The other day I went on an adventure to find tall black leather boots. With the little Italian I know paired with many hand gestures, the shop owner eventually understood what I was looking for and brought me boots. An older lady shopping, a nonna, saw the shoes I was trying on and immediately started speaking to me in rapid fire Italian. After a few seconds of not understanding I told her, “non parlo italiano, ma sto imparando” (I don’t speak Italian but I am learning). For some reason, she was super excited and started to speak French. I tried to explain to her I was American and am studying in Torino for the next few months (at this point, this was all of the Italian I knew by heart). She became even more delighted asking me what I study, etc. During this conversation, I discovered the boots I was trying on did not fit correctly and sadly the store did not have any others. The nonna shook her head, speaking in Italian and French again. At this point, I started to get minorly frustrated with myself because I could not understand her. To my surprise, she took my hand and lead me out of the store and around the corner to another shoe store. My frustration completely vanished, interested in what was happening next.
At this moment, I experienced a cultural difference: a lack of personal space as well as a slower pace of life. Luckily, I did not have to run off to class. I was happy the nonna took so much interest in me, I am all in for any adventure!
Once we arrived at the next store, she told the owner exactly what she thought I was looking for, including my shoe size. To her dismay, I have bigger feet than she expected for such a tiny person. She actually called my feet ‘grande’, making her opinion known. Of course, I am not offended and am happy the way I am, but it was just funny to see her disbelief. Using a ton of hand motions and still speaking in both Italian and French, she insisted I try on the smaller size just to make sure.
I found this encounter so interesting because this woman took me under her wing and tried her hardest to help me find shoes. After still not finding what I was looking for, I figured I would just say bye and leave. However, the nonna was not ready to say bye. The nonna decided I needed an italian lesson and wanted to make sure I knew when to use the formal buongiorno rather than ciao. After fifteen minutes of her and the shop owner speaking in Italian, pointing at their gray hair and saying buongiorno and then pointing at me and saying ciao I told them ‘ho capito, grazie’. They had the biggest smile on their faces as we parted ways. I honestly still cannot believe a stranger was so friendly and concerned.
In America, someone might point you in another direction but never take your hand and lead you to a different place. I have noticed the lack of personal space throughout Italy. It seems that native Italians do not even notice that personal bubbles do not exist here- I guess because so many people are living on top of eachother on a land no bigger than Arizona!
Little adventures such as this one, I am going to remember the rest of my life. To me, these experiences are worth more than any money could buy. The little nonna has no idea the impact she had on my life, but I thank her and will remember her always and the fun adventure she took me on!
Unfortunately I did not get any pictures but here are a few of the city I am living in!