Last week I was able take a trip through a Lyndon State College program touring Italy and Greece where I saw all of the historical sights in the regions such as the David, Coliseum, Sistine Chapel, Parthenon and many many others.Upon finishing the 10-day trip of infamous historical sights and exploring the streets of some of the most beautiful cities in the world, the things I remember clearest are the unique differences in their cultures compared to ours.
Some of the differences I was prepared for, like pickpockets every 20 steps trying to catch tourists’ attention while another stripped them of their valuables, and the variety of food in Italy consisting of pasta, pizza, olive oil and more olive oil in Italy.
Other differences came as more of a surprise to me.
The cars, particularly in Rome, were the size of many go-carts I’ve seen over here. Not only was the tiny size of them unique, but over half of the vehicles I saw on my trip were Mercedes. I’m not just talking about the family cars either, I mean all vehicles including dump trucks, taxis, buses, and even police and ambulances.
Even with the narrow roads in each city, the drivers over there were the worst I’ve ever seen – and I’ve driven in Boston. After crossing the street just once in Sorrento (which I later heard is notorious for bad drivers) I decided to take my chance trailing the road to see if it ever ended so I could get back to the other side rather than try crossing it again.
Another major difference is how casual sex and the naked body are viewed over there. In Greece, we turned on a TV in the hotel room to a woman in almost nothing dancing around in a way that made MTV music videos look like wholesome family entertainment.
Without any volume I immediately assumed it was a music video or an adult channel, later to find out it was just a commercial for perfume. The naked body could also be found on billboards, posters, pictures and postcards at every shop mixed in with replicas of ancient pottery and chocolate bars.
In the streets, beautiful Italian music could be heard at every popular destination where people played different wind and string instruments. Bars were not filled with people trying to get as drunk as possible like many are here, but instead were filled with people watching soccer on TV and having simple conversations. It reminded me of coffee shops over here.
The bars were really more like stores, because alcohol was just one of many things being sold along with a huge variety of deserts, coffee, magazines and other items that are generally found in small convenient stores here.
Other differences include the appreciation for art that everyone had, the fact that every overweight person I saw was an American tourist, and that most of them understood English although most English speaking people wouldn’t understand them.
The most annoying difference was the fact that public restrooms more often then not cost money to use.
But while the differences were numerous, there were similarities too – like the trash and graffiti that lined the streets of many big cities. And of course, no matter how far one travels, there is one consistency that America brings to each large city across the world, the golden arches and the man with the curly red hair. There’s even one located directly across from the Pantheon in Rome.