER the speed limit in the left lane (frustrating? YES!). That lane should be for passing only and Italians understand that. A man also wouldn’t let me merge onto the highway even though I had the right of way. With my Italian driving skills working at their best, I honked at him. He just looked at me like I was crazy. And roundabouts… Minnesotans think they are a place to just stop and wait for everyone else to go. Traffic should move faster when there are roundabouts, not slower.
Ok, I’m venting a little bit. But really, the roads are a lot bigger in MN and there is a lot more room for error. As a result, people don’t pay attention like they do in Italy. We saw more accidents during our three weeks in MN than I have in our entire time living in Milan. My point- I feel safer driving in Italy than I do in MN (which is a sentence I never thought I would say!).
FOOD: Its official, I’ve become a food snob. What seemed so good before seems mediocre now. The produce in Milan is excellent and has opened my eyes to many foods that I didn’t like in Minnesota. Things like cherries, apricots, peaches, tomatoes, and so on. As a result, I’ve become a more adventurous eater and I’ve found so many great foods! I love it.
HUMOR: Italians have a great sense of humor and don’t take themselves too seriously. When I went home for the holidays it made me realize that Americans take themselves very seriously. Yes, we know how to have fun and will crack jokes every now and then, but it just isn’t the same light hearted feeling that I get from Italians. (Maybe I was too serious when I lived in MN?? And I’ve lightened up since moving to Italy?? This will have to be explored in 2012 when we return to MN again.)
BUSINESS: The way of doing business in Italy is definitely old school- seeing people face to face before building a relationship, being successful means you are in the “good ole boys club”, etc. But at the same time, they are very up front and direct. It’s very refreshing! In corporate America I’ve noticed that people tend to be too politically correct and sometimes don’t attack issues head on. People tend to skirt around issues instead of laying them out on the table to be solved. In Europe, they like to attack things head on and solve them. America is more “rah-rah!”- Let’s give everyone a pep talk.
SMOKING: It was so nice to be home and not have to smell cigarette smoke everywhere we went! Although, a lot of people that I know in MN smoke… But, coming home to Milan, I know I’m home because the smell of cigarettes is in the air.
Overall, living in Italy has really been an eye opening experience for me. I’ve become more tolerant of people and situations, and I feel that I’m more open to new possibilities. 2011 was a great year for learning new cultures, languages, and traveling to new places. Hopefully 2012 will bring the same kinds of opportunities that 2011 did. I absolutely love my life and am so grateful for all of the wonderful experiences we’ve had and the amazing people we have met. Let’s keep the good times going!