The Intercultural Communication Course Blog (Prof. Christian Tarchi)
Written by: Jackie Nappo, Giuliana David, Tori Litchfield (UConn)
When studying abroad it’s easy to instantly notice the vast differences between your new home and where you originally came from. You’re surrounded by constant unfamiliarity that you’re forced to embrace.
For example, we live across the bridge from the Duomo. It is considered to be a more local area of Florence. During the first week, we completely submerged whether it was exploring different streets, taking long walks to get to know the area, and of course trying different places to eat!
One restaurant that stood out to us in particular was Dante’s Pizzeria. It is a nice sit down restaurant that is conveniently located no more than 4 minutes away from our apartment, so of course we gave it a shot! The vibe was instantly welcoming. The owner, Dante, personally introduced himself to us immediately. He asked us about our reasons for being in Florence, for how long, and what we were studying.
Then all of a sudden he says: “You come back here tonight for free wine and pizza!”
We were shocked, could we seriously accept? Let’s be serious, what was his motive?
This was the first time we experienced imposed etic, which is defined as “specific culture ideal is imposed on another culture”. But let’s be serious, we weren’t complaining.
So we happily accepted his generous offer and from that a new friendship sparked. We went that night with a bunch of girls who lived in our apartment, and true to his word Dante gave us all a discounted meal. Skeptical, we treaded lightly during the dinner. At the end of the meal, he handed out free small glasses of limoncello and topping us all off. Naturally, we were suspicious. At home, an older man providing all this free alcohol and food to young women is never a good sign, it could even be a dangerous one. Upon telling our parents about this, they were also all concerned.
However, everything with this man seemed totally normal, safe, and fun. We were not concerned, and the more we went to his restaurant, the safer and more like home it began to feel. A place that began as a restaurant with a generous offer has transformed into not only a solid dinner option, but a little slice of familiarity and a home away from home.
We discovered that in Italian restaurants it’s the custom to be offered a digestive, like limoncello or herb liquor, at the end of a dinner: sometimes the bottle is placed on the table and the fellow guests help themselves!
This experience was incredibly eye-opening. We learned that implications of certain gestures are not always the same, universally speaking. Although at home generosity from older men to younger women is a red flag, in Italy it can have a different perspective.