I have called this blog, Cultural Moments, so I had better begin at the beginning and describe what I mean by the term. A Cultural Moment is a twitch, a deep gut-wrenching punch, a squirmy, queasy, lightheaded feeling that comes on when people and institutions act in ways that put you outside your cultural comfort zone. It can be followed by anger, frustration, feelings of hopelessness, nostalgia for home or just plain confusion.
These Moments are an integral part of life abroad and offer an opportunity to dig deep inside to identify what aspect of your own cultural background is causing the Moment at hand. For long-term Americans abroad, like myself, this process leads to integrating cultural differences into a personal way of being. But even short term visitors can enjoy an enhanced travel experience and understand another culture better, and their own.
I have lived in Italy for over half my life and over the years I have absorbed and integrated many aspects of my adopted culture into my way of being. Yet I still have Cultural Moments and I have learned the importance of confronting them head on.
I would like to use this blog to explore specific Cultural Moments that come on in daily life -- social, work and family environments – and work each one through the process pf observing and describing what is happening in a non judgmental way, interpreting and finally evaluating the Moment.
But enough explanation for today. Tomorrow I will begin with perhaps the greatest of Italian mysteries for foreigners: No cappuccino after lunch! Italians will tell you that is a question of digestion, but this unwritten rule (and our reaction to it) actually uncovers layer after layer of cultural intrigue – theirs and ours.
A domani. E