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Italian Exchange Student Explains Cultural Differences


A lot of people warned me that I might have a cultural shock when I got here. I

always thought that I was prepared and already knew the differences between Italy

and the United States, but I was not.

The major differences that I noticed are food, mindset, lifestyle and the school

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The food is completely different and my body recognized it immediately. The first

months I was always feeling without energy. It’s a lot unhealthier because here you

eat more fast foods and sweets than we are used to: I found the same brand and

type of yogurt that I eat in my home country and here it still tastes sweeter. A big

change for me was getting used to the taste of butter because we mostly use just

olive oil and also remembering to ask every time to not put sauces on my meals,

like gravy, barbecue or ketchup that you add on everything.

However, I found also some American foods that I like and I’ve never tried before

like peanut butter, granola and ‘Cheerios’.

The mindset of both teenagers and adults is one of my favorite things about the

United States. You are very passionate, hard-working, competitive and patriotic

about everything you do.

For example, if you commit to a sport, you’ll give it 100% of your energy. You are

also very polite and welcoming to new people and always ready to have a new


Your lifestyle, in a lot of aspects, is very different than ours. Sports and physical

activities are always in your schedule and that means that you’ll often have or go to

see games/meets. In my opinion, the sport games create an atmosphere of strong

union between all the students of the same high school and a great way for parents

to talk and have a great time. We don’t have sports in our schools so we don’t have

games and we don’t have that feeling of defense, belonging and honor to our


The school system is exactly the opposite. Italians have to attend High School for

five years, not four. In Italy we don’t have business classes, woodshop, drama,

journalism, creative writing and different types of physical education classes. We

cannot decide our classes, but we decide after middle school which type of high

school we want to attend; in base of if you are better/like more math, classical

subjects (Italian, Latin, Greek), art or you can go to a practical high school. Most

of the schools require that you go from Monday to Saturday. We don’t have school

dances like Homecoming or Prom. Teachers are very gentle, supportive and

friendly here while in my home country they are very strict and the personal life, of

both student and teacher, is completely private. We also have oral tests and written

tests are always on paper, since we don’t have a personal computer, and made up

of mostly only open questions that requires a long answer.

I think that coming from such a different country, has made me become even

more grateful of the place where I am and the possibility of understanding another

culture more than books could teach me.

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Italian Exchange Student Explains Cultural Differences