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by Francesca Di Meglio
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Cultural Exchange Among Americans and Italians
Living on the island of Ischia, off the coast of Naples in Italy for the summer, has its benefits. Besides getting to spend lots of time on the beach, which is pretty much just outside our door, I get to share my American culture with my Italian friends and family. I've been doing that for years on the pages of this column, but it's a lot more fun to do it live and in person. Here's how I have brought a bit of Americana to Ischia - and the reaction the Italians have had to my culture:
I answer questions about the United States.
I celebrate American traditions in Italy.
But I don't just point out American holidays like the fourth of July. I also tell the people about other traditions we have. TV and movies often help launch the conversations. For example, my nieces watch the Disney channel often, and they saw American high school - replete with its cafeterias, clicks, and lockers. They think it is the coolest idea ever because their high schools run until lunch, when you go home to eat with your family, lack cheerleaders and football teams, and don't have the same pizzazz.
Recently, they asked me about the American tradition of pajama parties, so I hosted one for them in the wing of the house where I live with my husband. They invited a friend, too. And we played Trivial Pursuit Disney, gorged on popcorn, did our hair, and I gave them manicures and pedicures, that included washing their hands and nails in warm, soapy water, a moisturizing treatment for the skin, and nail polish, of course. They loved it so much that they performed the moisturizing treatments on their own again the next morning - but not before I made them pancakes for breakfast. They love pancakes, but the Italians have added a twist. They often eat them with their favorite Nutella instead of maple syrup.
I cook American foods.
I speak English.
That's why whenever someone wants to practice their English with me, needs help with English homework, or already speaks my first language fluently and is willing to talk to me, I take them up on the offer. Italians still believe that English is an important language to know for business and life, which is why many of them are happy to oblige. I also tend to love my husband most of all when he turns on the cable TV, where there happens to be American programming, which can be viewed entirely in English. God, I'm happy to be an Italian American!
Di Meglio is the Guide to Newlyweds for About.com.
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