Italy is well known for its food, but I’m finding the culture surrounding the food to be even more interesting. The first thing I noticed about the food in Italy is the freshness of the ingredients. I didn’t even know that American pasta was lacking in freshness until I tried the pasta here. I’m also noticing how regional the dishes are. Pizza is done so differently in Rome than it is in Bologna. And within Bologna each restaurant has its own take on pasta bolognese (also known simply as ragu within Bologna).
But most interesting to me is the culture surrounding the act of eating a meal. As an American working professional, I tend to eat lunch at my office desk, while trying to type with one hand. I always feel there is no time to socialize with my friends, family and coworkers during the week. But in Italy, meal time is a celebrated event. Virtually all stores and offices close between the hours of noon and 3 or 4, and during this time you will find Italians dining together in one of the many restaurants and cafes. After work, cafes once again fill up for happy hour, but unlike in America, drinks come with tantalizing aperitivos, or small bites, which Italians share over conversation. Kwintessential, an intercultural communication site gives a great overview of the art of eating Italian food.
From a communication perspective, (since that is what we’re here to study) after a few days of partaking in this tradition, I am finding the food culture to be an important communication tool. From what I’ve seen over these last few weeks, these shared meals seem to facilitate relationships and trust much more quickly and deeply than those in the U.S. So, partly because its fun, and partly because its useful, I’m going to take a tip from the Italians and try to export this delicious and satisfying social culture to my U.S. life.