Today marks my first week here in Milan. Although the first few days of being in Italy were rough, things have settled down and I am finally thriving (somewhat). An hour after I arrived in Italy, I was fortunate enough to have experienced the nightmare that is the Italian Emergency Room. After my roommate cut her hand on a glass, we took her to one of the biggest hospitals near us. We assumed that since it was popular, the service would be decent. However, we could not have been more mistaken. After being seen by the nurse, we were told that my roommate would have to get stitches. The nurse told us the waiting time would be “maybe 2 or 3 or 4 hours.” This should have been a red flag. However, in our panicked state, we decided to wait. We were in that emergency room for 11 hours and the line didn’t seem to be moving. We ended up going home and scheduling an appointment to see another doctor for the following morning.
I have realized that it’s harder than I thought coming to a foreign country without speaking the language. The three words that I do know are “ciao” and “Mama Mia”, so I have definitely tried to use every opportunity to use them, regardless of the situation or context. I assumed that there would be a lot of English speakers or I could always use a translate app, but that has not proven to be the case. Many of the locals here do not know English. Furthermore, the internet here is very slow, so attempting to use google translate has not been effective thus far. I have resorted to either speaking in Spanish or just pointing to what I want.
I’ve noticed that Italians don’t seem to like Americans. Today I went to the Italian equivalent of a DMV to get my monthly student metro pass. I walked in and saw 15 different forms to fill out, so I grabbed the form that said student on it. When my number was finally called, the clerk looked at my form and ripped it up in front of me, yelling something in Italian. Of course I didn’t understand what she could have been saying, so I stood there looking like a deer in headlights. I guess I must have filled out the wrong form? Luckily another clerk said he would help me and everything ended being fine. Other than this occurrence, other Italian locals seem to be very willing to help and give advice. I have met some wonderful strangers at restaurants who have given me all the insider knowledge on where to shop in Milan and what to do for fashion week (which is held at the end of February). I have gone to several university events and met some great exchange students and Italian locals.
The living situation has been another culture shock, which ultimately resulted in me breaking a window (oops). Our apartment gets incredibly cold at night since the heating (water heater) turns on and off every few hours. We sleep in multiple pairs of pants and multiple layers of jackets. According to our landlord, this is how it is everywhere in Italy. The centralized heating systems are very hard to control, so apparently Italians are used to sleeping in 50° weather. I thought that it was very cold due to the window in our kitchen that will not fully close. A couple nights ago I tried applying a lot of force to close it shut and ended up cracking the window. According to our landlord, that was just a glass window vent and remains open year round. I’ve been in this country for only a week and already have to pay a hefty repair fee.