When you start living in another country discovering different customs is an everyday encounter. I remember being so excited to go to the local pool by my apartment, and revive myself in the chlorinated lake that I’ve learned to love from years of swimming and playing water polo. As I began dunking my head under water and letting the cool crispness flow through my hair, I looked up to realize that everyone was looking at me like a freak. Apparently entering the pool without a swim cap on is taboo (and here I thought everyone was just really into swimming laps). As a woman abruptly told me that what I was doing was not the norm, I jumped out of the pool, and decided to escape the shame by taking a nap on the sidelines. Smaller things that are now second-sense to me are: using plastic gloves in the grocery store to inspect fruit, and having a change bowl at every cashier stand to avoid any hand-to-hand contact when exchanging cash.
The first time I came to Italy with my mom, she decided she had fallen upon a million dollar money-making idea that would put me through college: be the Italian supplier of paper toilet seat covers. Oh yes, paper toilet seat covers. Thinking about it now, it is a tad strange that people in Italy don’t want stranger’s hands touching their fruit, yet they are more than willing to share a cheek-to-cheek bathroom session with them. Then again, some bathrooms have solved this problem by eliminating the toilet seat all together–and with that I have learned the secret of why Italian women have built thighs—squats.