Italian Soccer Moms

While in Siena I am staying with a host family. It seemed like the best way to learn the language, but it has turned out to be much more difficult than I expected. My host family is by no means anywhere close to a horror story but it has certainly taken some time to get used to living with them. My host family includes Katia and her 10-year-old son, Alberto, her husband, Donatello, and their 2 month old son Giorgio (my favorite member of the family since we currently have the same ability to speak the language). Below is a picture of “Babbo” (the grandpa) pushing Giorgio in his stroller outside of the apartment. Both sets of grandparents (along with other miscellaneous family and friends who are basically family) visit often making for long and loud dinners.

Language is a huge barrier, which I knew coming into the summer, but the cultural differences have been surprisingly challenging. These differences wouldn’t be so noticeable except for the fact that I’m staying with a host family, so I am constantly confronted by them. Not everything is totally different, though.

This past week my host mom brought me to pick up her son at soccer practice and invited me to join her and her friends at lunch. As I had only been in Siena for a of couple weeks, I was still trying to get a feel for the culture and way people interact, so I mostly remained in the background and observed at these events. At lunch, after a few brief conversations about who I am and why I was there, I sat quietly, limited by my speaking ability, but all the while listening. It turns out a bunch of Italian moms like to gossip the same way American moms would back home. At soccer practice, I watched Katia interact with the other moms in the same way my mom acts when she takes my younger sisters to soccer.

My comprehension has been getting much better. It has taken me awhile to get used to the speed, musicality, and accents of native Italian speakers, but now I am able to understand the gist of what’s being talked about. At lunch I learned what everyone’s kids and husbands were up to and whom everybody wanted to win in the Palio the next weekend (none of their contrade were participating). At the soccer practice I watched the miniscule drama play out between the moms and between the boys. Italy is definitely not America, but people are still people, so some things are universal.

I am very happy to be living with a host family because it really has made my experience here so much more immersive. At least twice a week, my host family and I go out for aperitivo at the di solito (“the usual”) bar. Now the bartender recognizes me even when I am on my own. The neighbors/family friends say hi to me when I pass them on the street. My host family has included me in their life in a way that opens up experiences for me that I never would have had otherwise.