Through Foreign Eyes

It’s always interesting to see where you’re from through someone else’s eyes: you learn both about yourself and your home, but also about the person doing the observing, as their own experiences and point of view will be put on display.

There are plenty of people who make comparisons that are a little bit superficial, although even those can be fun too, and there’s often a grain of truth there.  But the best and most insightful comparisons are made by people with real and deep knowledge of the “other” place they are writing about.

Here are a couple of different takes on the US:

  • Beppe Severgnini is a widely read Italian journalist, who wrote an entertaining book, Ciao, America! and occasionally writes columns for the New York Times.  He’s a funny writer, and has a good eye for interesting and significant details.  He’s also relatively well known, and well-off, so you probably won’t see an “everyman” perspective from him any more.  The advantage of his writing is that it gets translated into English, if you don’t speak Italian.
  • My friend Laura lives with her husband and son in Boulder, Colorado, after having lived in a variety of other places in the US.  She writes regularly here: and often goes beyond the superficial, obvious aspects of life in the United States for someone born and raised in Italy.  Naturally, she writes for an Italian audience, in Italian.

Some of my favorite posts on her blog are

  • about how people in the US dress less than in Italy, and worry way less about getting cold.  Friends of ours here in Italy won’t let their kids run around when it’s cold out for fear they’ll “catch cold”.  Or if the kids have been running around and have heated up some, clothes must not come off.  As Laura writes, people in the US are not really so concerned about the cold.
  • about friendship and moving around in the US: people in Italy tend to stay put a lot more than in the US.  That has some downsides, professionally and economically, but it has some good aspects in terms of being able to invest in friendships that are deep and long-lasting.  In this post, she laments that things are different in the US – and I have to agree.  Socially, I’ve always been happier in Italy than in the US.

If you look around, there are others. If you’re really interested in both learning more about the US and how it’s seen elsewhere, as well as how Italians relate to life there, writers and blogs like Laura’s can be a fascinating way to see your own country through someone else’s eyes.



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