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   A few years ago, my family and I took a two-week trip to Italy. After a few days inRome, we ventured into the heart of the country. One would think that the worldhas been Americanized, but travelling helps you realize that that is definitelynot the case. The Italian respect for the family, elders and even strangers areconcepts we wished we could bring back with us. Italy's culture is sodifferent.

We all know how the week can be, with both parents working, onekid at soccer practice, the other at a dance lesson. Families are rarely togetherfor dinner anymore; if they are, it's for a short time and then the family goesoff in different directions. In Italy, a long and late meal is very important. Afamily is together for dinner; sometimes even extended relatives come too sincemany families live close together. The vegetables and fruits in the little townswere so fresh, often they were picked just that morning. Each family had theirown garden, which was often large. There seemed to be few broken families and Ilater found that while 50 percent of marriages end in divorce in the States, only12 percent do in Italy.

"Look young, feel great!" How manytimes do we hear that? It's everywhere in our media, and everyone wants to lookyoung. We have hair dyes, anti-wrinkle creams, pore refiners, and under- eyeconcealers so our eyes don't look puffy. Also, we often ignore our elders here inthe States, deeming them slow and unknowledgable. I found it was the opposite inItaly. Women still wear make-up, of course, but it doesn't consume them. Theelderly women take pride in their wrinkles as a sign of hard work and a life welllived. Grandparents live with their children and grandchildren instead of innursing homes. Children who grow up with their elders in the house have greaterrespect for them. The elders have respect from all ages, for their knowledge,understanding, stories and lessons on life.

When in a different country,it's normal to feel a bit out of place. My family, however, felt very comfortablein Italy, as though we had grown up there. Everyone was very approachable. In onetown, a family came to our house and took all our laundry. They returned itwashed and pressed later that day. We were also invited to dinner at theirrestaurant for a huge feast of delicious food, the best I've ever had.

AsAmericans, we tend to think that the rest of the world would be better offfollowing our ways. What I realized after this trip was perhaps we should slowthings down and take time to be a little more like the rest of the world.






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By Sara P., Lake Mary, FL


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This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.




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