Managing Across Cultures: New Dialogues with the Old World

Ciao, Italia!


Benvenuti to “Managing Across Cultures!” The course focused on theory and research methods in the areas of global communication, construction and negotiation of italianità, cross-cultural awareness and a hands-on management with a global mindset. Equipped100_9525 IMG_0083with the theory, we explored the unique nature of the historical and contemporary Italy, and built our own American-Italian bridge between the old  (in fact, ancient historical UNESCO World Heritage Sites!), the new (immensely multifaceted, ethically diverse, culturally vibrant Italy), the borrowed (the legendary authentic Eat-alien cuisine, art, fashion, and elements of pop culture) and the blue (the magnificent Mediterranean sea that cradles the picturesque town of Sorrento, our host town).

The aim of the course was to transform its participants into culturally aware/skilled world travelers with a profound understanding of the phenomenon of Italian national identity and empirical experience of cultural bridging. And guess what? We succeeded! Teaching_Class

Through reflection sessions, journal writing, in-country experience, culture specific readings, multifaceted on-site field work, and a final research project, we used critical thinking skills that helped us better understand and locate our personal experience in Italy. Intercultural dialogues with the global mindset lead us to examine our individual and collective identities as citizens of the world and members of a global community and economy. This experience also made us revisit and rethink our perceptions of “self” and “other”.




Ciao a tutti!

I am professoressa Julia Khrebtan, although study abroad students know me better as la mamma chioccia. This Maymester, I have had a great opportunity to design and teach a study abroad course “Managing across Cultures: New Dialogues with the Old World” in one of the most beautiful places on earth, Italia.  Villa_Pompeiiana A professor of Intercultural Communication (and a former lecturer of Italian), I was fortunate to bring students to the Bel Paese – a birthplace of the Roman Empire and western civilization, famous for its art, fashion, and music, also known as Eat-aly – a home to the legendary cuisine we have had the pleasure to explore within these three unforgettable weeks.

Grazie mille to Stephen John Hartnett (Chair, Department of Communication), John Sunnygard (Director, Global Education), and the entire UCD team for the initiation and promotion of the program. Extended grazie infinite to Sue Pendell (Chair, Department of Communication) and the entire CSU team for the support of the program. Finally, grazie di tutto cuore to our Italian partners at Sorrento Lingue Institute, and our wonderful students, world-travelers eager to explore the fascinating world of the “other!”

Tanti cari saluti,



La Bella Figura; la vita, l’amore, il limone

newflag1Where there is life, there is love. Love is the blood that pumps from head to toe, from knees to ankles and back through the soul of the Italian Culture. A proud love can be seen during critical examination of La Bella Figura, literally meaning The Beautiful Figure.

La Bella Figura

La Bella Figura

From regional pride to global acknowledgement, this beautiful figure could not be mistaken for anything but Italia, il Bel Pease! Often found on the receiving end of a camera lens, Italy and her culture are frequently captured and shared. A paparazzi like approach will be taken to display a snapshot of the life, love and lemons of southern Italy, particularly the southern region of Campania. From lemons to pizza, ancient ruins to the modern-day catwalk, Italy will always be the subject of a photo shoot. One must look deep to understand that southern Italy has proudly placed herself in front of the camera, no shame, just a story to tell.


Heavens Amphitheater in Pompeii!


Lemons from I Giardini di Cataldo

If one were to say Italians love to show off, an Italian would boastfully agree. However they would not necessarily say it, they would show it. Italians take advantage of the stage set for them. In the Campania region of Italy this is displayed in many ways. The lemon is the cultural center of life in the town of Sorrento and The Sorrento Peninsula.  The purity of the lemon is seen on local orchards. No chemicals are used to grow lemons. That idea is beyond forbidden. A lemon farmer in the Campania region would never risk the integrity of the family or the flavor or aroma of the lemon by compromising growth with the use of foreign chemicals. Lemons are treated like family.  A lemon farmer would always treat a damaged plant, rather than tear it down. The lemon orchards are know for the value of their product. From October-December there is a stoppage in growth. This allows for the land to heal to ensure a natural regeneration of the plant. A guest of the town of Sorrento could even get a hands on experience of walking through an orchard.



I Giardini di Cataldo, an orchard located just behind Piazza Angelina Lauro, is open to the public. Just a few blocks from the gardens production factory, guests have the opportunity to purchase the finished products made from fruits of the garden.

Beyond the orchard, a lemon is not simply found hanging gracefully from a tree, it becomes fully transformed into a locally made liqueur called Limoncello. This beverage is often referred to as the ‘Gold of Sorrento.’ Though there are several production companies, all of them maintain a local base. This alone demonstrates local pride in Sorrento’s products. Beyond the taste, the Sorrento lemon boasts aromas that would make one salivate or fight off the chills rushing up and down the spine.

sapone al limone

sapone al limone

The scent is so magnificent that Sorrento locals have turned the lemon into skin care products such as soaps and oils. Lemon olive oil and lemon marmalade are also popular products cultivated on the Sorrento Peninsula. To help further understand the value and pride of the lemon in Sorrento, know that The European Union has acknowledged the specific quality and character of the Limone di Sorrento through the concession of the IGP trademark (protected geographical status). It should finally be recognized that the lemon has been around in this region for centuries. Artifacts found in the ruins of Pompeii acknowledge that the lemon was farmed as early as 79 A.D., the year in which Mt. Vesuvius erupted and buried Pompeii. The lemon itself survived and was survived by brilliance in leaders who were able to make an asset out of a simple fruit.

When in Sorrento or anywhere in the Campania Region, il limone will be at the center of attention. Remember that Italians love to show by showing not by talking, even though they are viewed as humans who are good with words and hands. In Italy, there is a saying: Italiani, Italiani…bravi con le parole e le mani (Italians, Italians, good with words and hands). Beyond words and hands, cultural symbols such as the lemon will always stand out. Remember the work that goes into the cultivation of the Campania Region’s finest product, the families who withstood the tests of time and large corporations trying to take over. The following article about local versus corporate production was found in The NY Times just shortly before this study abroad program began.

La Bella Figura is about the show. Subsequent posts on this blog will tell a similar story that travels time and tells the world of the many more cultural artifacts of this great nation.

il limone

il limone

About the author:

Ciao ragazzi,

Mi chiamo Matthew Luisier. I’m a senior at The University of Colorado – Denver! My major is Communications with an emphasis on Public Relations and Organizational Communication. I’ve also studied psychology. So yes, four minutes into our first conversation, I’ve already attempted to figure you out! I have an affinity for sports and entertainment as well as nonprofits when it comes to career focus. Off the field I am a father of one gorgeous seven year old boy. Being away on this study abroad trip was a test of my strength. I’ve never spent more than seven days away from my son since he was born. I made it through and have so much motivation to bring him back to Italy in the very near future.

gelato al limone; la cosa più dolce in tutto il mondo, oh voglio di più

gelato al limone; la cosa più dolce in tutto il mondo, oh voglio di più

I entered this program not only to suffice my senior exit course for my degree, but to gain cultural experience in the place where I had set my sights on many years ago. This experience has filled me up with joy beyond description. I didn’t know if I could survive living in a 2 bedroom flat with 6 strangers for seventeen days, but we made it work. I think this group would have thrived anywhere.

To steal a page from my favorite musician: “Turns out not where, but who your with that really matters.” ~David J Matthews~


Thanks to Giovanni Fowler, Joel Delgado, Leah Haran, Becky Gregori, Mafe Rodriguez and Brooke Evans for putting up with me!

To my entire family, it is my prayer that you all have the chance to step foot in Italy one day. I hope I am there with you when it happens. To my father David, my mother Kathy and two of my sisters, Jenna and Laine, my heart goes out for taking care of Maddux while I was away.

Special acknowledgements to our host school, Sorrento Lingue Institute, The University of Colorado – Denver Department of Communications, department chair Dr. Stephen J. Hartnett and our instructor Dr. Julia Khrebtan




#family    #sognocosìreale,   #dreamsoreal

Get In Line And Look Up: That Is Who You Report To. A Hierarchal And Egalitarian Way Of Living The Italian Culture

Every culture is different when it comes to viewing authority and who can hold it.  Some cultures put a high emphasis on hierarchical structure, such as Italy. Other cultures place more of egalitarianism, or a “relaxed” and open approach to their lives regarding authority such as the United States.  This has become a way of life passed down from different generations.  Lets discuss how Italy works within the hierarchical culture.

First of all, what is hierarchy/egalitarianism and what role does it play in Italian culture?  Hierarchy and egalitarianism are simply the way individuals view power and authority, how much difference one gives to people in authority, and ones relationship to power and authority.  Here in Italy, the people are very formal when it comes to titles and who can address who.  There seems to be a pecking order when it comes to roles and where people “belong”.  The various roles could be anything from a waiter and waitress to a school setting and even to the structure of the family.


In ancient Roman times, there was definitely a hierarchical approach to power.  And nothing could be more noticeable than the roles and expected performances of men and women.  Women were at the bottom end of the social ladder.  In fact with some families if there was a third female born, she might be given up for prostitution in order to help raise money for the family so they can afford the other two weddings.  Obviously, gender roles have undergone changes since the ancient times and in a strange ironic twist, during our tour of Pompeii we had a female tour guide, Enrica.  She told us the whole story from the beginning and birth of Pompeii as a city to the infamous and tragic volcanic destruction.


During the tour, the tour guide told stories of what all the various paintings meant.  They were very graphic and used visuals to show off their wealth and prosperity.  In some places, such as the local bar, prostitution was common.  And if a bar on every corner wasn’t enough for prostitution to take place, there was even a “red light” district.  Here is where most of the unwanted females would work in order to pay for their sister’s weddings.  This display of hierarchical of power was considered normal and was widely accepted within the people of Pompeii and the rest of Ancient Romans.

1544_10200714771285376_725306910_nOur group was fortunate enough to have another female guide during our visit to Rome, Loredana.  She met us steps away from the Trevi Fountain at a very rainy bus stop and a warm welcome to Rome.  Her smile brightened the day.     Loredana was very polite, just like Enrica, the guide we had on the Pompeii tour.  Our first stop was the Trevi Fountain where Loredana told us how to properly make a wish and what it means to make a wish by throwing a coin in the fountain.

We continued throughout the day visiting the most famous sights of Rome and she also was able to coordinate with two male bus drivers who did not know the streets of Rome as well as her.  The two drivers did not like Loredana’s style because she told them where and how to do things.  Apparently, this kind of behavior goes against the Mediterranean male ego and the male hierarchy in the structure of male dominance.  Luckily, the drivers were able to set aside their beliefs and “machismo” and accommodate the group.  Perhaps some of the old ways of male hierarchy still exist within today’s society.

During a day of personal observation of the Italian culture, I experienced what appeared to be a hierarchical shift in power between coworkers at a restaurant.  After I was seated and I gave my order, I asked for some tap water, using the Italian I learned.  The waiter told me “no, and that all he had to offer was mineral water in a bottle.  I told the waiter thank you, but no thanks.  Once my order arrived, I was asked by the female waitress if I was o.k. and needed anything else.  I said, yes please could I have some tap water.  She told the waiter next to her to bring me some tap water.  It happened to be the same one who denied me my first request.  So after being purposely ignored by the male waiter, the female waitress brought me a glass of iced tap water.  This interaction made me ask myself: what just happened?  Did the male waiter not like taking orders from females?  Or did the waiter feel embarrassed because he just told me that all they had was bottled mineral water?  Either way, my opinion of the situation was that his “machismo” was challenged or questioned and he took offense to that.

Was the above situation a sign of a male/female conflict within the hierarchical structure?  In the ancient Roman times, a woman would have no place to tell another man what to do, especially in public.  But here we are in 2013, over 2500 years since the time of Pompeii and the treatment of women in society,  and some men refused to change their way and would not take orders from a female.

On the hierarchical and egalitarianism scale, the United States is closer to the egalitarianism side, which is more laid back but it’s also, “let’s just get the job done”.  We have a way of being less formal and not taking the roles of men and women as serious. To us, men and women have more of an inter-changeable role within the home and work place.  A good example of this was in the classroom for our study abroad program.

002 003Our professor gave us an assignment Our professor gave us the assignment to facilitate a class discussion, based on the various readings for the day.  These assignments were shared by the seven of us.  Symbolically, it gave the students the power of instructor.  Something like this would not be typical in the Italian culture because it would challenge the traditional academic hierarchy.

The Italian and American cultures have some similarities, but they also have their differences.  In one way, the Italian and American cultures view the roles of men and women differently, especially in the work place.  In Italy, there is fine line and an assumed role of male dominance and hierarchy, for example, the waiter not following through with the female waitress’ request during my lunch.  Another example is the bus drivers in Rome not liking to take directions from a female guide.  While in the United States, the role of men and women in the work place is blurred and men in general do not take offense taking orders from their female counterparts. Despite the fast paced and hectic work schedules we have in the United States, we also like to share responsibilities to our suburbanite as much as possible.  One way is to let our junior members make decisions that will or potentially improve the way things are done.  After all, it’s the junior members that are doing the work; therefore they are our subject matter experts as well as our future leaders.


By experiencing the Italian culture as an American broadened my views of their lifestyle.  It also confirmed some of my beliefs growing up as half Italian.  I would watch my grandfather, as the head of the family make the decisions and take care of the house from the outside such as working and having a busy social life.  My grandmother would take care of the house from the inside by preparing the homemade spaghetti to feed the entire family, she also watched over the kids, keeping the house clean, and supporting my grandfather with his social life.  They both were in charge of their own area of responsibilities and knew where the line was drawn.

My take away from this whole experience is that there is a time to rule within a hierarchical or what the military calls a “chain of command”, and a time to allow the junior members take charge and help formulate a better way of doing things.  To me it is obvious where the line is drawn, but that is because I’ve studied and witnessed the effects of both.


My name is John Fowler. I really enjoyed this course and learned a lot about the Italian language, art, culture, and the people during my time studying abroad.  I would highly recommend this course to others.  If you want to learn about Italy, it is better to stay in a small town, and away from the big city.  DSC00827 The city is great to visit for the historical value, but the true Italian culture is located in small towns.  This class exceeded my expectations by gaining a full understanding of my grandfather’s upbringing and culture.  I Have a better appreciation for the Italian lifestyle and cannot wait to return.


SPECIAL THANKS: To Dr. Julia Khrebtan, for guiding us through this beautiful land of Italy.  To the CSU Communications Chair, Dr. Sue D. Pendell for allowing us the chance to take this trip and see the wonderful world outside of the United States.

It’s not Easy to be a Woman

The media has sold a distorted idea of beauty to society, and women in particular are the ones that tend to believe it the most. According to the media, if a woman is not tall, thin and a little tanned, they can’t fit in in today’s culture. So, not only women have to deal with their looks and the criticism from others but they also have to change their beauty routine every time they visit a different country. A female in our society has to educate herself before traveling abroad; some topics that will be discussed in this section are: dress code in host country, their role in society, and how Italian women influence the culture, in Italy and abroad.

How to dress in a country that has a different culture than yours?

Ladies, you need to understand that the idea of beauty is different in every country. For example, if an American female answers the question “How would you describe a beautiful woman?” their answer would look something like “Tall, thin, long brown hair, she has to have straight and white teeth tan, big eyes, long and dark eyelashes, nice shaped eyebrows, decent derriere, hour glass figure, full lips, straight nose but not big, long legs, flat stomach, etc.” When an Italian woman answered the same question, the answer was very similar, the lady that answered to this said “someone like Angelina Jolie” and that is understandable since Hollywood has a lot of influence in first world countries. But, if asked to an Asian or Middle Eastern woman, the answer was “someone with a beautiful personality”.

When in the United States of America it is acceptable to see a woman running down the street wearing only her sports bra and yoga pants, in Muslim countries for instance, it might be quite daring if not dangerous for a woman to walk by herself in the street since it could give the impression she is “untaken” when she might be married. Needless to say, many women in Middle Eastern countries wear their hijab whenever they are in public. Italy stands somewhere in the middle, women like to work-out but they use more conservative clothing and they go to the gym, since they do not like to be seen when they are prepping their bellezza. DSC00357

To put it briefly, women have to inform themselves about dress code when traveling to a foreign country, especially if the country has a big cultural loop.

How is a woman viewed in a foreign country?

An important thing women need to understand is that in some countries they are viewed as equals, in some others they are viewed as sex tools, and in some others they aren’t even considered human beings.

The United Nations (UN) has it written “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights”. There are 192 countries currently listed as state members of the UN, and one would think and hope that all of these countries followed the former principle, sadly they don’t. Even in the United States where it’s supposed to be the “Land of the Free” women struggle when they have a high position at a company. Hilary Clinton, former senator of the state of New York, had to cut her hair shorter and start wearing suits in order to be taken more seriously. Sarah Palin was only asked about her suppose breast augmentation when she was being interviewed by men, she never had a serious question coming from a man when interviewed.

A real Italian mama in Sorrento, Italy.  Picture by Mafe Rodriguez

A real Italian nonna in Sorrento, Italy.
Picture by Mafe Rodriguez

Today’s Italian women look fabulous at all times, accomodissime on their feet but bellissime from their legs up in order to get their errands done and look fashionable at the same time. They love to look amazing but they are also suspect to at least seven other different roles. According to the short film Heart-Tango, Monica Bellucci, an Italian woman plays all the characters that a southern Italian woman should perform; the elusive one, the passionate one, the indecisive one, the noisy, the aggressive, the caring and of course, the most important role to the Italians, la mamma. Mothers in Italy are an extremely important part of the culture, since they are the ones that raise the future of the country.

Italian women not only influence their own culture but other cultures as well. The stereotypical looking southern Italian woman is inspiring the wardrobe of other women around the world to actually get up in the mornings and do their hair and make-up, pick an outfit and finally do their work as the classy, sexy, smart women they are.

Click on the picture below to watch the short film by Regia Grabriella Muccino Heart Tango, starring Monica Ballucci.

hear tango

About the author:

Ciao a tutti!

My name is Maria but my friends and family call me Mafe. I am originally from Colombia, but I live in the Centennial State (Colorado). I am a Junior at Colorado State University in Fort Collins. Colorado with a double major in International Studies and Linguistics.

This summer I had the privilege to join an amazing group of people in Sorrento, Italy  to study the beauty of Italian culture. We visited different places in Southern Italy, such as Napoli, The Amalfi Coast, the ruins of Pompeii and of course, the eternal city of Rome!

Italy was a unique experience that I hope to repeat at some point in my life. Italia and will be forever in my heart!



SPECIAL THANKS: To Dr. Julia Khrebtan, for guiding us through this beautiful land of Italy.  To the Communications Chair, Dr. Sue D. Pendell for allowing us the chance to take this trip and see the wonderful world outside of the United States and to our host school, Sorrento Lingue Institute.

Italian Time: Simply Melting into Beauty and Family


Is time finite or does it simple just melt away?

American Culture is a high-time culture; meaning that time is viewed as extremely valuable and is sometimes even viewed as a “master”. A typical American views time as a type of currency. Time is exchangeable, valuable, and has the ability to be monopolized. According to the textbook, Managing Across Cultures: The Seven Keys to Doing Business With a Global Mindset, high-time culture means that as a culture, time is viewed as finite and if not used, it is wasted. Since time is viewed as something that can be can be wasted, learning how to control time becomes an extremely valuable asset. There is a heavy emphasis on not wasting time and doing everything possible to better your future, not on building relationships. Most relationships are superficial, often leaving something hidden because you would rather move on to the next activity that is for yourself as opposed to the growth and development of relationships and community. Personal daily schedules are often managed and planned out to the second because that which is not used is wasted and cannot be returned.  Given that schedules are so detailed a person must begin to prioritize necessities, activities, and additives. The scheduling and prioritizing of time that Americans partake in is often taught at a young age. Children must learn that time is very important and that some activities are more important than others; therefore, a child must learn which activity has the most advantages. American children begin to learn that time can be saved and used for future ventures. The value of time management and the thought of saving time are carried with an American for the rest of their life.


Italian Culture is more of a low-time culture. According to the textbook, in low-time culture time is not everything. People often begin their days later because they need to be well rested and looking their best. When an Italian goes into the world they look their best no matter what and this takes time. Even though it takes time out of their working day it allows for them to perform and put their best face forward. In low-time cultures there is more of an emphasis on building relationships rather than being on time for business ventures. They need to be able to feel and trust a person before they are willing to make business ventures. Due to time not being their master, Italians are often a few minutes late; therefore, there is typically a 15 minute leeway for tardiness and if you are someone of high status you will typically arrive more than 15 minutes late. There is a beautiful Italian phrase la gente importante si fa asperttare, meaning important people allow for themselves to be waiting on. Given that tardiness is acceptable, being late to a meeting does not reflect negatively on someone’s character.

Adjusting to Italian Time

One of the first biggest culture shocks that I endured was the concept of time. I was raised as a typical, over scheduled American child. I was used to having activities that were scheduled back to back.1061 I learned how to eat fast and in between events of my life. When we arrived to Italy our first breakfast began at 7 am. The breakfast consisted of a croissant, a juice, a water, and a cappuccino. Not only is this a lot of food for and Italian breakfast but is also sinfully early.  Since all of us were Americans and used to a high-time, fast paced culture, we ate our meal in about 5 minutes. Even though we finished our meal in five minutes we still had to sit at the table until 8 because school didn’t start until 8:15. This was a shock to me and my classmates because we learned that meals are for enjoying the company that you are with not about what you will be doing in five minutes or later in the day.

Our next lesson in time was for our first Italian lesson. We arrived to our class early not only because it was our first day but because that’s what you do in the U.S. In America if you are late it looks disrespectful, and reflects negatively on your character. However, being the good American student that we are, we were in class 5 minutes early.  However, our Italian teacher arrived 5 minutes fashionably late, so very Italian of her.013 I asked our Italian teacher, Bianca, how Italian schools are typically run and how tardiness makes her feel. According to Bianca, since tardiness it so fundamental in Italian culture that Italian teachers must close the doors right when class begins. When the door is closed you are not allowed in and you will not be able to make up that lesson unless there are doctors notes. Bianca also stated that since our class is run through a private school, she is more lenient on our tardiness, and it does not usually upset her-she even allowed for all of us to graduate our Sorrento Lingue program.

Around 1 pm, on the same day, we went out to the street of Sorrento, Italy to do some shopping only to find that most of the stores are closed for a siesta. A siesta is a time meant for everyone to go home and relax in the middle of the day. This break allowed for store owners and professionals to take a break from the work day and go back out or home in order build relationships with their neighbors, families, and During siestas, as a foreigner I felt alienated and cut off from the world. In America, from the time you wake up to the time that you go to bed you are constantly on the move. Americans rush from place to place, from breakfast to school/daycare/work, from activity to activity. Therefore any down time is not in an American’s vocabulary.

At first, all of the tardiness, slow meals, and an overall lack of time orientation were hard to get used to. America is a high-time culture that pinches and saves days, hours, minutes and seconds in order to get the maximum usage out of every day even save time up so as to exchange it for a vacation. For example, at my place of employment I am able to accrue paid time off and with that accrued paid time off, I was able to turn it in and participate in this study abroad program. To a high-time culture this will allow you to monopolize and dominate the time no in order to relax later.independent research In these cultures a lot of relationship qualities are minimized. Not because people and relationships are unimportant but because time may not always allow for you to have time for everyone: careers tend to become more important than friendships. When a relationship is formed there are many different types: professional, personal, and familial. Of the three familial is the only one that is usually the most voluptuous and full, where as the other two are more superficial.

Understanding Italian time was the most difficult cultural boundary for me to cross. However, once I learned and understood it, it was one of the most beautiful and helpful tools I acquired while in Italy.

Practicing Italian Time

Now that it is near the end of our time here in Sorrento, we are immersed into Italian time. We are now regularly late to class, sorry Bianca, but it is slightly more acceptable since Italy is a low-time culture. We are usually late for class because we are busy creating a relationship amongst ourselves. At the beginning of this adventure we were seven strangers and due to our long meals we became a family. When we are late for class we are about 5-10 minutes late which is the equivalent of Italian punctuality. Strangely enough all of this tardiness and relationship building has become natural.

When a time is important and needs to be adhered to it is now referred to as American/German time rather than Italian time. Even when we are told that it is an American 1:05pm we are typically 5-10 minutes tardy. Clearly Italian time has really begun to rub off on us.

One of our first experiences where we were told that we needed to use American time since our arrival in Sorrento was on our first excursion to the Amalfi Coast.166 Our guide, Luca, was a southern Italian man who knew about that Italian culture was a low-time culture. He stated that there many different types of time and that during this excursion we were no longer on Italian time but we were on American time.003 This excursion was on Saturday May 25, only 5 days after we arrived and learned about Italian time. For some of my classmates, Italian time was easier to pick up on but for me. I was still calculating and recording how long each activity took so that we were where we needed to be at the correct time.

The first two cities on our roller coaster ride through the Amalfi Coast were very prompt. We adhered to the American times that were given. However, our last stop in Ravello was different. Ravello is a beautiful town that was about a five-minute walk from where our bus dropped us off. If we were back in the U.S. we would have left Ravello 5 minutes earlier just so that we would be back at the bus on time: this was not the case though. We went to the Villa Rufolo in Ravello.241 What we saw while we were there were simply indescribable. The beauty, the lore, the relationships that were created in ancient times as well as those between us was so captivating that we completely lost track of time. The point at which I finally understood Italian time and the importance of relationships was when we finally were pulled back from our fantasy land in Villa Rufolo and cruelly pushed back into reality. We were late for the bus but none of us could care less because what we had witness and experienced was much more important than being on a bus back to Sorrento.

Our next time that we were asked to be on American time was when we were going on another excursion to Pompeii on Tuesday May 28th. In order to get to Pompeii747 we needed to take a train from Sorrento to Pompeii and the last one that we could catch so that we were on time to meet our guide was at 1:25pm. Making this train was a must. We were all able to adhere to the American meeting time.  However, once we were in Pompeii time again ceased to exist. We wandered the streets touching and watching history come back to life.


As a history lesson on Italian time: back in Pompeian time people used to lounge and lay down while eating dinner-this was because time was less important than the relationship that they were building. We had no idea as to what time Pompeii closed, but that didn’t matter to us. The magic was so captivating that time was no longer in our mind. The only thing that pulled us back to reality was our aching bodies and hungry stomachs. When we walked back from history into the now we realized that there was a train back to Sorrento in about 10 minutes. Trains in Italy are on a schedule that is not even the same as the one that is put out for the public so we began to talk and continue to build the relationships with our roommates. We were so lost in our relationship building that some of our group almost missed the train back. This no longer phased us because we were becoming a family and building the relationship was more important than being on time.

All of our tardiness was no longer a character flaw. We were just trying to fit in with the town and culture that we were in. Now we were the ones laughing at the other “tourists” rushing through meals and running from spot to spot. From a time perspective we have become immersed in the Italian way of life. As a group of classmates from two different universities we had gone from being timely and superficial to becoming a family that was tardy and deeply connected with each other. Building the relationship between two people had become more important than the grade that we would earn in this course and being on time for anything. Time was now the foreign object and relationship was the center of our little gruppo


Readjusting to Our “Master”:  Time

Now that our time in our paradise and home, Sorrento, Italy, is almost up we are going to need to begin to think about how we will be readjusting back to the American values. During our time here we have gained many things that are both positively and negatively viewed in the U.S.

Meeting time will be strictly adhered to in the U.S. Tardiness will once again be a fatal character flaw, and building relationships will not be as important. Since we have been in Italy for three weeks it will be a struggle for many of us to be timely again. Classes will not wait for everyone to be seated and ready to begin as they have here in Italy. We will not have a “siesta” in the middle of the day because time is money and if it is not being used it is being wasted.

I will be happy to go back to a high culture time because I find that when I don’t have something scheduled, I begin to feel antsy and don’t know what to do with myself. Being timely is something that I am good at and therefore it will be nice to have things begin when they are scheduled and to have people show up when they say that they will. It may be the many years of having a tough schedule that is organized and orderly but to me I still view tardiness as a negative thing. After viewing the beauty of the relationships that everyone in Sorrento has I am able to see the beauty and understand why being tardy is ok.

The Things that I will personally miss:  more dressed up in my clothing for daily life, long meals, siesta, and building relationships. I love that Italians take pride in beauty, not only in landscape but in themselves. I have learned that you should always put your best face forward because life is a performance and you should perform at all times: “when in Rome, do as the Romans do.” 002

Here in Italy you better not plan on having dinner quickly. Meals are events rather than meals. You dress up, socialize, and eat far too much for any one person individually. All of our meals have been opportunities for us to bond with each other, and go from classmates to family members. Here we have discussed many things and built relationship that will last for a lifetime. In the U.S. meals are to eat to satisfy your hunger, not to build relationships. I feel that so much can be learned through not rushing through meals and I hope that I can bring this value back home with me.

I will also take more time to meet with live in the moment: more than just capre diem but actually godere la vita (the art of enjoying life).001 In the moment is where relationships are built and life is lived– enjoyed, in fact! Relationships are what connect us with people in our community as well as people around the world. When I am home I have realized that I do not take enough time to learn about things in other people’s lives because before I came to Italy I was too focused on myself and my needs. I need to learn to set aside time for other and continue to let relationships grow.





Special acknowledgements to our host school, Sorrento Lingue Institute, The University of Colorado – Denver Department of Communications, department chair Dr. Stephen J. Hartnett and our instructor Dr. Julia Khrebtan


Tell it to Me Straight: (In)Direct and Nonverbal Communication

What are you saying to me?

Sometimes it’s hard to, well, say. People communicate with one another in all ways, not only with words. In fact, 60-70% of communication is nonverbal. While traveling in Italy I experienced this firsthand. We don’t speak the same language and had to rely almost entirely on tone of voice, gestures and expressions, especially for the first week.

There is a lot here that isn’t being said. People dress differently, behave differently, act differently, drive differently, and even eat differently here than they do in the U.S. Image Il Bel Paese is a high-context culture, and communicates more indirectly. Less is said, but more is meant. The U.S. is a low-context culture, communicating the message directly to the recipient. Americans as a general rule say what they mean and mean what they say.

Italia, on the contrary, has this beautiful concept known as la bella figura. It is a nice way of saying they sugarcoat information. To quote out guide Luca, the breathtakingly beautiful yet hardly affordable island of Capri is not “expensive,” it is “exclusive.” ImageImage

We also had a great time getting to know our apartment this way. The girls’ half is a throwback to our younger years, in a way a time-machine Italian style; it felt like living with sisters again. We were sharing beds (we even had one bunk bed!), secrets, and intimate spaces. We traveled back in time everyday when we did the dishes. We had a good time laughing at each other, since only one and a half of us knew how to hand wash dishes (I could do it, but was inefficient until now). Italy certainly teaches you new dimensions of efficiency, caring about water, but most importantly, teaches you different dimensions of relationships.

Il Bel Paese is a relationship-based culture. This means that before conducting business, colleagues need to develop a relationship. In the United States, people are willing to get straight to work without bothering to find out any personal history about each other. It can be difficult when these cultures try to work with each other- Italians might get insulted Americans don’t care, and Americans could lose patience with Italians for taking too long to get to the point.

ImageRelationships, especially family-based, rule in Italy. Our language school in Sorrento provides discounts to various stores and restaurants in town if we mention we are students. One of the places is a beautiful and “beautifully exclusive” wood inlay shop. The shop, owned by a relative of the school, is a cute little family-run business. Again, the relationship is placed above all else. I loved going in to see the works of art.   I bought two wall hangings for my mamma. They are absolutely gorgeous. And, in a way I felt Italian while buying those regali – going from one famiglia to another.

ImageWhat people wear goes a long way in Italia as well. People dress differently here, both men and women. Image Referring back to the bella figura, a woman always has her makeup and hair done. She is always well dressed. Image  You will always see cute shoes; even in the rain or on cobblestone streets.  ImageHow she does it is totally incomprehensible. La Bella Figura is always composed and beautiful. Women aren’t the only ones who dress well here. It’s the cultural norm for men to dress up to go out.  Instead of running out in ratty jeans and t-shirts, men style their hair, wear fashionable pants, and always look well put together. They never look like they got dressed in the dark. I doubt their laundry is on the floor of their bedrooms. Image

The surprising thing with clothing is that although everyone is fashion forward in style, laundry is not. Apparently dryers were a passing fad. Everyone dries their laundry outside on their back porch for everyone to see. This was unexpected to me. I was fully expecting to see only flags flying in the wind, not the bright colors of my neighbors’ unmentionables. Image Or my own!

Appearance and nonverbal communication has been a major part of Italian culture since the Roman era. Our class went on an excursion to Pompeii. In Pompeii we learned a significant amount about the lifestyle of an average Pompeiian. For them, much like now, looks were everything. People would leave their doors open so neighbors passing by could see all the way in to their beautiful gardens.  If they couldn’t afford a garden they would paint a complex, detailed garden on the wall in attempt to convince others that it was real. They always had to look good in front of others; putting on a show.  We also learned in Pompeii  how important the size of your house was. If you had a large house it meant you had more money or status in the city. Both of these things can be referred back to the concept of indirect communication. No one ever said anything, but through these physical symbols people were able to represent and communicate their status in society. La bella figura has been around for centuries. Image

As was initially mentioned gestures are also a major part of what is not being said, especially in Italy. People here talk with their hands. They use their hands when they’re angry, when they’re happy, when they’re giving directions, sharing information, or just having an average conversation. I’ve seen it at stores when people are exclaiming over a cute dress. I’ve seen it in the street when two friends meet to say hello. I’ve even started using it when I want to emphasize a point and am at a loss for words. Usually during a great meal (which is daily).

To my great surprise I realized this gesture is used for literally everything. While in Pompeii we were waiting for a few stragglers to catch up with the rest of the group. I happened to hop up on a pedestal to sit. Then I got the Gesture. An old man sitting on the other side of the ancient road said something to me, and pulled his fingers towards himself, as though he wanted to talk to me. I am told what he was saying was that I was sitting on an ancient artifact. I’m still unclear if I was disrespecting it or if he thought it would crumble under my weight. Either way, the tiny gesture he gave me with his hand spoke louder than if he shouted in my ear with a loudspeaker. In any case, I slid right off.

Another day I was crossing the street behind an elderly couple. A car came roaring up the road, barely stopping in time. The old man started shouting in Italian and pursed his fingers. He shook his hand at the car, the words rolling off his tongue like water. I can’t translate what he said, but it was more than clear with the way he shook his hand and the tone and level of his voice exactly what he was saying. I think I’m glad I don’t know that vocabulary. Who knew one gesture could express compliment, excitement, surprise, warning, and so on. How can it say so much without actually saying anything?

The Many Faces of The Gesture:


Lastly, what is the most difficult to get used to is that people here don’t smile the way they do in the U.S. People only smile when they have a reason to do so. This means it’s hard to tell when someone is truly pleased. If you smile at someone you don’t know it usually means you have an ulterior motive. Although my professoressa may disagree, I smile a lot. Learning not to in so as to avoid attention was not and is not easy.



I’m Becky an avid world traveler. I’ve been to many beautiful places such as Mexico, Ireland, Australia, Spain, Austria, Hungary, Czech Republic and Ukraine. I’ve learned a lot along the way in my travels. I have, however, never studied abroad. That is what makes this opportunity unique. Being that I am pursuing my second bachelors degree, I felt this blogprofilebeckyprogram would be a perfect fit to help develop some of my career goals  related to travel and language. My first degree was in Spanish and I am now studying Communications at Colorado State University. The blend of my Spanish degree, combined with the opportunity to be in Italy really makes me feel at home. I’m so blessed to be a part of this program.

SPECIAL THANKS: To Dr. Julia Khrebtan, for guiding us through this beautiful land of Italy. To our host school, Sorrento Lingue. To the Communications Chair, Dr. Sue D. Pendell for allowing us the chance to take this trip and see the wonderful world outside of the United States.

Allora – Global Mindset

What is a global mindset?

A global mindset is the ability to integrate everything you’ve learned about culture into your attitude and behaviors reflexively. Having the ability to read non verbal cues and interpreting and understanding the behavior allows you to effectively interact with people of different backgrounds from all around the world.


Let’s start with greetings. As we’ve discussed, there are different levels communication including indirect and direct as well as high and low context. In the U.S. it is very common to smile and say “hello” to passerbys. Here, this is not the case; but why is that? Take the example of peach cultures and coconut cultures. The peach will represent the U.S. and the coconut, Italy. A peach has a very soft outer shell with the seed in the middle. This represents the very friendly attitude of the U.S but at the same time their individualistic side; you may have a long conversation with your new neighbor, but it doesn’t necessarily mean you are friends. Where as in Italy they have their tough outer shell, but once you establish a relationship it is a long lasting relationship. They see no reason to greet people if they do not already have an established relationship. Therefore eye contact and greetings insinuate that you want to have a conversation or that you are being flirtatious. In the U.S. eye contact and smiling is just a way of being polite.

Also discussed earlier, is time orientation; American time versus Italian time. Italian time is IMG_0470laid back and not clearly defined, whereas American time is controlled and precise. In Italy, stores open later and close in the afternoon for a ‘siesta’ and then stay open much later in the evening. In the U.S. stores are open every day of the week from 9am to 9pm and most every holiday of the year. This does not mean that either view of time is better, just that it is different. In the U.S. you may be able to accomplish tasks quicker and fit more into a day. In Italy, you might get the chance to enjoy the last of the foam in your coffee or find your principe azzurro sulla pizza (prince charming). Neither view of time is better, they just hold different values.

Having a global mindset does not mean that you have to lose your values, just that you are learning from others. As girls we pay a lot of attention to fashion, and one of the things we recognized right away was that Italians are always dressed nicely no matter what time of day or where they are going. At home, we are all used to seeing and dressing in sweats for school or running errands and just not being overly concerned with what we are wearing. In the U.S. people may value other things over their appearance such as the kind of car they drive or the amount of things they can fit into a day. In Italy, however, life is a stage and your appearance is judged and appreciated by everyone. This stage idea is a cultural attitude that has been around since Pompeii. As a sign of wealth, Pompeian’s would have gardens that were visible from the street in their houses. If they were not that wealthy, they would often times paint a very realistic version of a garden that could be seen from the streets as a way to allude that they were wealthier than they were.

Keep in mind that in times of stress, we revert back to our traditional styles. For example, iced coffeeafter a busy day in Naples, where we saw the New York side of Italy, we came back to Syrenuse (our breakfast bar) and ordered coffees/drinks that we practically inhaled as soon as they came. Italians take their time eating and drinking, so eating this quickly was a very American thing to do. We also ordered items that we were more familiar with, such as iced coffees (which are pretty unusual drinks for Italians). We had a long day in Napoli and we were all tired at the end of it which resulted in our reversion to our fast eating habits. Understanding that you revert to your traditional styles under stress, can help you adapt to cultural situations.

However, a global mindset isn’t only about people interaction, it’s about the entire culture. Take for example the difference in water. In Denver, we are all used to water being available everywhere for a very low price. In restaurants water is free. Bottled water is filtered and always fresh. In Italy though, this is not the case. You have to ask for acqua della fontana (tap water) otherwise they will charge you a fee for bottled water. There tap water is also higherfountain in calcium. The fountains themselves are in large contrast to the U.S. We have basic water fountains that are purely for the use of drinking whereas in Italy, water fountains are art forms that have a long history and story behind them. This cultural difference in water is one example of how you can learn from the history of a culture to better understand their behaviors today.

A global mindset isn’t about changing your cultural values, but about embracing others. Being in Italy has given me the opportunity to reflect on my own values of time, appearance, relationships, and communication styles. Understanding your own values helps you to understand other cultures’ values and recognize and adapt to these cultural values and signals.

Global Teams

Once you begin to have a global mindset, you are better able to work with a global team. A global team is working with together with a group of people of different backgrounds on a common project across cultures and time zones for extended periods of time. Here in Italy we have collaborated with a variety of people from our drivers and tour guides, our Italian hosts and teachers, to our non English speaking housekeeper and handyman. Working with these different people has been challenging and exciting all at the same time.

last day group pic

While in Italy, we were lucky to have the chance to take an introductory course of Italian language. Our skills are still minimal, but engaging with the people of Italia with even our small understanding of Italian has been an experience in itself; which brings in to play the importance of face-to-face interaction. As mentioned above, Italians hold a high value for relationships and for those relationships to work there needs to be a level of trust. One way to gain this trust is through face-to-face interaction. For example, while shopping I went into an Italian leather store (dangerous in itself) and found the cutest pink and brown cross body bag. The price was a little higher than I liked and I also noticed a very small scratch near the zipper. When I went up to the register I pointed out the scratch and after the signorina unsuccessfully got the scratch out, I pretended to be less interested in it and asked if there could be a sconto or discount. I was only able negotiate a couple of Euros off of it, but I would still call that a success! This example shows the importance of non-verbals and face-to-face interaction. My non-verbals in this situation helped me get a discount that in the U.S. would not have been given because stores there are chain and do not hold the same importance of individual sales. In Italy, due to the high value of relationships, face-to-face interaction is extremely important. Using the few words we know in Italian helps immensely with our face-to-face interaction.

photo 1 (63)Another thing that really stands out in Italy is the importance of family and friends. Italy is full of family owned shops which are in contrast to the chain stores that you will see in the United States. It is very obvious that people put their relationship, especially family ones, first. This is a strong value for the Italian people and it helps to put into perspective their attitude towards time, hierarchy, and communication patterns. Relationships are valued over time, power within a family is hierarchal, and communication is often indirect in order to save face.

In Italy there is this idea of bella figura where you ignore certain situations as a way of saving face. For example instead of saying ‘expensive’ you would say ‘exclusive’ or instead of owning up to a mistake you would place blame on someone or something else. In the States we are much more blunt and direct with our communication and if there is a problem you can be sure that we will address it. While to us this is a norm, to other cultures it is considered extremely rude.

While in Naples we had lunch at a small pizzeria that we found up a local side street. As we enjoyed our authentic pizzas we watched a group of young kids playing games in the middle of the street. They all spoke in rapid Italian and their body language was so fun to watch. These were visibly the kind of kids that you don’t mess with. They walked with swag and looked out for one another. WhilCIMG2592e one group played what appeared to be a version of volleyball, a younger age group ran around playing tag. Running away from a boy, a little girl ran towards where we were sitting, tripped and scraped her knee. In an American way I nearly stood up to go make sure she was ok, but she immediately looked around, stood right back up, and brushed herself off. She did not want to let anyone see her ‘lose face’. This was a perfect example of the bella figura. It is a concept that is a part of the Italian culture from a very young age.  Understanding that this is a part of their culture and attitude, it will allow you to better understand how to work together.

La nostra squadra di cuore….

Although we initially have had a large language barrier in Italy, we have also been lucky to work with so many amazing bilingual people. Together we have learned to adapt our behaviors and attitudes to work together as a team, sometimes as a familia, sometimes as a squadra, and always as amici and campioni della comunicazione interculturale!

About the Author:


My name is Brooke Evans, I am a senior studying communications at the University of Colorado Denver. When I found out about this Maymester study abroad in Italy, I was absolutely thrilled. Italy has been at the top of my list for as long as I can remember and having the opportunity to study there was a dream come true. I expected Italy to be beautiful and full of amazing history, but the reality of it surpassed my expectations by far. I have fallen in love with Italy and their culture; the romantic language, the slower paced atmosphere, the coffee, and of course the food! This course gave me the opportunity to experience Italy in a way I could not have on my own. I have learned how to embrace other cultures and submerse myself in their lifestyles. This was a trip of a lifetime; I have broadened my global mindset, gained a new famiglia, and discovered a piece of heaven. If you have the opportunity to go, do not pass it up!!


Special acknowledgements to our host school, Sorrento Lingue Institute, The University of Colorado – Denver Department of Communications, department chair Dr. Stephen J. Hartnett and our instructor Dr. Julia Khrebtan