(Positive) Culture Shock

Written by Kelsey V. February 10, 2015

A delicious chocolate shop we ran into!

Trieste - the REAL windy city!

A little selfie stick action outside the Miramare Castle

Walking along the cliffs to Miramare Castle

The Miramare Castle!

A group shot on the pier!

Breakfast or lunch?

While preparing to travel abroad, people always warned me about culture shock. They warned that I would feel out of place, uncomfortable and surprised by the way some things are done here. What they didn’t warn me about was positive culture shock. The phrase “culture shock” has adopted a negative connotation. However, after being here almost a month, I can confidently say that I have experienced far more positive culture shock than negative!

Getting a grasp on what exactly positive culture shock is can be a challenge- so I will share my personal definition. Positive culture shock comes when the way of doing something is different than your home country. However, you like this new way just the same (or even more) than how they do things back at home! I have experienced this numerous times already, and it’s only the first month!

The first culture shock I noticed, which I have mentioned in my previous blog, is the slow pace of life. Back home, everybody seems to always be on a time crunch. Italians are not this way at all! Italians walk slow, eat slow and talk slow. I am naturally a fast-paced person, so adjusting to this was not easy for me. I still have to remind myself at times to slow down my step or my speech. However, it truly is amazing how much more of your surroundings you can take in by just slowing down a little bit.

Another positive culture shock I’ve experienced is the lack of taxes. While dining out with friends, each person is changed a “service fee” which is only a few Euros. There is no sales tax added at the check-out in stores. This was a weird concept to adjust to. I continually had the tendency to want to tip the waiter or waitress. However, this is a nice change! You pay the same for your service, no matter how much your order. It’s a great part of the Italian culture!

One aspect of the culture that surprised me was the willingness of Italians to speak English. Back home, we assume that everybody knows English. Our first reaction is not to ask people what language they prefer we speak. In Italy, the Italians are very polite in asking you if you speak Italian. If you do not (like me), they are very happy to speak English. They actually enjoy getting to practice the language! It surprised me how many Italians are rather fluent in English.

I’ve had the pleasure of getting a strong grip on Italian culture this last month. I’ve experienced culture shock, stepping out of my comfort zone and learning new things. We spent this past weekend in Trieste, Italy. This is a small town over on the coast near Slovenia. We had a great group- 9 of us! As far as windy cities go, Trieste puts Chicago to shame. Motorcycles were blowing over, trees were uprooted- it was insane!

We got in Friday night and after wandering (blowing) around in the wind for about an hour, we finally found our hostel. We called in an early night since we were exhausted from traveling!

Saturday, we did a lot of sightseeing. Trieste is full of beautiful architecture and intricate buildings. We saw the Miramare castle, which was absolutely beautiful. To think that used to be someone’s summer home is insane. Saturday night we went to a delicious pizza and pasta place for dinner- no surprise there!

Sunday was not as windy, so we walked out on the pier and around town. We got lunch at a pizza/seafood place. I had my first real Italian pizza. There was a fried egg on it- an egg! I also experienced the best calamari I have ever had. Since Trieste is a coastal city, their seafood is amazing!

Next weekend is our first extended travel weekend, so I will be spending it in Spain. I will be in Barcelona for 2 days, then Madrid the other 2 days. I am beyond excited! There are 5 girls going in my group- we thought spending a girl’s weekend in Spain on Valentine’s Day would be perfect.

Ciao for now!