Sorrento 2015: Managing Across Cultures

Welcome to the official “Managing Across Cultures” 2015 blog

This almost three-week-long University of Colorado Denver summer study-abroad course in Southern Italy focuses on global communication, development of intercultural awareness, in particular for Italy, and the sorrento-juliaexploration of hands-on management with a global mindset. While the course equips us with the theoretical tools, we set off on navigating contemporary Italy step by step, with all its natural beauty, cultural richness, and complex heritage. One of the key exercises was to challenge participants to go out and interview Sorrento locals, and thereby bringing in valuable empirical intercultural data into the classroom assignments. Based in the charming town of Sorrento, nestled between the Amalfi coast and vibrant Naples, we explored close and far. Together we discovered the art-historical wonders and modern vibrancy of Rome and Naples, the beauty of the world heritage sites of Positano, Amalfi, and Ravello, the living geological complexities of the active volcano Vesuvio, as well as Pompeii, the island of Capri, and all the charm of Sorrento itself. We explored various aspects of Italian life, from the magnificent cuisine, the world of fashion and advertising, important topics in Italian society such as the various facets of communication, patriarchy, masculinity and femininity, and regional characteristics. As a group we started as a diverse and loose bunch, and together grew and bonded into a caring and effective unit, in mirror image of a real familia napolitana. And all this was accomplished while being keen intellectual learners, making the most out of the comprehensive theory researched and presented together in class, as well as Italian language classes offered by our host in Sorrento, Sant’Anna Institute.

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The aim of this course, of transforming the participants into culturally aware world travelers, with a heightened sense of comprehension of Italian national identity was more than successfully reached: The individuals grew together as a group in a challenging environment that often pushed them past the boundaries of their comfort zones, and managed to link up all the empirical experiences gained with the theoretical tools learned. The end product is now a group of experts ready for future cross-cultural exploration and leadership challenges that the modern business world and globalized study and work environments will throw at them.
Through reflective session, journal writing, culture-specific readings, field work in the form of interviews with local residents for final research projects, and this blog development, we used critical thinking skills to help us better understand and locate our personal experience in Italy. Intercultural dialogues with the global mindset led 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”.


Julia Khrebtan is professor of Communication, as well as director and leader of this study abroad program, “Managing across Cultures”. She is a former lecturer of Italian studies, with particular focus on Italian national identity and film. Also known by her students as la mamma chioccia, she greatly enjoys the experience of teaching and growing together during this study abroad course, and exploring one of the most culturally rich places on earth, Italy, with such brilliant young minds.

julia and phillip

Philip Horhager, co-leader of this program, has a background as a manager in the aviation industry. He shared his past experiences of working and leading diverse teams in large organizations with this group of bright young interculturalists in Italy. He brought in experiences from multi-cultural and diverse technology organizations to enrich the course with real-life case studies and cultural faux-pas, thus contrasting the theory and our everyday experiences of living together and exploring Italy.

Grazie mille to Stephen John Hartnett (Chair, Department of Communication), John Sunnygard (Director, Global Education), and the entire UCD team for the promotion and realization of the program. Thanks also to the entire CSU team for their support of the program. Finally, grazie di tutto cuore to our Italian partners at Sant’Anna Institute in Sorrento, and above all to our wonderful students, world-travelers eager to explore the fascinating world of the “other!”

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How Can You See Hierarchy?

Both Italy and the United States are completely different from one another in regard to culture, architecture, values and most importantly attitudes toward hierarchy and egalitarian principles. In hierarchical societies, people in positions of authority are treated with formality, respect and deference. In other words, titles are important, the role of a leader may be authoritative, even paternalistic, and people tend to rely on them for direction. Everyone is addressed according to his or her status. In addition, in egalitarian societies people tend to be more casual, open and believe that people should have the same opportunities, privileges and be treated equally. These societies will tend to blur class distinctions and believe that everyone has a right to be heard. Furthermore, these two societies have different beliefs about one’s relationship to power and authority.

(Marina Grande, Sorrento, Italy )

During my time in Sorrento, Italy, I have observed the way people are treated and how Italians tend to react towards older and younger people. One will typically see the different levels of hierarchy among people during dinner, shopping, school and every where you walk. It is normal for people to assume that levels exists and that people at different levels do and should have different rights. One of the most cultural experiences I have noticed is the way older servers treat young people. I had opportunities to dine by myself and with other students and the service I would receive was different. There were instances where I would go to restaurants and older people would arrive after myself, but would be served first. Also, I would always be greeted in the best possible way and sometimes able to choose my seat, but the service would be poorer than what older couples would receive. As time went by, I started to realize that it is very normal to behave such a way towards young people in Italy. It took me a few experiences to completely understand the differences of attitude and service towards people of young age. Typically, in an egalitarian society like the US, people believe that everyone should be treated the same regardless their age, social status etc etc . Therefore, at times, the restaurant service would be the same simply because it’s all about business. However, in a hierarchical society, Italy, there are class distinctions and beliefs that behavior, dress and speech reflect the hierarchical differences. For instance, I had an opportunity to dine with all the students one night and I was treated differently. Prior to ordering some food, an older gentleman came up to me and in a polite way told me to get up because he wanted me to be more comfortable. At first I did not understand what he meant, but then he started moving the tables and some chairs in order for me to be more comfortable. I really appreciated it because I felt I was treated differently, like an adult. For these reasons, beliefs of hierarchical levels do influence the attitudes towards young people.

( O Canonico del 1898 Ristorante)

In addition, Italy has been wonderful to me! Being a country mostly with hierarchical principles does not mean you will be discriminated, it simply means your treatment will be different. I also had the pleasure to interview Octavio, a gentleman that works at his father’s limoncello store. Reflecting back on how the role of a leader may be authoritative, even paternalistic, and people tend to rely on them for direction, I was able to connect the conversation we had during the interview. He shared with me how he has been working for his father for over eleven years now and how it is a tradition to rely on the father’s leadership. Surprisingly, I was amazed how much he values his job. ” I am of the few people that gets happy to go to work in the morning”. He also shared with me that after he graduated from school around the age of 18, he attended nautical school which he studied for 5 years, but then quit after 3 months because he did not like it. Since then, he decided to work for his father and he is more than happy! He also added, “I don’t just sell limoncello to people, I sell emotions. We do it with the heart, it is a pleasure for us”. By the way, he loves foreigners and believes that they bring life to the city of Sorrento! It is incredible to know how much foreigners can bring happiness to a city and even people


(Octavio at the Limoncello Shop holding a picture of a customer, Maria. They have known each other for almost 30 years )

Furthermore, not only did I get an opportunity to learn and observe different cultural attitudes and perspectives, but I also got time to do fun activities! In Sorrento, right at the heart of the amazing Land of the Syrens, there’s a perfect place to find the sweetest and most delicious gelato. A group of us and I had the pleasure to learn how to make gelato! The shop, Bougainvillea Bar, has been around since 1957, it is a third generation family business! Their main product is gelato which is daily handmade at morning at 5:00 am. Teresa, the owner, showed us how to make gelato (nocciolla and limon) and gave us some tips such as good ice cream or gelato without milk means that it is made with fresh fruit and simply the best quality. It is nothing compared to what you would get in the US at places like ColdStone or even McDonalds. I can only describe the taste of the best gelato by saying, ” MAMMA MIA, so wonderful! In addition, Teresa shared with us how important it is for her children to go to university first, but would love for them to take over the shop like she did. In case her children do not want to, she would be willing to sell the shop and buy herself a nice Ferrari, she joked. I was able to see how much Italian people hold the tradition of children working for their parents and so how the paternalistic role leadership plays in the lives of Italians.

( Left to Right: Melissa, Deveney, Dr. Julia, Phillip, Teresa)
At this point, I must confess that I have completely fallen in love with Italy, specially the town of Sorrento! I had the chance to visit many places such as Pompeii, Napoli, Positano, Ravello, Amalfi Coast, Roma and much more! It is a beautiful place that will change your perspective across cultures and last but not least, it will steal your heart!

About the Author:

IMG_4272Ciao! My name is Melissa! I study at the University of Colorado, Denver. My major is political science with a minor in Law Studies. I will be attending Law School once I graduate on summer of 2016. Part of my family is originally from Spain and Mexico, but we hold a strong American culture as well. I had the opportunity to experience new things such as language, traditions, demeanor           and much more, but I was able to compare a lot of similarities from my culture to Italian. My native language is Spanish; therefore, Italian was easier for me to understand and even pronounce. The opportunity to visit Italy changed my life and provided me with useful skills to quickly adapt to changes, manage cultural differences and learn from those differences.

Relationships and Business

The concept of relationships in our class book, Managing Across Cultures, refers to the importance a society ascribes to building extensive connections and developing trust and how central relationships are as a prerequisite to working with someone. If you can learn how different cultures base their relationship and importance of building trust before going into business then you will have no problem exploring your entrepreneur skills in a foreign country. Correctly learning how to establish these connections and relationships with foreign workmates or business partners may take some time to fully learn and build but, if followed thoroughly and correctly you will be able to dwelve into business in any part of the world and will have a great upper-hand on the competition.

In the 21st century, where technology such as Facebook and Twitter can connect you with anyone in the world, and business’ such as Nike and McDonalds have established stores across the globe, it is more important than ever to be able to adapt to different cultures and understand the dynamics of relationship building in these different countries, if you what to successfully do business world-wide. Just like learning how drive for the first time, learning how the dynamics of relationships in different countries work can be nerve racking and complicated. You will first need to learn that every culture ranks differently on the importance of relationships in there society. In our book, a bar is provided that sets apart “transactional” countries from “interpersonal” countries. The USA and countries such as Canada and Denmark stand on the far left of the “transactional” spectrum, in the middle you find countries such as Italy, Argentina, and Spain, and then on the far right on the “interpersonal” side of spectrum you find countries such a South Korea, Saudi Arabia, and Iran. Once you understand why these countries are placed in certain places of the bar, then you can understand the dynamics of how relationships building occurs and the importance it plays in business.

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To further elaborate, in transactional countries such as the USA and Canada, you do not need to have long-term relationships to go into business with someone. Instead business can be conducted with anyone and you build a relationship on the surface very quickly but, this relationship may last only for a short period of time. In the workplace social interaction may not even exist and business can be conducted over the phone or online, and the only meeting occurs for very important deals. Also hiring family members is a big no in “transactional” societies. Countries from the opposite side of the spectrum view these quickly developed associations as superficial and “transactional” countries openness as obnoxious.

On the other hand relationship-oriented countries such as Italy and Japan, business is conducted on more of a personal level. For the most part you must know the person you are going into business with for a long time, maybe even years, or you must be a family member. In these “interpersonal” cultures, relationships take on a more personal meeting and you do not need to be open with as many people as you would in the states. Even in public, Italians and other Southern Europeans do not smile as much in public or make much eye contact. Instead they save their smiles and greetings for those they have known for long time. In the workplace, contact with people is the norm and face to face interaction is key to building relationships and trust.

11297825_10202869210650907_402160491_n(Advertisement showing importance of family ties in Italian business)
Before traveling to Italy and reading our course book, I did not understand these different dynamics of relationships in foreign countries and was use the quick associations and temporary business relationships of the United States. After learning and observing the dynamics of close relationships in the business setting of certain European countries, I quickly grew an appreciation for the closeness of business ties and now have a better understanding if I would like to pursue business in a foreign place that I must learn the dynamics of their social/business relationships and also find an appreciation and similarities so I can truly succeed.

(My view of Sorrento’s beautiful coast)
Examples of Successful Relationship Adaptation
From living in the United States my whole life and just staying here in Sorrento for 2 1/2 weeks, I have been able to see first-hand how certain business have successfully adapted their relationship dynamics to fit the needs and dynamics of others.

One example would be from the lemon-cello shop right next door to my apartment. While shopping in the store for gifts, I quickly got to know the owner, Octavio, because of his open friendliness with all the customers. I learned he had lived in Argentina and the States for a few years, and therefore had a more open and diverse mindset then most Italians. From Octavio living abroad for years at a time, he was able to understand how in “transactional” countries, you quickly build relationships with people on the surface without getting to know much about them, so with this knowledge, he now openly greets all his customers with smiles and asks them all how they are doing, which is different from his own culture where from my observations, you do not show much more interest other than getting the customer and definitely don’t ask them how they are doing, because this question in “interpersonal” countries refers to you actually wanting to know what’s going on in that person’s life.

(Octavio busy at work in his lemon-cello shop)

A second example would be from the United States. The now famous McDonalds, had humble origins in the state of California. Originally started by brothers, Richard and Maurice McDonald, who wanted to serve good quality fast food burgers, now have their business across the globe from Colorado, Italy, to Japan. This small business was able to expand its roots by adapting and serving the needs of customers in each different culture. For example, in France, where 5-star quality food is life, McDonalds created 5-star looking burgers and other fancy eats but still provided them at an affordable price. To match the quality, take your time, customer service in France, unlike the fast pace serving mentality in the U.S., McDonalds incorporated fancy eating/lounge areas to match the idea of comfortable quality eating areas to please the French customers. McDonald’s strategy of adapting their menus to serve the food and eating characteristics of each culture worked perfectly, and now McDonald’s golden arches can be found in the farthest corners of the earth.
My Interview


During my stay in Sorrento, I had the chance to explore the concept of relationships, family ties, and it’s correlation with business, by interviewing a gentlemen by the the name of Ascola Stinga, who is a 3rd generation In-laid wood worker, and owns his own business with his brother.

I picked Mr. Stinga to interview because, we had gotten a tour of his business and also because he was the father of Olga, Sant’ Anna Institute’s coordinator, so as you can tell, I already had a connection with him that would help establish my interview. I loved his work so much that I knew I would buy a few pieces to bring back home. By me purchasing a few pieces of work from him and reminding him that I attended Sant’ Anna Institute, it would further help establish my relationship with him and give me a greater chance to interview him. You see I understood from reading the chapter that Italy was a country that prided itself in relationships and ties before going into business, so I found a way to establish a good relationship from the beginning with Mr. Stinga before asking him for an interview. When I finally asked him for an interview, he happily agreed, and we set an appointment for the next morning.
My chapter being based on relationships, I shaped my questions based around the importance of connections and ties. I asked question such as who was his business partner, how he learned his trait, how long he had lived in Sorrento, and if he would ever do business anywhere else. All his responses matched the Italian concept of strong ties in business. He responded that his business partner was his brother, they had both learned the trait from their father, he was born in Sorrento and had lived there his whole life, he never thought of doing any other work, and he never thought of living somewhere else and opening up a business.

IMG_2409From his responses, it validated my readings of strong ties in business in European countries. His only business partner was his brother, he was a 3rd generation worker, which meant he prided keeping the tradition alive, and he had a strong tie to the community because of his upbringing in Sorrento, so he never thought of exploring business elsewhere. A Saudi Arabian proverb that would describe this close relationships in business is “The chameleon does not leave one tree until he is sure of another.”

About the Author:


My name is Travis Jiménez and I am junior majoring in                                 Communication and Minoring in Ethnic Studies at the University of Colorado Denver. Being able to have the opportunity to participate in this maymester study abroad program in Italy, has been one of my best       experience at CU Denver and not only has expanded my cultural awareness but also my global business mindset. Part of my family originally comes from Italy, in the Campania region we stayed in, so being able to visit this area I thought would be amazing and help me better understand myself as a person. Once it Italy, the beauty and rich history of Sorrento and all the surrounding areas we visited, was more amazing and inspiring then I could have ever imagined. This trip has taught me many things such as how to adapt yourself to a new culture without losing yourself and also how to do business in southern European countries by building long-term relationships. This program is a great opportunity and I would recommend it to any student who wants to not only study abroad but, also learn how to better appreciate different cultures and understand ways of establishing business in a foreign country.

Bella Figura: The Italian Way of Life

When I was on my way to Italy on May 17, 2015 I did not know what to expect. I had so many mixed emotions: happiness, fear, excitement, and most of all anxiety! I decided on going to Sorrento, Italy because it was a direct link to my communications major so it seemed like a perfect fit. Though I do not speak a lick of Italian I figured that I could make it work since I have a background with the Spanish language which seemed to be somewhat similar. However, when I arrived I realized just how hard it really was to be around people who do not speak the same language as me. I wasn’t even sure how to say simple things such as “hello” or “goodbye”. It was a challenge. Luckily our school, Sant’Anna, provided us with Italian lessons and I picked it up rather quickly. I was scared of leaving my life back at home and being in a strange place with nine other people that I hardly knew. It was my first time leaving my parents for such a long period of time so of course I was quite nervous to go. I also knew that we had quite a busy schedule planned, like going on excursions every weekend and even some duringthe week. We went to some amazing places, places that have always been on my bucket list to see such as Pompeii, the Sistine Chapel, the Vatican, and the Amalfi Coast. After all of the built up emotions I had going into this 2 and a half week long trip, I came to find out that I met some of the most amazing people that I would remember forever and I also learned so much about a truly unique culture. Sorrento has many cultural differences compared to what we were used to back home and we all had to spend a lot of time adapting but once we picked up on things such as nonverbal cues and communication styles we had an easier time transitioning.


In our program we read the book Managing Across Cultures (Solomon, 2009) and we all had different chapters to read in order to introduce us to some of the different cultural aspects that we might see. One significant chapter that I read had to do with communication styles. Communication styles play an important role in all cultures across the world, but especially here in Italy. They can be defined as the way people use language verbally and nonverbally, how much information we need to understand a message, how direct or subtle a message is and lastly the importance of saving face. When speaking about direct vs indirect communication certain cultures prefer one over the other. A chart in the book shows which countries lie on the more direct side or the indirect side; the United States is almost completely on the direct side whereas Italy is almost completely on the indirect side. Having being used to the direct way, it took us all some time to understand the indirect dialect that the Italians use. This is where the concept of saving face comes into play, or as the Italians call it bella figura Literally, it translates to the “beautiful figure” in the Italian language. Though when translated it sounds simple, in this culture it represents a way of life and they follow it daily. Bella figura is more or less putting on a beautiful face whenever things go bad rather than being nasty about it. We experienced this concept of bella figura more than once here in Italy. However one specific example stands out more than the others. In our apartment we did not have Wi-Fi for about 3 or 4 days and it was really frustrating us. We had to talk to multiple people about it getting fixed, especially having considered the hierarchy here in Italy. However whenever someone said they would come fix it, we had to remember that people here are on Italian time, so when they say 15 minutes it really means an hour or an hour could be a day later. So when the director of our school, Sant’Anna, approached us and told us how sorry she was and if we ever needed her again at any time to just send her an e-mail, she became extremely apologetic. Suddenly after all of our frustration, we felt extremely guilty. It was a perfect example of bella figura. Even though she knew that she made a mistake by not hadn’t calling our landlord days ago when we asked her too she put on a good face and saved herself. This concept really shows how indirect the Italians can be. Another example of bella figura is when our landlord had to deal with us almost every other day and our problems at the apartment ranging from not having Wi-Fi to our water heater not working. Every time we called him he didn’t complain about coming to fix our issues because he put on the bella figura face even though I’m sure he was annoyed by 8 different girls. Though sometimes it took him hours to come help (sometimes it was days later) he still came to our rescue and put on a good face when he did come. It came to my surprise that every Italian uses this idea of bella figura, some more obvious than others.

When we were challenged with an ethnographic task to interview a typical Italian in order to understand what Italian-ness means, I was terrified, especially after I figured out first hand that it is necessary to create relationships with the Italians before they open up to you. While I saw very few instances of bella figura in my interview, I learned other things about the Italian culture. The culture here is different in the way that they value relationships a lot compared to the way we do back home. In order for them to open up to you they want to get to know you so that they can trust you. For example sometimes Italians can get are offended when Americans ask “how are you” and the answer back is always something simple such as “fine thanks”, etc because they feel like it’s not genuine. So the thought of going up to an Italian who I don’t have much of a relationship with me when I ask them personal questions was intimidating. But once I got my interview over with I was extremely satisfied and gave me another look at the lifestyle that they live.


I had the privilege of interviewing a lovely young Italian woman by the name of Serena Vacca. Serena is 25 years old and is really the voice for young Italian adults. She received her degree in foreign language and can speak Italian, English, Spanish, French and German. Serena had been able to travel to the United States before through a study abroad program as well and that is where she got her passion to work at Sant’Anna institute that we have attended during our stay. Sant’Anna is a school for study abroad students all around the world ranging from 17-45 years old. Traditionally Italians stay at their place of work for a very long time (like her father who has worked at the Hilton in Sorrento for over 30 years now) however, a very serious relationship that she is in is moving her to Florence, Italy where she plans to keep working with international students. Serena has a voice for young people and when asked about the biggest challenges that young people face she said that it’s unemployment. Having been to America before, she stated that she liked that the US provided young people with many job opportunities, especially ones that they actually like. Serena loves how happy and accepting of other cultures the Italians are and of course she loves the great cuisine! Serena’s most important values include having respect for others, honesty, and being generous all three of these characteristics were taught to her by her parents. After having sat down with Serena Vacca I realized that it wasn’t so intimidating to speak with an Italian but more of something to be proud of and another way to open my mind. It told me that young adults in the Italian culture face similar problems that I face back at home. It’s strange because even though we face so many differences and live half way across the world, we still connect in many ways.


Being here in Sorrento has taught me that sometimes it’s good to get out of my comfort zone and I need to have an open mind when looking at other cultures. I have realized that as an American I tend to “judge books by their covers” but the only person that that hurts is me. It’s better to look at things as different rather than weird. All in all there are a lot of differences but also a lot of similarities as I saw when speaking with Serena. This has been a life changing experience and I will always remember the great things it has taught me.
About the author:

alyssaHello! My name is Alyssa Romero and I have just finished off my sophomore year at the University of Colorado, Denver. I plan to get my degree in Communications and a minor in Spanish within the next couple of years. Ever since I was just a little girl I had a passion to travel the world and visit new places. Though I had not been to Italy before, I am finally able to check it off of my bucket list. Sorrento was the perfect place to do that and experience the trip of a lifetime. Not only have I learned a lot about my culture along with the Italian culture but also myself. This study abroad program has forever changed my life and I’m glad I chose Sorrento to spend this once in a life time experience at!

Time Orientation/ Change Tolerance

Communication across cultures is a very important subject when considering business but it is just as important when traveling. The topic of our book with which we are working is, Managing Across Cultures, (Charlene M. Solomon, Michael S. Schell, 2009) I was assigned to present in class about time orientation and change tolerance. Time is a crazy thing when you consider it, try answering the question “what is time?” a very simple question at a glance. When it comes down to it there is no such thing as time; it is not physically perceivable, it is a way to measure our lives and place anything with significance on a line. When considering this we can approach time as linear or as circular. Linear time is a time interpretation that is in a straight line that is of infinite length, whereas circular time is something that is repetitive and runs in a cyclic manner. Further more we can approach the concept of time as monochronic or polychronic, two terms popularized by Edward Hall. Monochronic time is defined as high-time meaning the belief that time can be controlled; whereas polychronic time is in turn defined as low-time meaning that time is uncontrollable. Another significant idea of time is how much importance society places on patiently building relationships compared to focusing entirely on schedules and concrete immediate achievements. Finally another significant idea to time is to understand the appropriateness of assigning set times for social functions or business meetings to start and finish in relation to the cultures involved.

Next to the importance of understanding time in the inter-cultural setting, another important concept that needs our attention is the concept of change tolerance. The idea of change tolerance can be summarized as a definition such as the willingness to want to change versus resisting change. The definition in the literature is the perception of how much control we believe we have over our lives and our comfort levels with change, innovation, and risk taking. This definition leads us into some of the more important aspects such as the openness to change, willingness to take risks, people’s beliefs to what extent they control their own destinies or if instead their environment controls them, and how rewards relate to failure.

When considering the openness to change it is a valuable exercise to take an introspective approach and ask oneself, what do I need to want to change, what satisfies the decision to want to make a change? This also relates to risks; if your goals are not met, how willing are you to try and take a risk for the reward you may or may not get? When considering risks in this way one also has to know how one views failure, does one view it as a learning experience or as a defeat? Finally we should look at the concept of destiny and how certain cultures believe that they personally control their success, compared to cultures that believe that what surrounds them is what controls their destinies, over which they have little control.


There are so many examples from our study abroad experience that clearly show the differences in how time relates to the culture of Italy juxtaposed to how it compares to the culture of the United States. First of all, I believe that when anyone goes on vacation time is a different thing for him or her compared to in their home country. Therefore upon the arrival in Sorrento, time was not so much the same as it is now; it is hard to notice at the beginning but it will eventually work its way into your everyday life. For example at the beginning of your trip you may be on time to social events such as meals, by the end of your vacation Italian time will have worn on you and being on time may start to slip away. Italian time can be defined as the way that time is perceived here in Italy, how it can be normal to be late and respectful to stay extra time to keep a good relationship. Another example that is very clear is when we went to Pompeii on the train, on the way to Pompeii the train was perfectly on time, it was not so much the same on the way back. On the way back we had arrived at the train station in Pompeii a few minutes early, this would have been great if our train was on time. The train ended up being about 20 minutes late, this shows how even things that are supposed to be very oriented to the clock are not here in Italy. These are all examples of how time is different here in Italy and what is known as Italian time plays a role in the culture and varies from the cultural norm of time back in the United States.

Moving on to change tolerance, it is interesting to see how people here in Sorrento appear to have little desire to move location, or change career. A man here in Sorrento with the last name Stinga whom got interviewed by a colleague of mine owns his own wood shop and his family has owned this shop for many generations now. He is a great example of change tolerance here in Italy because he has never known any different life from the wood shop day in and day out ever since he was a child, it was all about the wood shop. That shop was passed down to him from his father who also did it for his whole life. This just goes to show how people in this culture don’t care to take that risk that step to change their lives and change their future. This compares to the US when you look back at the times in the US when lives were about farming, and the farmers passed the farm down to their sons from generation to generation. Another example of change tolerance here in Italy is how taking that risk can yield either a positive or a negative consequence. When you consider a waiter here in Italy, they probably grew up here and have been waiting tables for a long time. Knowing this, if all of the people you grew up with are working around you and doing the same thing is the risk worth it to step outside of your comfort zone and do something new? I feel as if most of the people here are comfortable and feel that their environment yields what their success in life will be. Comparing this to the US it is possible to have people making a career out of waiting tables but at the same time it is not nearly as many, therefore we consider the US as a country of self destiny and Italy a country of environmental destinies. These are some of the examples that I have regarding change tolerance here in Sorrento and how it compares to the US.

kellen interview
On 5/28/15 I had my interview with Dr. Spano, she is a local doctor here in Sorrento that grew up in here, she is one of the only doctors who knows English here in Sorrento. The interview was very pleasant and relaxed, and she was able to talk about her life and how she got to where she is now as if she talks about it every day. This was a huge benefit to me because it made me comfortable to ask questions as well it gave me extra information that I can use. She is a middle-aged lady that graduated from medical school at Fedrico II in Naples in 1994 she has been practicing ever since. Dr. Spano is not married and does not have any children. She also does what she considers three jobs here in Sorrento including door-to-door visits, dialysis center, clinical and some translation work. Some other valuable information is that she has only left Sorrento a total of 6 years and 1 month; she spent 6 years in Naples for school and 1 month in the US where she learned all of her English.

A big difference between the United States and here was that she acts as a traveling doctor; meaning that she goes to the homes of people in need and helps with whatever she can. This is so much different from the United States because in the US the sick must come to the clinic rather than the one who helps going to them. I have never seen this type of care in the United States unless the patient is unable to move; even in this case I believe the Emergency Medical Services brings them into the clinic. The other major cultural difference that I noticed is the wealth and how it is shown. Dr. Spano was dressed as normal as any other Italian and the vehicle she used was something that you would never find in the US. She rode a Vespa just like anyone else here in Sorrento; I compare this to the US because back there doctors make a lot of money. This gives the assumption that they drive nice vehicles, which for the most part would be a correct assertion. This is a major culture shock because here it is not about the money but rather; people do what they do because they love it. If I could take anything away from this interview it would be that Dr. Spano absolutely loves her job and loves to help people in need.

To wrap up my experience here in Sorrento Italy I have found that time and change tolerance play a big role in the culture. Before this trip I did not realize that these types of things existed in our society and in others, it has made me open my eyes and not to just judge a book by its cover. To really understand a culture it takes time spent in that culture and experiences that you can connect to that culture to make sense of everything.

About the Author:

kellenMy name is Kellen Lutz; I am approaching my junior year at the University of  Colorado Denver as a bioengineering and pre-med student. I am pursuing my degree in bioengineering due to the fact that I have always liked engineering, although I am also leaving the door open by taking pre-med courses to be able to become a physician. My life long enjoyment of science, building things, and                 helping others has made my decision fairly easy. As part of my path to getting a bachelors degree in bioengineering I was told as a core requirement I would have to complete an international perspectives course, so why not do it abroad. There were many challenges when being thrown into a different culture although I have found a way to overcome them and take valuable experience from it. My                         experience here in Italy was one that I will never forget, I see my experiences here leading into my future and maybe someday I will be able to go back to learn more.       I as well for see this trip helping me stand out on a resume for jobs or a resume for                                                               medical school.

The Balance between Work and Life in Italian Culture

Sorrento turned out the way I expected it to look like because it was as beautiful as the image I searched on Google before coming here. Sorrento is a small town in the Metropolitan area of the city of Naples, in Italy. It is located on the white steep cliffs with the fantastic view of the Bay of Naples that offers many good viewpoints to look at, such as the city of Naples, Mt. Vesuvius, and the Island of Capri.


Going through the two and half weeks of the program gave me a chance to explore and experience the rich Italian culture. So what is actually meant by the term “Culture”? Culture is the learned patterns of perceptions, values, and beliefs shared by a particular group of people. It defines everything from language, religion, cuisine, social habits, music, art, and clothing. Therefore, culture has an important role to play in the society. Such as, to maintain a balance between life and work differs from culture because of the values each culture hold determines the importance of work versus personal time. Some of these values are shaped by organizational and government policies concerning vacation time, flexible work arrangements, child care provisions, and other family benefits.

According to our textbook, Managing Across Cultures: The Seven Keys to Doing Business with a Global Mindset, in the chapter about Motivation/Work-Life Balance, authors Charlene M. Solomon and Michael S. Schell examined a case study called Espresso Culture at Work. This is a story about Joshua Sturtevant, who was a student of New York University. He went to a University in Genoa, Italy to complete his master’s program in music along with other Italian students at that school. The program divided the student into three groups based on their interests. Joshua was placed into the tech team that consisted of Italians except for him. In the tech team, communivivian-cappucinocation was not really a problem because even though not everyone spoke the same language, everyone on the team understood the language of “technology”. However, when it comes to meeting deadlines his team members had a different perspective than Joshua, he believes being focused on work and trying to exceed the director’s expectation is the main goal for the team to work effectively. Though, not all of his team members agree with him because they believe work is just one part of their life and should be balanced with one’s social life. So they always took long lunches and coffee breaks out of their group meetings. Joshua had a hard time understanding his Italian team members, since he is from the United States where time is considered to be equally valued as money. He would always be the one who is on time to meetings, turn his homework in on time, exceed beyond expectations, had short lunch breaks, and being focused with getting work done immediately. Towards the end of the semester, they were required to prepare a culmination performance at a specific venue. The tech team made an agreement to meet two hours before the dress rehearsal to set up all the equipment and made sure everything to run smooth for the performance. However, none of his team member showed up except Joshua, he was getting worried his team member and went out to look for them. He ran through the town searching for his team members and while he was catching his breath halfway up the hill and saw his team mates having their “espresso break” in the sidewalk café. He approach them and hopefully they would understand to speed up, but his team mates still took their time socializing with each other and did not understand why Joshua was so stressed out. This is where Joshua realized work-life balance is difference from his teammates, his primary motivators are commitment and accomplishment, whereas with Italians they have high standards of themselves but the main purpose is to enjoy every day of life as well an everyday life. In the end, Joshua’s team had a successful performance that day, and all went as planned.

This case study demonstrates the importance of life in the Italian culture of balancing everyday pleasures with work. In the Italian society, time orientation is valued from the past and presents with emphasis on traditions passed down from older generations and the importance of current experience. From exploring the Italian culture, I learned the Italians love to close their store for personal leisure. For example, one day after lunch I want to go shop for souvenirs for my family and friends, but majority of the stores were closed because I had found out from one my classmates it was their siesta time. During siesta, it is a time for sleep and relaxation that is a tradition passed down for centuries now in Southern Europe and still being followed in the present days. Another example, it was a Sunday before we headed to Naples, one of my classmate didn’t feel too good, so she want to stop by the pharmacy to grab some medicine, but it was closed because Sunday is considered to be a holy day for the predominantly Catholic society in Itlay, where families goes to church. Since religion plays a huge role in the Italian culture it is important for them to attend church every Sunday.

lemon cello guy

One of my greatest experiences from Sorrento is being able to “interview” local shop owners like Mr. Limoncello Guy. He is a very sweet and nice guy that loves to interact with his customers, especially if you are a girl. So the main marketing technique he uses in his shop that makes it stand out from others is interaction with his “bella” customers. The moment you step into his shop he will offer samples for you to try and start singing to you as well because singing is something he enjoying doing and bring joy to his daily life. Also, with female customers he likes to joke around by calling them “Ciao bella!” to make him appear move lovable. Mr. Limoncello guy would always have a big smile on to welcome his customers from all around the world. The name of his store is called, Confetii & Grumetii and has been in Sorrento for over 45 year now. It is a family owned business because it was passed down from his mother and he has been working there for 25 years with his wife. So he learned to make limoncello from his mother when he was a little boy, therefore the recipe of the limoncello has been the same for century and is very authentic. Over the course of the interviews it became apparent to me that he is strongly a family orientated man who values his family more than anything else, just like what we were learned in class about the Italian culture. Every night he closes his store at 9PM to go home to have dinner with his wife and this is considered to be closing earlier compared to the stores in Sorrento because spending time with his family is way more important to him. His primary motivation for his life is to live each day happily with his wife.

About the Author:

Ciao bvivianella gente! My name is Vivian Zhong and I am a third year student at the University of Colorado Denver. I am working towards my BS in Psychology with a     double minor in sociology and communication. In the future, I plan on going to physician assistant school to become a PA who works in dermatology or neurology.   When I am outside of school, I spend most of time working at my family’s restaurant and studying. So I don’t have much free time, but whenever I do I enjoy   listening to music, shopping, playing tennis, going to the beach, cooking, and taking pictures. Also, I love meeting new people and I’m always down to grab a cup of coffee anytime! My dream is to be able to travel around the world. So when I           heard about this Maymester program to Italy, I know this would be a great opportunity for me to explore Italy along with my peers and sister. Coming from a Chinese background that was raised in America made me particularly aware of the intercultural differences between these two specific cultures, and now having the chance to study abroad in Sorrento gave me an experience to adapt to yet a new culture. Staying in Sorrento for these two and half weeks has opened my heart and eyes in to a whole new world. I am honored to be part of the 2015 member of this program and I enjoyed spending time with my Sorrento family through this journey.

Global Mindset in Sorrento

It’s common knowledge that when entering a different culture, it is crucial to do your research beforehand. I came to Sorrento, Italy with little knowledge of Italian lifestyle other than the stereotypical representation of Italian-ness I have seen in movies and TV shows. Naturally, I envisioned that Italy being full of violent criminals because of the epic mafia trilogy The Godfather but also imagined it as the most romantic country in the world because of romantic comedies like When In Rome. I anticipated seeing rugged men, fiery women, and the head of the house Mammas. While many things I had envisioned were just Hollywood illusions, I can tell you what I have actually experienced these last 2 ½ weeks in this beautiful place.

While in Italy, I have had the opportunity to expand my knowledge beyond my level of comfort in the communications field and into the area of business. Perhaps one of the most important lessons I have learned is in terms of global mindset. When talking about a global mindset in our book Managing Across Cultures: The Seven Keys to Doing Business with a Global Mindset, authors Soloman and Schell refer to it as, “The ability to integrate everything you have learned about culture into your attitude and behaviors, ability to read the visible cues of behavior, ability to be effective in interpersonal relations, and ability to adjust your interpersonal strategies and plans.” It is often hard for people to remember that the values they have in their culture are not the universal values of every culture. I was no exception to this naïve way of thinking.

America and Italy differ in many cultural aspects that we have had to adapt to when immersing ourselves into this culture. For example, the importance of time. America runs on a very monochromic schedule, meaning we value being on time and believe in meeting deadlines. In Italy, they run on a very polychromic schedule which involves a very loose interpretation of time. A good example of this would be demonstrated in our first night spent in Sorrento. We had a dinner reservation at 7 pm but did not end up getting to the restaurant until a little after 9 pm. Not only was our table (for 12 people) still ready for us but also the waiters did not start any type of a fuss over it. In America, if you are more than 15 minutes late for your reservation, your table will be given up and you will not be promised any type of priority seating if you show up later.

Not only does America differ from Italy in regards to time, they also differ in the area of relationships. Americans can generally meet a person, talk for a few minutes, and automatically refer to that person as a friend. We smile at strangers on the street and will always throw out a quick “How are you?” in passing. In Italy, this type of behavior is completely unheard of. Italians value relationships more than, perhaps, anything else. They believe that building a relationship with someone will take time which can mean weeks, months, or even years. They consider smiling at strangers very fake and often times will not smile back at that silly American who flashes them a quick courtesy smile. Also, they save any type of “How are you?” type greeting for people that already have relationships with and who they are genuinely interested in talking to.

The last example I have showing the differences between American cultural values and Italian cultural values is the idea of “saving face.” Americans are known to be generally direct meaning they will freely express their opinions and are not afraid to say no. Italians, however, live by a phrase called Bella Figura. This motto can basically be summed up as making all situations sound positive and never directly saying no. For example, our Wi-Fi has had many problems during our stay in Sorrento and that has caused us to constantly harass our landlord, Carlo. Carlo has come out multiple times to assist us but has been able to keep a very good front on at all times. He never has let it show if he is annoyed with our constant badgering at him. When he would not be able to fix the Wi-Fi himself he wouldn’t tell us that directly. Often times he would leave us with a promise to return and fix it even though he knew that he would not be returning. We never were presented with bad news.

When immersing yourself into another culture it is important to be open minded and understanding of the differences they have from your culture. One must recognize their own cultural values and biases and then adapt to the values of the new culture you are in. Also, it is important to remember that being different is not always a bad thing. Although it may seem rude that no one will smile at you on the street, it is important to ask yourself why they don’t smile back at you. It is not because Italians are mean people, it’s because they have a different set of values than you are used to.

I was able to further understand this idea of global mindset when I was assigned the task of interviewing an Italian. As I mentioned earlier, building a relationship is crucial in Italy. I was lucky enough to interview a man named Antonino (Toni) who worked right next door to our apartment. I was able to build my relationship with him over a span of two weeks by simply saying hello to him and his dog when I would see them throughout the day. When the time came to ask if I could interview him, he agreed to it without any hesitation and even agreed to try to do it in English since I cannot speak much Italian. He showed up to the interview late and apologized by cracking a few jokes about running on “Italian time.” During my interview with him, I was able to get him to open up to me more and more. He told me about his love for his family, his passion for woodwork (thanks to fond memories from his childhood), and his personal values which included fresh air, good food, and justice. At the end of my interview, he took a photo of me on his camera to show his wife and also gave me a beautiful wooden box as a gift. Channeling my new inner Italian, I visited his shop the next day to show all of my peers his artwork as well because I now value our relationship too.

With all that being said. It may be important to learn and adjust to other cultures, it is equally as important to stay true to yourself and to your values. You can’t lose yourself. I still smile at people on the street because I value that interaction but I now have a new outlook on how I want my relationships to be. As I said before, the key to understanding global mindset is developing the ability to integrate everything you have learned about a culture into your attitudes and behaviors.

About the Author:

keilaniMy name is Keilani Porter and I am a sophomore at the University of Colorado, Denver. I am studying communications in hopes to be a sports broadcaster someday. My first semester of freshman year, I attended the University of  Colorado, Colorado Springs, where I lived on campus in the dorms with my best friend. Living away from home was exciting at first but quickly lost its magic. I           eventually began coming home every weekend and spending more time at home with my family than I spent in my expensive dorm room at UCCS. Before the end of   my first semester, I made the decision to transfer to UCD where I would be able to live at home and commute to school instead. Now, it may seem strange that the girl   who could not leave her family for more than a few days decided to sign up to study   abroad, and trust me it was a hard decision, but it ended up being one of the best choices I have ever made. After having strayed from my comfort zone and immersed myself in this new culture, I have a better feeling of life on my own and even just a better understanding of myself. I have learned so much about myself as an American and as an individual. I allowed myself to move in for almost three weeks with seven strangers and have created lifelong friends and memories. The regret I felt from not being able to live away from home in college has greatly diminished thanks to my wonderful experience with my new Italian family. Although a scary decision to make in the beginning, I could not be more grateful to have decided to take this leap and find myself in Italy. Ciao!

Cross-Cultural Training for a Global Mindset

 For our stay in Italy to study about managing across cultures, we were in the beautiful city of Sorrento. There were a lot of tourists in Sorrento with us, which shows us that people visit here because they want to see the authentic Italian culture. With so many people here visiting from other countries, the shops sometimes adapt to cater to their culture. I have noticed this difference living in Sorrento from those who change for their customers, or treat everyone like they are Italian. The customer service is very different in America than in Italy. In the US we are used to the saying “the customer is always right,” but in Italy they are not working for a tip and so they do not care as much. Most of the time when I walk into a store here, they just stare at me like they are waiting for me to leave. Back home I am so used to people being cheerful and smiling to customers that it took a while for me to get used to people just standing there and staring at you without saying anything. Relationships are highly valued in Italy and so when you meet people for the first time they can come off as cold, but once you get to know them then you get better service and they are really nice. People do not become friends instantly like in the US where you can meet someone one and are instantly friends. It takes a long time to build relationships because they hold a lot of value in the culture, but as a result these relationships also last a long time.

During our 2½-week stay in Italy we learned about cultural differences between Italy and the United States. By applying concepts and theories from the book, Managing Across Cultures: The Seven Keys to Doing Business with a Global Mindset, we analyzed possible reasons for these differences (Schell 2009). Starting with hiring and selection in a global environment, it discusses how to choose the right person for a position. The guidelines for selection are listed as 1) being aware that people are stressed in interviews and 2) that you should try to provide the best environment that will allow them to do their best. One can create such an environment by being aware of such things like hierarchical levels, what questions are appropriate, if you should be formal or informal, if there should be eye contact, and how they believe the candidate should behave. The chapter, “Effective leadership: managing across cultures- hiring, training, and retaining” goes on to list the three steps for hiring managers. These include identifying factors that would allow someone to succeed in the position, preparing interviews and validating assumptions beforehand.

mt. v-kaleigh

Another significant part of the chapter is about training for excellence and cross-cultural training, which is about training people to understand and recognize cultural behaviors. Everyone around the world learns differently, so training methods have to be culturally appropriate and it needs to start with the basics so that you can provide context to recognize cultural behaviors. Like with our class in Italy, you need to define values of the culture that cause the behaviors that you see. The example that the book gives about training for a global mindset is about a company, Integreon, and how their 2,000+ employees go through continuous job and communication related training so that they can be knowledgeable and effective. Most of the company’s clients are British and American, who can be outspoken and direct, which can be difficult for the Indian employees. They have to go through training to be taught how to say no to people because it is different from their culture. The British and Americans can come off as overly aggressive and they have to learn that it can just be the outcome of different interaction styles.
Lastly is about global leadership, specifically leadership values, and the characteristics that make a strong global leader. People’s leadership values are a reflection of your culture where in Italy it is created though the establishment of relationships, as Italy is a hierarchical culture. Paula Caligiuri, Ph.D lists the five characteristic of a strong global leader as one that possesses goal-oriented tenacity, can manage complexity, cultural sensitivity, has emotional resilience and can form relationships.


While I have tried to adapt to the Italian way of customer service, it is always nice when they greet us with smiles and are friendly. There is one store in particular where the owner always greets us with a smile and a “ciao bella.” If we are looking around he will come talk to us and offer us some limoncello. This was the first experience I had in Italy where the owner acted like they would in America so it was really nice to see. Putting in effort to adapt to our culture also proved to be very beneficial for him because we ended up buying a lot and even going back to buy more. As I talked to him I found out that he actually lived in America and several other countries for a while so in a way this provided him with some cross cultural training to learn about other cultures and then apply his experiences to his job. His different cultural experiences allow him to use his knowledge to better serve his customers. With us he would be more like an employee in America because that is what we are used to and expect, but with others he would be more serious. Different cultures expect different services so by changing to fit his customer’s values; it is more effective and helps his business.

However that does not mean that when you go shopping the workers are going to be rude and ignore you. Italy is more about the products selling itself whereas the US is about the employees “selling themselves.” Italy also places a lot of value on relationships, so that has to be taken into account too because we are outsiders. This importance of relationships can be clearly seen when we would go to the restaurant where we had breakfast everyday for other meals, we were treated noticeably better. We had gone there every morning, which allowed us to build a relationship with the people that worked there. When we went back they would come up to our table and joke with us, as well as help us with ordering in Italian. It takes time to build relationships in Italy and they are very important. People most typically stay in the same cities and have the same friends from when they were kids. There is always an underlying reason for why people act a certain way; one just has to look farther into their cultural beliefs to understand it.


I also experienced this presence cross-cultural training in my interview with Ranata. She works at a coffee bean and cookie store on one of the main streets near the apartment we were staying at. The first time some of the girls went to the store I did not go in, but when they came out and could not stop talking about how nice the people were I could not help but go in. In all of our experiences while we were shopping, Ranata was the only person to ask about us and not only that, but she was actually interested. I found out in my interview that she actually went to a tourism school for college. She lives right outside of Sorrento and drives to work everyday. When she is working she gets there before 9am to set up the shop and stays till closing time. Even though she is there for so long and is no doubt tired, she always has a smile on her face and asks how the customer’s day is. When asked if she ever wanted to visit the US, she immediately said no. This was surprising to me and I kind of had to take a step back from my national pride to ask why. To elaborate on this she said that she would visit the US because of dreams and opportunity, but that she does not want to. This I understood more because there are also places that I would go, but do not really want to visit. She seemed to value the experience of going to the US as an opportunity where you can dream, but does not feel the need to go there. She had a strong national pride for Europe, but especially Italy and find aspects of the US as negative. As the interview continued she told me about how she loved working with tourists and although she thinks that English is a little hard she thinks her job is fun. She has only worked there a year and she got the job through her friends, which shows how important relationships are. She wants to keep the job for a very long time, and with her cross-cultural knowledge and application I think that she will. She is a very kind person that uses her knowledge of other cultures to help her customers and that makes her successful in her work. Through my interview with Ranata and my experiences with others I have learned so much about Italian culture, or Italianness. It has opened my eyes to not only the differences here, but also what I take for granted back home.

About the Author:

Ciao everykaleighone! My name is Kaleigh Voss and I will be starting my senior year at the University of Colorado Denver in August 2015. I am majoring in Communications with   a minor in Film Studies. I decided to choose this maymester course because I have always wanted to go to Italy. This was my first time in Europe and although it ended up being different than I imagined, it was an absolutely amazing experience. Although I wish the program was longer than 2½ weeks, I loved staying in Sorrento and learning about Italianness and I look forward to my next trip where I will be able to apply my managing across cultures information.

How being an Effective Leader can relate to Customer Service

Successful business leaders tend to have a strong commitment to achieve their goals even when presented with cultural and social challenges. Cultural challenges include different levels of hierarchy which are reflected in behavior, dress, and facial gestures. Social challenges include different attitudes toward people and how are they treated. Furthermore, cultural sensitivity plays an important role in global mind set environment such as Sorrento Italy. It is important to have cultural sensitivity in places like Sorrento, Campania regions of Italy, because there are a lot of foreigners that come to this city. Holding any preconceived notions or stereotypes about different cultures is not an effective way to develop a global mind set. Although, there is a global mind set environment in Southern Italy, they still value their traditions and beliefs. For example, severs would adapt to the changes depending who they are serving to but, they still place the hierarchy level.

I have experience and observe how severs adapt to changes and still have a mindset of hierarchy level. During the two in half weeks of exploring Italy, I have experience different treatment compared to other elder people as well as observe cultural sensitivity among Italian community. For instance, one night together with my peers Melissa and Vivian all in our early 20s went in to restaurant name O Canonico del 1898 for dinner. Once we walked in this place I can see that this is a more calm and upscale environment. Most of the tables in there are small tables that are good for two people which give me a feeling that this restaurant is not suitable for big groups. In addition, I observed that we were served differently from the couple in their late 30s sat on the next table. They were served with a cover on the plate and compare to them we did not serve same way as them. Another observation was how hierarchy level is still in their culture. For instance the couple that is in their 70s came after us and got their meal before us.

tammy-mt v.
(Left to Right: Vivian, Melissa, and Tammy at Mt. Vesuvius)
I have also experienced cultural sensitivity among local Italian stores, supermarkets, and restaurants. In particular, the restaurant located at Piazza Tasso, Fauno Bar is one of the largest dining place in Sorrento an often visited by people from different cultures. It is visible to see how severs are required to have a global mind se when dealing people from different backgrounds. For Instance, many come across people from Russia, Germany, the United States, or other countries. From what I observed when we had dinner there one night, our sever treated us differently from the Italian couple that sat on the next table to us. The difference is that he knew we are from the United States and he would keep coming over to our table to check if we okay and at the end of the meal he ask if we are done with our food. On another hand, he did not go ask the table next to us those questions because in Italian culture it is consider rude to ask people questions while they have food in their mouth. It clearly shows that our sever want us to comfortable by trying to adapt to what severs would do in the United States.


Other than the experience and observations, it was my pleasure to do an interview with a person that lives in Italy. Here I invite you to meet Matilde! She works at the St. Anna Institute School in the marketing department. The main facts about her is that is 45 years old and she is from Naples which everyday it takes about 1 ½ hour to commute from Naples to Sorrento. She speaks four languages; Italian, English, Japanese, and Chinese. Other than the job at St. Anna she has a second job that she works on the weekends at the airport which her job is to take surveys from foreigners. From the interview she have told me that the most challenge about her job is that she was that she needs to adapt to changes quickly at her job because she interact with a lot of people that have different cultures and traditions. Matilde is a perfect example what an effective leadership would have because she has this global mindset that requires her to have nonjudgmental and open minded approach towards people from other cultures. What I learn from her is that people should have big goals because when a person doesn’t fulfill it, that person would not be happy. So, from Matilde’s perspective to be truly happy a person should try to have smaller goals that he or she takes step by step.


(Change given back on the plate)

During this Maymester program, a memorable cultural experience that I encountered was on the day that we arrive in Italy. We were on our way to Sorrento and stopped at this café to have a 15 minute break for restroom or a cup of coffee. At the counter I order pizza but, I wasn’t supposed to order there and the waiter told me to go to the cashier to order. I went to the cashier, I told him what I want to order and pay him. When he gave me back my changes, I realize that he didn’t put it in my hands instead he put on this plate, and I did not understand why. Vivian told me to picked up that plate to get the pizza and I listened to her and pick it up the plate. The cashier saw me picking up the plate and said “no… no… this is mine” I got so embarrassed and put back the plate. Later in class, we learn that in Italian culture people don’t put money on your hand is due to honesty and cheating element which there will not be a conflict between the employee and a customer.

About the Author:

Ciao! My namtammye is Tammy Zhong, I am a senior at University of Colorado   Denver. I am majoring in Business emphasis in Accounting and minoring in psychology. Doing this Maymester program coming to Italy   has affected me in three main ways: academically professionally, and personally. On the academic aspect, I have learned so much about global   communications, Southern Italian culture, the history of Italy, and the       basic Italian language. On the professional aspect, this course prepares me when I get into the business world by having a global mind set and know what to do when you are in a global environment. In the business     world that is important because you never know who you will work with and it could be people that are from different cultural backgrounds and traditional beliefs. On the personal aspect, I learn how to become more independent because this is the first time that I travel to another country without my parents. Therefore, I would recommend to other students to do this Maymester program because I have gained so much experience and I would like others to experience as well.

Women Crossing Cultures

In an age where women make up 40% of the traveling business force, considering the challenges women face when traveling across cultures is an important topic. Traveling to Sorrento, Italy allows students hands-on experience with traveling across cultures. A lot of societies are moving away from a male hierarchy, while many others are still tied to these roots. Women face unique challenges in the workplace that their male counter parts do not. Historically, women have always been viewed below man, and because of this many countries are struggling with gender inequalities. Western cultures are more accepting of women as being equal to man, but many Eastern cultures still struggle a lot with a male hierarchy. Women are filling up positions that used to be male dominated, and the workforce is seeing a huge increase in women obtaining higher power positions. Women workers need to be more culturally aware and capable in order to establish credibility and authority while traveling to different countries. “…it may be even more important that a women understand the culture of another country before she goes. In some places of the world, women may not be on equal footing with their male colleagues, and the need to understand how to work within that culture and context.” (Carolyn Gould P. 299). Women face taboos, prejudice, and restrictive stereotypes that their male colleagues do not, and yet 40% of all business travelers are females. Women pursing business careers, especially ones that require travel must be: dynamic, strong individuals, hard-working and able to find creative alternatives to cultural barriers they may encounter. Young women need to prove to men that they can deliver consistently. Over a sustained period of time, they have to prove competence of the job, do what they say they will do, add value to the company, and prove that they will help the company further succeed and enable growth and development. Women also face the struggle of what is and is not appropriate in the workplace; women have to be aware that for them it would be unprofessional to join in on the social aspects of the job, and hence must focus on building strong relationships in the office. They must be aware that sometimes a comment is purely a compliment and they should smile politely, but they also need to look for cues as to when flattery turns to harassment. Our journey to Italy allowed us to view machismo first hand. This country has a lot of male hierarchy still present, and men usually do not view complimenting women as offensive or crossing the line. In cultures such as Italy, it is important to be aware of the cultural norms and have a global mindset to ensure good communication. In Latin and Mediterranean countries, men may make comments that may seem unthinkable in countries such as the U.S. which has very strict sexual harassment policies, but being culturally aware before traveling can prevent women from feeling uncomfortable or offended in these situations. Women are currently also seeing a lot of advantages in the workplace. They are able and more apt to develop strong relationships. “Gaijin syndrome” occurs when the females are unfamiliar with their global colleagues, who are also more accustomed to dealing with men, and actually benefit as a result. Women can be seen as bringing something new to table that the company can benefit from. Because so many business travelers are females, hotels are trying to accommodate them by providing amenities such as: secure floors for women only, lighter meals in restaurants, and special services and security for women. This is a step in the right direction for women; hopefully soon women will be able to travel around the globe without ever having to feel like her gender puts her in danger or any uncomfortable situation more so than any man. This Maymester has allowed me to get hands on experience with a culture that challenged me as a woman, especially coming from a culture that is close to achieving gender equality. While at first it was hard not to be frustrated and upset with the culture, having a global mindset allowed me to take a step back and realize what this culture values and why.


Italy compared to some cultures is still lagging a lot on gender equality. Women fulfil traditional roles like mothers, teachers, and wives. The sad thing is that classes and colleges out here are free for the students to attend, so women actually have a great opportunity to learn, and do, however the culture keeps them in a more traditional role. Since I am from such a future based country this is tough for me to see and fathom, women have so much to offer and should never be told we cannot have our dream job. Future based countries are those like the U.S. that place so much value on where things are going and to plan for what is next; consider how soon we plan for college and how early on teachers ask students what they want to be when they grow up. This varies greatly from past-oriented cultures which value more their roots and where they came from; Italy is the best example of this because everything is all about tradition and staying true to what it means to be Italian, rather than focusing on things such as globalization; while the rest of the world is changing, Italy fights to remain the same. There are girls going to school for engineering or biochemistry and most will have to leave the country to get hired on in their field and not be put in the traditional motherly role. Even the shops out here, the males are the store owners or managers, but the wives are always there to help tend to the shop and help run business. Gender roles are so strong out here that women are not allowed to fill roles that would put them at risk or that is not a typical job for a women. This is definitely a cultural aspect, because back in the U.S. gender does not matter too much to the type of job. Servers are a job mainly for youth, filled equally by males and females and no one would find it strange or offensive to be served by a woman. My position would not be available to me here out in Italy, even if so I would receive a lot of backlash and disrespect. In the States I am a person of power, I am second in command at my restaurant and soon to be first; a woman manager in a more gendered culture, while not impossible, is still incredibly difficult and almost impossible to be taken seriously. Gender roles are obvious here in Italy – all of our tour guides have been women, all of our waiters have been males, all of the teachers are women, and all of the shop owners have been males. Our journey to Pompeii allowed insight to gender roles 2,000 years ago and how much hasn’t really changed! Women were wives, mothers, or prostitutes and nothing more way back when. Italy today is still trying to break free of these archaic gender roles for women. The only way for a women to end up with the family business is if the father did not have a son to pass his trade down to. Teresa, the owner of a local gelateria, explained to us how she came to be in charge of the family business that has been passed down since the opening in 1945. You see this a lot in the culture, the family business is a very traditional way of making a living as well as preserving the history; it is also the way the women around here do break gender roles, they hold jobs that would be traditionally male because the business was part of their blood right. Italy is still waiting for the day when women hold males jobs such as lawyers, office jobs, business owners and are seen as an equivalent to their male colleague. But in a country that is so past oriented, the traditional way of doing things is almost unquestioned except by globalization and an ever changing world. Our class interviews allowed me to gain an insight on the Italian culture and as a women, what it means to be Italian.


Italian-ness: I interviewed our Italian teacher, Nunzia. She is a 35 year old woman, who is in a relationship but not married; she and her boyfriend live together in their own apartment without mamma. She does not plan to have children, but she does love working with youth. She has been teaching for 13 years now and could not imagine having any other job. While she loves where she lives and doesn’t plan to ever live anywhere else, she would love to teach Italian classes in both the United States and in London. She truly loves the work that she does; teaching is an amazing gift she feels she can offer to students, and be able to not only teach them her culture but be able learn other cultures as well. When I asked her if she could have any other job what it would be and she said she would stay a teacher. The best part of her job is that can give the gift not only of language but also of culture! She was born in and currently lives in Naples, but prefers to work in Sorrento because she like the beautiful scenery and quite town. Young students are the hardest for her to teach because she has a hard time keeping them motivated and focused, but older students take a little longer to pick up a new language. Sant’anna Institute actually has a program called 50+ that is for older students looking to return to school. The oldest student she has ever taught was in their later seventies. However, she struggles the most with trying to teach Chinese speakers to speak Italian because the two languages are so different. However Spanish speakers, French speakers, and even English speakers are the easiest to teach because the pick up the language very quickly. She only asks that students come to class ready and willing to learn each day and try their hardest to speak the language. She really hopes that her students continue to study the language even after the class is over and that her gift was enough to inspire more interest in the Italian culture. Italy is a culture with so much rich history and authenticity to offer the world, what it taught me most was to take a step back and consider being in the other culture before making judgements or feeling out of place. Traveling is such a great way to gain experience and learn about why people from different cultures are so different, so take away as much as you can from that experience and use it to also better yourself.

About the Author:

dermalMy name is Deveney Boland and I am a communications major! I am currently a senior at UCD and I am looking to graduate by this coming fall     semester! I am hoping to do something in the field of marketing or advertising, first with a company I am familiar with, and later to my dream     company once I have some experience. This program beyond being a wonderful chance to see another part of the world, allowed me to look at business aspects and challenges I would face doing business across cultures. This program taught me how to have a global mindset and always be aware     of other cultures when interacting or doing business. This course is a wonderful opportunity for anyone looking to gain greater cultural knowledge while staying in one of the most beautiful countries!

Females Across Borders

Buongiorno and welcome to Sorrento, Italia! This captivating, amazing, and breathtaking town is located on the coast of the Campania region of Italy and it is rich in fascinating culture and history. This culture suggests its own value in and views of feminine beauty that differ from many other regions, reflected through each individual in this country. Before entering into Italy for the first time, one would most likely have a predisposed vision of what Italian women look like, dress like, talk like, etc. In the book titled Managing Across Cultures, Solomon and Schell state that, “a crucial part of the appeal of this cultural configuration lies in the fact that the beautiful Italian woman is considered to be timeless, a figure who bears some of the hallmarks of the ‘eternal feminine’” (2009, p. 1). People constantly confine the local women to having, “black flashing eyes, thick hair, full lips, curvaceous figures, and a natural grace”. Italian women pride themselves on their natural beauty; it is a core value that is ingrained in them from birth. Unlike in the United States, Italian women will not typically starve themselves to be skinny, will workout in moderation, will refrain or avoid plastic surgery, and will feel completely comfortable in her own skin.

While spending two weeks in Sorrento, a cultural clash with regards to views on beauty became extremely apparent to us American students. In the United States we take natural beauty for granted by putting our bodies through harsh diets, using numerous amounts of aging creams and spot removing lasers, and completing invasive and sometimes life threatening surgeries to change the way we look. Because the United States values youth and looking young, women will do just about anything to stay looking young and skinny for as long as they can. Italy and Italian culture is almost the exact opposite in a sense that Italians value seniority and age, especially in women. In Sorrento, I have been able to develop a sense of understanding for their cultural views towards woman and feminine beauty. For example, most women in Italy will not leave the house unless they are looking their best; they do their hair, make up and dress very well. While walking around the streets of Sorrento, us American girls would sometimes get looks of disgust because of the way we were dressed. In the United States we are used to wearing yoga pants, t-shirts and sweatshirts around town without being judged. We normally value comfort over beauty. When going to school here or in the United States, I usually wear yoga pants, a t-shirt, little make up, and have my hair in a ponytail. Here, it is frowned upon because of these ideals and values set in place for women. Even on billboards and advertisements, women are portrayed in a way that makes the viewer think that they are young, fit, beautiful, and confident while also following Italian ideals of women. One specific billboard I have seen multiple times is for the underwear company Calzedonia. This picture is what Italians would consider sexy and beautiful. She has olive skin, long, dark hair, and a fit physique.; all of this is part of her natural, Italian beauty.

swimsuit model
Another theory that was presented in Managing Across Cultures about femininity and culture was businesswomen crossing cultures in the workplace. Solomon and Schell (2009) describe women who are successful executives and managers as dynamic, strong, hard working, and creative. It is tremendously important for businesswomen who are traveling globally to establish credibility and authority in the workplace by being culturally aware and capable while on and off the job. When traveling abroad for work, women must also learn to make their background known so that they gain credibility and establish a sense of respect from others around her. Also, before traveling abroad for business, women are advised to gain knowledge about the culture they are entering into so that she can act, behave, dress, and know the general expectations of women when she gets there.

An example I was able to see of this while being in Sorrento was through Olga Stinga, the director of Sant’Anna Institute (head of the Italian Language Department). She is the one who puts together all of the excursions, housing, and classes for study abroad students. When Olga first introduced herself to us on the first day of class she mentioned that she worked at Sant’Anna for eleven years and had just received her first promotion to director. By presenting this information to the class she gained an immense amount of credibility because we took it to heart how long she had been working there before receiving any type of reinforcement. I had the pleasure of interviewing her and I found out that on her wedding day, she received the great news that a new study abroad program was coming to Sant’Anna in less than a month; so during her wedding party she was working through her phone to complete everything for the program on time. By completing this stressful amount of planning in the right amount of time, she gained an immense amount of credibility with her boss Christina (president of Sant’Anna). While Solomon and Schell describe how to adapt and adjust behavior depending on where you travel, adjusting to different people in your own culture falls into that as well. Olga was born in Sorrento and did not have to adjust to the culture here, yet she still has to adapt and adjust to other cultures that come to Sorrento from all over the world to take classes at Sant’Anna Institute. Many different students from multiple countries come to Sant’Anna every year, so Olga, along with all her co-workers have to adjust their behaviors and actions based on the specific culture they are interacting with.

When I asked Olga about interviewing her, I couldn’t believe how willing she was to sit down and talk with me despite her crazy, hectic schedule. It was slightly intimidating thinking about sitting down and interviewing the director of our school because of the amount of seniority she has at Sant’Anna. I was able to gain insight to how hectic her life is in and outside of work by asking her about Sant’Anna and her job duties. She opens the school every single day and closes it most days, which means she is working eleven hour days five days a week. In the United States, a person who works these long hours every weekday would be seen as a work-a-holic. Yet, Olga is happily married and lives a very exhilarating life outside of work. The one moment in the interview that stood out to me the most was when I asked her if she could see herself still working at Sant’Anna in ten years. Her answer was, “yes…it is my job! The president of Sant’Anna one day told me: ‘Olga you care of Sant’Anna Institute more than your house!’ it is true! I love this place and my job!” This showed me so much not only about Olga, but working Italian women as well. Women in the work field here are similar to those in the United States. We work to live yet, more importantly, live to work. When a woman enters into the workforce in the U.S. especially as a director, CEO, or manager, she has to be prepared to put her personal life and personal goals on hold. Although Olga is married, she does not have children; I personally believe that this is because of how much she works and is committed to her job.
Being in Italy for a little over two weeks has opened my eyes to many cultural differences and similarities between Italians and Americans. I have learned so much not only about myself, but also about a whole new culture in a very short amount of time. When I’m back in the United States, I know that I will be much more understanding of the many cultures this world has to offer. I’ll be intrigued instead of judgmental, caring instead of rude, and most importantly, I will be outgoing instead of closed off. This was an experience of a lifetime filled with memories that I will never forget.

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About The Author:

toreyCiao! My name is Torey O’Neill, and I am a senior at CU Denver studying Communications. When entering college I had absolutely no plans on studying abroad. The thought of leaving my family, friends, and   life behind for weeks at a time was a chilling thought to me. I had never     been away from my life for more than ten days, especially by myself. However, entering into my senior year, I had a revelation about myself, my life, and my ability to be spontaneous. Not only had I never been to Europe, but I had never done anything like this without my family by my   side; so one day I got up the courage and sent in my application for Sorrento. Not a single moment has gone by these past two weeks when I have regretted my decision or been homesick. Traveling to Italy has taught me first and foremost to be independent and free for the first time in 22 years. It has taught me how to be a mature adult. It has taught me that I may, actually be ready to face the real world that is quickly heading my way in December. Experiencing this culture with complete strangers was the experience of a lifetime and something that I will never ever forget.


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