I’m in Italy!!! My month-long study abroad program had official begun on June 1. Before we began the class that most students dread and often called the hardest class ever, also known as Organic Chemistry, we stayed in Rome for about three days. Since Rome was the first stop in our trip, the culture and culinary differences were very noticeable.
A cultural difference that I immediately noticed was that Italy doesn’t have a prominent and obvious advertisement culture unlike the United States. When the taxi was on the highway going toward the hotel near the Vatican City, I think I saw only a handful of ads along the trip unlike in the United States where there was an ad every few minutes on highway route I took to go to high school. Even the way the ads are displayed in Italy is different than in the U.S. I am so used to seeing gigantic billboards located along the highway so people are able to see them even from a distance. Also, the billboards are parallel to the highway so that drivers can directly see the ads through their windshield. However, the few advertisements I’ve seen in Italy, most of them being a clothing line called Calzedonia and McDonald’s, are about the size of a poster and are posted on a metal plaque. The ads are also oriented differently; the ads are perpendicular to the highway so that the driver must turn his or her head to the right or left in order to see the ad. From the size and orientation of the advertisements, it is clear that Italy doesn’t place as much emphasis on advertising than the United States. Despite being a large city such as Rome, the city wasn’t filled with large billboards unlike New York City where there are advertisements that are as tall as buildings. Personally, I think that the United States need to learn from Italy. I really enjoyed not being bombarded by ads everywhere I go; it allowed me to truly appreciate the city and I think ads take away the beauty of a place. When I went to Tokyo, Japan, there were bright ads covering nearly every building and I immediately disliked it. I think one reason why advertising isn’t as prominent in Italy is the cities and people have an emphasis of buying and eating local food and products. Thus, there wouldn’t be a major need to have a lot of advertising.
Rome, Italy vs. New York City, USA
After having a very long airplane flight, getting to know the Leonardo da Vinci–Fiumicino Airport very well, experiencing a crazy taxi ride, I was starving. Once we dropped our stuff at the hotel, we trekked two blocks to small Italian restaurant. It was definitely an experience eating in Italy. I ordered a spaghetti dish with a red sauce that had meat in it. When I took the first bite, I could immediate taste the difference in the pasta. Unlike the store-bought pasta in America, this pasta was much more tender and chewier. It also tasted different; I’m not sure how to describe it, but the pasta tasted so much better. I didn’t need to see the many pasta machines in the back of the restaurant to know that the pasta was made fresh in the restaurant instead of using the store-bought kind. Normally, I’m indifferent about pasta, but this dish was delicious and I wish there was more. When we were done with our food, everyone just sat there for a while until we realized that we had to tell the waiter that we wanted our check. Even then, we had to ask the waiter again for separate checks since that isn’t a typical thing in Italy. When I got my check, I, as well as everyone else, was surprised to see an extra 1 dollar charge on the check. It turns out that water and bread isn’t free unlike in the United States. I’ve noticed that each restaurant usually serves the same type of pasta but with different sauces with different portion sizes. Once I ordered a relatively expensive ravioli and when I received my dish, it was only 6 very small pieces of ravioli with 2 leaves of basil on top. Also, it seems like pasta dishes in Italy is only served with some type of sauce and cheese. There isn’t any extra vegetables or meats mixed in the pasta. I’m so used to eating Asian noodle dishes which has a lot of vegetables, meat, and other food mixed in. That was something I had to get used to. The food in Italy is extremely good; it is probably due to the use of fresh, local ingredients unlike in America where most things are either frozen or shipped from far places. Despite having mixed experiences with the service, I have loved all the different types of food I have tried.