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What to expect in Italy, France and England

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What to expect in Italy, France and England

by Anna Waletzko, Staff Columnist

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Prior to this summer, I’d never been abroad. I’d always dreamed of studying abroad, and this summer, vacationing with my family solidified that dream. However, I had no idea what to expect, because the last time I’d been out of the country was to Mexico, in third grade, and back then you didn’t even need to have a passport. My biggest fear was that I would stand out as an American tourist. I saw a video a few weeks before leaving wherein Europeans were asked how they spot American tourists. Most of those interviewed said that Americans are usually more “jolly” or “plump.” Others said that simply the way Americans dress makes them easy to spot. For example, most people don’t wear leggings. How was I going to survive?! But most of these things didn’t matter much once I was actually in Europe.

Leggings were the last things on my mind.

ITALY

The first thing I noticed about Italians was the way they drink their coffee. In America, we get a cup of coffee and we carry it with us for an hour or two, sipping on it. In Italy, they walk into a shop, order espresso, chug it, and walk out. Done.

There are also lots of pickpockets in Italy. They resort to some interesting tactics. For instance, I was in Rome, standing in Piazza Navona, when all of a sudden I see a stroller rolling through the plaza on its own. My first thought was, “Oh no! An abandoned baby?” Until I realized that the baby had a strangely mature face. Then I realized that it wasn’t a baby — it was a grown man, who had put a curtain around the sides of the stroller to hide his body, and then cut a hole in the bottom of the stroller, and used a baby doll’s body and put it against his head, which was poking through the stroller. Of course, I wanted to take a picture with him, so I went over and he proceeded to make fake crying noises and breast-feeding motions at me. Later, someone told me that typically people will get you to lean over the stroller like that and then try to reach into your purse. They didn’t get anything from me, but I’ve got to give them props for creativity.

Overall, Italy was beautiful — I even bought a “hot priest” calendar when visiting the Vatican.

FRANCE

I’d been told that French people, specifically those in Paris, could be very stuck up. They weren’t all stuck up, but I definitely got that vibe from a few of them, although I’m sure they say the same thing about Americans. At one point my father asked a grocery store employee where the restroom was, she told him, and he replied, “merci,” in an attempt to speak French. However, the employee started mocking his American accent.

I have cousins who live in Paris, and I asked one of them, who is the same age as me, what they think of Americans. She told me that most of her friends think that American girls go to Starbucks everyday wearing leggings and Ugg boots, and order Pumpkin Spiced Lattes. Interesting. However, most of the French people seemed really eager to show us the beauty of their country.

But all in all, I ate so much bread in France. Seriously, I think I probably consumed at least one baguette a day. My favorite part of France was taking a river cruise on the Seine at night, only to have a group of young men full frontal flash us from the side of the river. Talk about baguettes.

ENGLAND

If good food is what you’re looking for, you probably aren’t going to find it here. Although the fish and chips were good, they didn’t compare to the gelato in Italy or the bread in France. However, they did have great ale. Just walking the streets you notice that around 5 p.m. the fronts of pubs are suddenly crowded with young people, still dressed in their work clothes. Nearly every day after work, it seems, people gather at the pubs whether its with co-workers or friends, but they don’t go sit inside. The majority of the pubs have shelves on the outside walls so people just stand on the sidewalk and drink their ale. Pretty different from America where we sit at the bar. I was really hoping to run into Prince Harry or David Beckham while in the U.K., but I didn’t end up seeing them. Next time.

All in all, like I said, I didn’t really have much time to think about my leggings. There were so many beautiful cultural and historical things I learned and places I saw. Six thousand pictures and so many great memories later — I can’t wait to study abroad and learn more.

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