Transform Culture Shock into a Cultural Adventure

Studying Abroad? If you’ve decided to pursue international university studies, it’s likely that one of your objectives is to gain an appreciation of the new culture in which you will interact. For some, the shock of culture absorption may be overwhelming. It’s natural and common for any traveler to experience a bit of anxiety in exploring the unknown, but the key for any study abroad student is to transform that culture shock into a cultural adventure!

IMG_3210

Embrace the New and Unusual

In many cases, the country in which you’ve chosen to study will be vastly dissimilar from the one in which you’re accustomed. One may experience differences in language, RomaVeneziaCortona2011Uno 098cuisine, mode of transportation, style of dress, music, and a host of other concepts. The important thing to remember: diversity is the reason you chose to study abroad in that particular country. So, embrace the new and the unusual, get your fingers sticky with it. Before long, what feels strange will become familiar.FullSizeRender (4)

 

Ride the Emotional Wave

The mix of emotions you experience may include loss, fatigue, stress, anxiety, and confusion. Some degree of culture shock is inevitable, and the range of emotions at any given time typically transition through four stages:cropped-402px-bocca_della_verita.jpg

  1. the honeymoon stage
  2. the frustration phase
  3. the depression/isolation stage, and
  4. the adjustment and acceptance phase

Awareness of these stages may help alleviate the issue, and may provide a smoother path to the final stage. As long as one lives the cultural transition fully, rather than resists this normal phenomenon, the experience will feel much more positive, much sooner.

Remember, what you will learn and make your own will soon become a part of you, a worldliness to your character that you will always carry with you. Embrace the adventure, and you may learn to speak a new language. You might add an entire play list of ethnic music that comforts or drives you. You might enhance your wardrobe with a style of dress you might never have considered. Hopping onto a subway, or biking, may even become your primary mode of transport when you return home, a practice you might have never tried had you not been exposed to it elsewhere. The novelty of the adventure will soon become your reality, and you’ll reap the lifelong benefits of embracing it.

Wanderlust

Know Before You Go, and Ease into the Adventure

Learn the language now, and later. Sign up for local, short-term language immersion classes, or longer-term classroom study to enhance conversation in your host country. There are also a number of home computer programs, like Rosetta Stone, and apps, like Duolingo, Babel and iTranslate, that will assist preparation for the trip, and aid assimilation once arrived.

italiangestures

Learn the culture, and use it before you go. Practice cooking the local fare or visit restaurants that serves that country’s cuisine. Listen to the host country’s popular music. Live stream the host country’s popular TV shows. Research the lesser known historic and artistic gems, and become well versed in the popular ones before arrival. Involvement and practice of the host country’s customs and practical life before you go will better your chances of achieving a higher comfort level, sooner, once you arrive.

IMG_0018

Chat on-line with study abroad students who’ve been through the process and have studied or are studying in the host country, for advice that might range from packing, traveling, and coping with homesickness, all the way to ideas for places to eat, visit, or shop. There are many public on-line forums where international students gather and provide advice, as well as private group chats among those students traveling through a school community.

When you Get There, Achieve a Balance

When you get there, where the goal is to embrace the adventure, it’s also important to stay true to one’s self.

  • Try new cuisine on a regular basis, but when you’re feeling blue, offset it with a visit to your favorite fast-food chain or cook up something that you’d normally fix at home.
  • Pick up a local trinket or don clothing that reflects the local custom, but take some time to revel in the items you bring from home, like photos, a teddy bear, or a favorite sweater.
  • Attend music performances that typically reside outside your genre, but keep your favorite tunes plugged in on your way to class.RomaVeneziaCortona2011Uno 215
  • Learn to bike ride through traffic or hillsides, but walk or grab a taxi when the mood moves you.
  • Join a club or volunteer to become a part of the society around you, but feel free to kick back with a newspaper about home.

In other words, when most of the day or evening is spent tackling something brand new and outside your comfort zone, be sure to balance the challenge with a taste of home – your transition will be smoother and less intimidating. You’ll be more likely to look forward to the next challenge, rather than resist it if you allow yourself an occasional taste of your own culture.

Get by with a Little Help from Your Friends and Family

Don’t underestimate the power of companionship. Whether you seek the tutelage of a professor, the commonality of a roommate with a similar background, or even a brand new group of classmates, it’s important to stay connected. Share your experiences, and you just might learn a few things. Also, meeting locals is a great way to immerse in the culture, and they may end up friends in which to visit or correspond long after you’ve returned home, or otherwise contacts in which to network should you extend your stay.IMG_3202 (2)

Finally, stay in touch with those back home. They will boost your morale, and keep you grounded during those times when you’re a little tired of spreading your wings. Upon return, sharing your adventure will be more meaningful if others have stayed abreast of your ongoing activity while you’re away.IMG_2070

 

All in all, international studies provides many benefits, including exposure to an entirely different culture. Often times, culture shock may hinder a student’s opportunity to fully appreciate all that their host country has to offer. Live it fully, don’t resist the mix of emotions. Learning to transform culture shock into a “cultural adventure” will ensure that you will benefit most from this rewarding experience.ToscanaUno 261

Author Gina Fava studied abroad in Rome, Italy during college. Much of her suspense thriller,  THE SCULPTOR, is based on her “cultural adventure.” The mysterious serial killer in her story is entirely fictional, or so she says. Learn more at www.GinaFava.com.

 

THE MODERN HEROINE: A Mystery Writers Panel

 

How will Gina Fava’s fierce female characters,

ANA MALIA from THE RACE,

and MARA SILVESTRI from THE SCULPTOR,

factor into a  panel discussion with mystery writers involving

“the modern heroine”

JOIN US

May 3, Wednesday, 6:30 p.m.
Mystery Writers Panel: “The Modern Heroine”
Gina Fava, Sharon Healy-Yang, Judith Copek
Friends of the Swansea Library
First Christian Congregational Church
1113 GAR Highway, Swansea, MA

And we’ll be selling and signing copies of all our novels!

Passionate Italians and Hand Gestures

My friends can see me talking from a mile away, even with my back turned. I’m the one with my hands gesticulating in the air, sometimes with elegant precision as I speak on my cell phone, sometimes with wild abandon as I’m ordering a sandwich. That’s because I was raised in an Italian household. Italians are typically expressive, passionate, and animated when communicating with others. It’s a demonstration of engagement and interest. Have you ever seen an Italian converse with his or her hands in their pockets? Never happens.

italiangestures

Italians, young and old, male or female, gesture naturally. Whether they’re busy licking a gelato, smoking a cigarette, or zipping a manual-shift car around a hilltop town, Italians are quite adept at pairing any activity with vivid hand gestures when engaged in conversation. Writing letters must drive most Italians crazy, as expression is limited. I regularly use emoticons when dashing off an email or posting on social media, because sometimes words are just not enough, and it’s the closest I can get to gesturing.  😉

Most people shake hands, but Italians typically grasp the other’s arm at the same time. Eye contact is important to them, and so is close personal contact. In fact, once a relationship is established, even if an acquaintance, a kiss on both cheeks upon greeting is the norm. Public displays of affection among Italians are prevalent, both among couples and families. Sons and daughters are equally apt to hug and kiss their parents as a sign of respect and affection, and strolling arm and arm through Italian towns as an expression of companionship is practiced by neighbors and friends as much as by Italian couples, who typically prefer a lip lock and tight embrace as further acknowledgement of their mutual affinity.

Americans are known to gesture on occasion, such as a flipped bird (raised middle finger) during rush hour traffic, or pressed thumbs and knuckles in the shape of a heart from a mother to her child on the school bus, or the peace sign from a graduate accepting his diploma, among others. But here are a few Italian gestures you may or may not be aware of:

  • To gesture “Come here,” instead of beckoning with an index finger, an Italian sweeps an entire arm downward.
  • That beckoning index finger might signal a romantic enticement in both cultures. But in Italian culture, one might also do the same to signal that he or she wishes to convey something very important to another.
  • Index fingers pressed against the thumbs with a slight waggle of both hands means an exasperated “What do you want from me?”
  • The index finger twisted into the cheek means something is good, lovely, or tasty.
  • Tapping one’s wrist means “Hurry up.”
  • Two open hands stands for “What’s happening here?”
  • Waggling two hands pressed together as if in fervent prayer begs the question, “What do you want me to do about it?”
  • The backside of one’s fingers brushing the chin is a classic blow off, as in “Who gives a flying fig?”
  • My grandfather used to pat his throat, and say “gola, gola,” meaning that he had chocolate candy or decadent cookies to share. And my nana would simply throw her arms wide, demonstrating the need for a grandchild’s hug.

No matter the exuberant gesture, signal, facial or bodily indication, of which there are hundreds, Italians use them to enhance communication in an uninhibited, liberating way. Take it or leave it, we’re just letting you know how passionate we are on a subject.

Wicked Good Italian Dialects

A recent visit to my father’s hometown of Abbadia San Salvatore in Siena gave me interesting insight into the concept of dialect. Family had taken me to a local restaurant, and the cousins who’d since moved out of town ordered “una latina di Coca Cola” or a can of Coke. Those relatives who still resided in town similarly ordered Cokes, but pronounced it much differently, dropping the hard C sound entirely, instead asking for “O’a-Ola.” As any native Bostonian knows, dropping a letter (like an R) gives the English language a certain flair all its own, and certainly gives the listener an indication of your proud heritage.

mappa-dialetti

A map of Italian dialects (click on image for larger version – courtesy zingarate.com)

As a native of Buffalo, where the words “merry,” “Mary,” and “marry” are pronounced the same way, and where “pop” means “soda,” and the word “hot” and “cod” take on a nasally, back of the throat twang, it’s clear to me that my husband, Jamie, who hails from north of Boston, speaks differently. When he says the word “pattern,” I must rely on context to determine whether he’s saying “Patton,” “pattin’,” or “patent.” When I first met my husband’s mom at the Cape, she suggested, “Go put ya shahts on [for the beach],” I merely stared back at her, confounded. Jamie translated, “Gina, my mom’s asking you to change into your bathing suit,” so I smiled and nodded, and she and I have gotten along swimmingly since then. The same is likely true for many Bostonians and their extended families. Their backgrounds – whether they were born in Boston or in Italy, or whether residing in the North End or Braintree – determine their particular pronunciation, grammar, or vocabulary. But just like Nonna’s minestrone, it’s the variety of the flavors that makes the mixture so delightful!

The factors that typically influence the development of dialects in a region or country include: geographical location (people living in close proximity to each other, as well as people living in isolation from others); socio-economic conditions; complex colonial history; movement of ancestry; strong regional loyalties; and the cultural influence of nearby communities. In such regions or countries, a dialect that is commonly used in the media (as in entertainment and news programming,) may be very different from the dialect used in official government business, in schools curricula, and in everyday street language. For example, a Boston news anchor may articulate the English language differently than a meter reader in Quincy. Either way, they both get their points across, perhaps one more colorfully than the other.

There are two major groups of Italian dialects -Northern and Southern, divided by the Spezia-Remini line. The northern groups are either: a) based in Veneto and speak a Venetic dialect; or b) of the Gallo-Italic group that encompasses most of the rest of the region, and is influenced by Celtic speech. As for the rest of the boot, the most common Italian dialects include: Tuscan (most of Tuscany); Abruzzese, Pugliese, Umbrian (near Tuscany); Laziale, Central Marchigiano (in and around Rome); those common to the southern part of Italy (like Napolitano); or those indicative of the outermost regions of the south, including Calabrese, Apulian, and Sardinian dialects. The rich variety speaks to the turmoil that Italy endured on the way to its unification in 1861. Only an official republic since 1946, Italy’s cultural pride is highly regional to this day. Where the Tuscan dialect is considered the national language or the “lingua italiana,” perhaps because the area is considered the birthplace of Italian literature (as in Dante, Petrarca, and Boccaccio,) still, different regions proudly embrace the differences that distinguish their manner of speaking from others in their country, much like Bostonians.

There are many other countries with multiple dialects of the same language, including Spain (10 recognized dialects), India (400 languages, and an estimated 2000 dialects), Asia (Japan has dozens, and China has at least 200 dialects), and many more all over the world. Dialects add color and diversity to language, and infuse flavor into one’s culture. After all, wouldn’t you rather have a “wicked good” cannoli than just a good cannoli?

Gina Fava’s THE SCULPTOR wins GOLD for Best Mystery/Thriller Ebook in the Indie Pub Awards!

 THE SCULPTOR has won the GOLD medal for the Best Mystery/Thriller E-Book in the 19th Annual, 2015 Independent Publisher Book Awards.

Gold medal ippy

I’m so honored and thrilled. Thank you, sincerely, to the judges, and most humbly to every one of my readers.

Congratulations to all the winners, and if you write everyday, you win everyday.

E3. BEST MYSTERY / THRILLER E-BOOK

GOLD: The Sculptor, by Gina Fava (Steepo Press)

SILVER: Twisted Vine, by Toby Neal (Self-Published)

BRONZE (tie): All Good Deeds, by Stacy Green (Twisted Minds Press)

Last Words, by Rich Zahradnik (Camel Press)

Click Here to Buy a Copy of THE SCULPTOR.

Click Here for the full list of the all those who submitted their work and medaled.

Congratulations to all who submitted, as the work is the ultimate reward.

 

RUSH to Buy Gina Fava’s THE RACE eBook at $5.99 This Weekend Only!

RUSH is a high-octane, biographical action film that hits theaters Friday, September 27.  All about the 1976 Formula One season and the rivalry between drivers James Hunt and Niki Lauda, the film stars hot Aussie Chris Hemsworth (Avengers’ Thor) as Hunt.  Directed by acclaimed director, Ron Howard (A Beautiful Mind, Apollo 13), the film is sure to be an intense thrill-ride.  Just check out the movie trailer and you’l see what I mean.

I’m so excited for the opening of this real-life Formula 1 rivalry flick, that I’m slashing the eBook price of my novel, The Race: A HELL Ranger Thriller this weekend to celebrate the release of the film.

 

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000031_00020]

The Race is an intense, action-packed suspense novel about a Formula 1 racing champion who must rescue his young son and save Rome from annihilation, with the help of his HELL Ranger pit crew, from an elusive international terrorist from his past.  Just check out the book trailer and you’ll see what I mean.

The “can’t put it down, page-turner” is ON SALE for $5.99 for a limited time, Friday 9/27, Saturday 9/28, & Sunday 9/29, so haul your eBook reader over to Amazon, Nook, Kobo, or Smashwords for a download bash this weekend!

 

Official Release of Gina Fava’s THE RACE Rolls Out with 2013 F1 Gran Premio D’Italia

By Will Pittenger (Formula1.com map, accessed 15 January 2009.) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

Gina Fava releases her debut suspense novel,

The Race: A HELL Ranger Thriller

at Jamie’s Fine Wine & Spirits,

on September 7, 2013, 3-5 pm.

the same weekend as Italy’s Grand Prix Formula 1 Race.

Friday and Saturday:  Watch the prelims, live on SPEED Channel, and determine your favorite for the race that rolls on Sunday at 8am, at the fastest F1 track, Monza!

Saturday:  Come down to the open house event at Jamie’s Fine Wine, Carver, MA location, on September 7, 3-5pm, where Gina Fava will sign copies of her brand new novel, THE RACE, neck and neck with wine and microbrew tastings, plus nibbles, and giveaways, all under one roof!  The event is open to the public (wine & brew tasting is limited to those 21+.)  

Every signed copy of THE RACE you buy at Jamie’s Carver between 3-5 pm on September 7 gives you a chance to WIN  your choice of :

A bucket of brew

OR

A basket of wine!

photo (8)

Sunday:  Enjoy THE RACE!!  Who’s YOUR favorite team to win the Italian F1 Grand Prix?

Visit http://www.GINAFAVA.com for details.