[huge_it_share]My trip to Italy this fall was inspiring, and gave me many reminders of how we Americans can benefit from being immersed in and studying other cultures. My Life Coaching practice here in Washington, DC always benefits from my cross-cultural experiences. I find that no matter who we are or where we are, we have common emotional feelings, life challenges and obstacles in work and personal relationships. People all over the world feel disconnected, with a desire to connect to their own values, to each other and to life itself. A common thread is belonging, no matter how imperfect we are.
The Italian idea of “the good life” is inspiring. The Italian people have a reputation of warmth, energy, passion, power and vitality. This summer I traveled to Paris, and noticed many similarities to the French way of life – after all, these are continental European lifestyles! (You can read my post “5 Life Lessons from France” here.) But of course the Italians have their own culture, and their own themes. Here are some take-aways from my trip that I’ll be bringing to my coaching:
- Respect, tradition & graciousness. Archeology, architecture, art, music, mountains, sea – all of these say “Italy” to me. Italy is a cradle of civilization with its history of the Roman Empire, and Italians are steeped in tradition, respect, power and a pride of belonging. There are rules about going into a church: women must have their shoulders covered. Table manners in Italy are formal, and people don’t reach across the table or taste food off of each other’s plates, even at a casual place or in someone’s home. As Americans we are often very keen on casting off tradition, which is healthy in many situations. But tradition doesn’t have to be plain, boring or cold. In Italy, it is also “traditional” to whistle at beautiful women! Preserving traditions that have served us and mesh with our values can be an empowering exercise.
- Public image & the “bella figura.” The idea of maintaining a “bella figura” for Italians isn’t so much about being beautiful. It’s more akin to maintaining a good public image. Italians appreciate beauty and are famous for their designer clothes and fast cars. But they also don’t get drunk in public, eat while they walk or wear pajamas to the dinner table because it would have a negative impact on their image. In our fast-paced culture in the DC Metro area, it’s common for busy professionals to let things like behavior, grooming, propriety or manners slide in the interest of getting the job done. Remembering that each interaction we have, whether with a cab driver, waitress or the President himself is a reflection on our public image is a great takeaway. The result is an elevation of one’s voice, power and respectability. Self-awareness is key to creating a consistency in our lives.
- “La famiglia.” Italians are notoriously family-oriented. Families are expected to take care of each other, with parents helping children and children helping parents. Even in the face of our globalizing world, half of all Italian men live with their parents into their 30s. It is encouraging to see families continuing to put an emphasis on taking care of their own in a reciprocal, healthy way. Caring for one’s child or parent does not have to be a burden when it lines up with our values. Choosing family above other obligations can be a way to live a life of passion and authenticity.
- Food. I can’t write about Italy without writing about food. Italians are famously passionate even about their regional differences in cuisine. I read about a Neapolitan expat living in Chicago who, upon tasting a truly authentic dish from his childhood, burst into tears. Food for Italians is about more than just curbing the appetite. Memories of our mothers, family dinners and lost traditions can flash through our minds when we taste something that was part of our childhood. With each meal, I’m reminded to take the Italian perspective on food: as a source of energy, life, connection and heritage.
- Living a powerfully authentic, passionate life. The real glory of Italy lies in the heart and soul of its people, who are among the most lively, generous and hospitable in the world. Italy is celebrated for its simple, relaxed way of life, warm personal relationships and time for others, good manners and spontaneity. Italians are never slow to break into song or dance when the mood strikes them! For sheer vitality and passion for life, Italians have few equals. Whatever Italy can be accused of, it’s never “plain” or “boring.”
If you looking for your voice, power and passion, consider working with me through Life Coaching. With the right tools, navigated conversations and the intention to create something great, you can discover ways to live your best life. Let’s get started now on identifying what you want – and finding the energy and commitment to get you there.
Contact me for a complimentary, no-obligations life coaching consultation to discuss the possibilities. Or use the Appointment Scheduler and pick a time that works for you. I coach 90% of my clients over the phone, and my DC-based Life Coaching clients have the option of meeting with me in person.