The opportunity to study abroad should not be taken lightly, overlooked or under considered. Traveling and living in a different country allows insight to a unique culture and viewpoint on life. I was fortunate enough to travel out of the country a few times when I was young and it really opened my perspective. The feeling of discovery was contagious for me. I realized there is so much more that happens in one city, state, country; there is a whole world out there that differs completely from what we think we know.
Being in Rome these past months was magical. I have a realistic glimpse into the Italian lifestyle and a better understanding of what it is like living in America. The distance away from the States enabled me to reflect on American culture and what expectations are held for the youth there versus Italy. In an ethics class, the students attempted to differentiate the aspects of the societal American dream with the European dream. I decided to discuss some of the main differences because they helped me to really recognize how the two cultures vary in opinions of success.
Beginning with the American dream, there is more than just the ideal of a house with a white picket fence. We tend to be goal orientated in the sense of material items; be it an expensive car, clothing and stuff, we equate success to buying nice things. The idea of “more is better” is prevalent. More hours and more money need to be made to attain these materials and advance in a career, only then will a hard working American settle. The mantra “work hard, play hard” describes Americans pretty well in my opinion.
On the other side of the spectrum, Italians tend to be very laid back. I learned the word “domani” fairly quickly–it means tomorrow. Many Italians like to put off work, and get it done another day. Although this may not be the most efficient outlook, it appears to save stress and late hours. What motivates Italians is not necessarily material items and gaining more objects. It is the ability to spend time with family and friends; leisure time is very important to them. Meals are a laborious effort, eaten over the span of hours with loved ones. Picnicking with friends on nice days becomes a weekend routine. Time is spent relaxing more than working I have noticed during my time here.
One lifestyle is not better than the other. Both have positive and negative outcomes. One is fast and one is slow. Living abroad and traveling has opened my understanding of the different ways of life. I am not quick to judge, but to compare and contrast what I see based on my own perceived lifestyle in the United States. An interesting example is in the U.S., someone who lives in their parents’ home well after graduation is often labeled a “loser,” but most Italians stay at home until they get married. It may not be what Americans are used to, but seems like a great way to save money on rent.