by Megan Powers
We learn every time we travel. We learn about ourselves and we certainly learn about differences in cultures—both how American culture is different from others and how countries are different from each other. I don’t think I manage to embarrass myself all that often in my travels, but there is one particular situation which has caught me off-guard here in Cagli, Italy.
I’m on a study abroad program for graduate school in this small mountain town in the Appennini Mountains, between Florence and the Adriatic Sea. This is my fourth time in Italy and it’s the first time I have had any issue with paying… As an American, if I am at a café without table service, I’m used to ordering my food or drink, paying, and taking it to a table. Here in Cagli, you do so at the counter and they bring your goodies out to you. Somehow everyone manages to remember what you have ordered, on a sort of honor system, and you pay when you are finished.
Despite knowing this, each time I order I have my money out and ready to go. For the most part, this befuddles the person behind the counter. They speak a bunch of Italian to me which I’m not able to understand and I either end up paying right then (typically) or I put my cash away and sit. Is it an instant satisfaction we American’s have culturally? Is it about wanting to just take care of it right then because we will eat/drink and quickly move on to the next thing? The Italians take the time to eat while there, taking in the morning and visiting with their friends and neighbors.
Of course, part of me wishes they would just do it my way, but I’d rather not make them uncomfortable! And I sure would like to “fit in” as much as that is possible in this little town (they certainly know who the Gonzaga Americans are), so I am adjusting.
It will assuredly take some reminding from my new friends, but I will consciously not expect that instant satisfaction. It’s only day two here in this village, so I have time to make up for it!