Diving into the Local Culture

This summer, I’m writing a series on being a teen TCK for Denizen, an awesome online magazine for TCKs! Here’s part of my second article on getting involved in your new culture…

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{my wonderful Italian friends!}

The bright Italian sunshine bounced off a jagged piece of metal, catching my eye. My feet pounded on the warm concrete as I ran to investigate. I squatted down and shielded my eyes to get a better look. Victory. Another beer bottle cap, bringing my total to twenty-two and also putting me in the lead against my brother.

Call me crazy, but somehow, when I pictured living in Florence, Italy, scrounging for beer bottle caps on a large slab of concrete before the Pitti Palace did not come to mind. But here I was, in my first week living in the great Renaissance city, doing exactly that. My mom sat close by, reading a book, probably trying to cram a few more Italian words into her head.

“Courtney, look! Birra Moretti!” My brother shoved a yellow cap in my face, featuring a green-suited man looking suspicious and strange. Maybe he too was sentenced to finding beer bottle caps in the heat of the day.

We laughed about his funny name and kept looking. When the sun began to sink and the air was laced with an autumnal chill, our mom finally got up and called us. We followed her like ducklings through the narrow cobble-stone streets of the ancient city.

When my parents first told us we might move to Italy, I wanted to go. Even though I had lived in Austin, Texas my whole ten years of life, adventure pulsed in my veins. I was ready to board that plane to a completely different life.

Our first year in Florence was certainly a change from life in Austin, but most of it was spent in our sunny, yellow house homeschooling. Every day was the same. My brother and I worked on school, then language tutoring, then we would trudge to the local library, or biblioteca, in the chill of evening so my mom could check her email, our one link to our old life.

Our slow integration into the Italian culture was perfect for the fall, but after Christmas, life seemed to drag a little. I began to wonder, what next? What’s going to happen for the next four years while we’re here? I missed the interaction that school and sports had provided me back home.

Not being plugged in to the local culture greatly hindered my knowledge of the language and prevented “real” life from happening. Though getting involved in activities in a new country may seem daunting, it is crucial to being able to best enjoy and profit from your time overseas. To each his own level of cultural immersion, but I would encourage you to venture out of your comfort zone. There are countless ways to live with the locals instead of just in their country, but I think three of the easiest ones are through school, sports, and neighborhoods. Allow me to explain…

Read the rest on Denizen!

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