After what seemed like an endless wait- here we are! Milan is absolutely beautiful and it shocked me how one city can appear both vintage and modern all at once. On our way back from the airport, I noticed that at first glance, the roads seemed similar to the United States’ highways. However, when I looked closer, I realized that the roads were much narrower with two lanes on both sides. Sometimes, we passed mountains that we assumed were the alps because we’re in northern Italy. On the sides of the roads, there was much more greenery than I would normally see in the states. There was also an absence of flashy advertisements that we usually witness on billboards while driving on the highway. Once we hit the city though, I began to notice advertisements similar to those in the states, but of course, for different companies and in Italian. I was surprised when I didn’t see any exit signs like we usually expect for rest stops and gas stations. Then, I realized that the gas stations are on the side of the highway and no exit is necessary.
As I mentioned above, I’ve never witnessed such varied architecture in any city before. Milan’s apartments carry a vintage look which we may expect to find in Europe decades ago. These apartments have balconies with growing greenery that add to their already beautiful display. When we walked around Milan’s neighborhoods, each apartment had similar styles with slight differences such as the color. American architecture draws less on this older, vintage style influence. Even though apartments may have a similar setup, they have a more modern looking influence than the ones we observed in Milan. An obvious similarity in both Milan’s and American architecture was the corporate buildings downtown that mimic contemporary architecture. The buildings in Milan, such as the bank looked similar to the architecture that we would expect in large downtowns in the states.
As we drove to the hotel from the airport and walked the neighborhoods of Milan, I paid specific attention to how Italians may dress differently than Americans. I noticed less differences than I expected to between the style of clothing. In the states, women typically wear scarves as an accessory and men tend to avoid this fashion for themselves. When I saw the male passenger on the flight to Italy with a scarf on, I assumed that scarves were a common trend among Italian men. It turned out that I assumed this style correctly because I witnessed more men with scarves once we landed. In addition, Italian women tended to dress with a slightly higher elegance than American women. A majority of women wore dresses and skirts or fancy tops with more formal pants. Some did wear jeans, however, it’s more common to see women dress more casually in the states than in Italy.
The most significant difference between Italian and American culture that I witnessed so far was meal time. We spent two hours at the restaurant during lunch which is the longest that I have ever spent on a meal. In all honesty, it was an experience worth a lifetime. Even though we were exhausted after over 24 hours of no bed to sleep on, I enjoyed spending time with my Plus 3 friends. After we finished the bruschetta and pasta, we never expected an entire other course of food. The waiters arrived with three plates of meat and a specially prepared plate of grilled vegetables for me since I am a strict vegetarian. I truly appreciated their accommodations. We could barely get through this course and I think the waiters were a little surprised at how little of the third course we actually ate. We ended the meal with coffee, which is not a norm for meals in America. In all honesty, after the exhausting travel time, the caffeine helped us energize at least until we returned to the hotel. The coffee in Italy tastes more authentic than in America, perhaps because it is usually black coffee without sugar and cream added unless you order a cappuccino. Even with a cappuccino, the only extra ingredient is steamed milk. Italian meals include more than the standard appetizer, main course, and dessert tradition that America follows. Our first meal in Italy was definitely a unique introduction to our future meals.
From the flight, to the bus ride, to the hotel, to our meal, and finally the walk around Milan, I discovered the beginnings of Italian culture and how it varies from our culture back home. With these differences, I realized that this world is so much bigger than we assume. We often live with little desire to step outside of our bubble in America and delve into other cultures. It will definitely take time to get used to these differences, but I know that in the end, understanding other cultures will absolutely be worth this adjustment. From just day one, I can already tell that this trip is such a unique opportunity and I cannot wait to explore more. Until next time- Ciao!