Tuesday 29th May 2012

Ciao America Book Cover

Ciao, America! An Italian Discovers the U.S. is an expat tale of an Italian journalist’s experiences of life in Washington, D.C.

In a Bill-Bryson style narrative, Beppe Severgnini describes how he left behind life in his native home of Lombardy to sample living all things American in a creaky old house in Georgetown.

The books provides interesting insights into what life in America is really like. Given the wide exposure that American culture has within the rest of the world, many people assume that they know all about the country and the people you would find living there. This book challenges many of the preconceptions and explores the reality of life in North America: “The American news we are bombarded with in Europe is like having a searchlight shine directly into your eyes,” states Beppe in the introduction. “Ordinary America is one of the world's best kept secrets.”

The book is extremely light and easy to read and will be sure to raise a few laughs. From the exploration of the inherent bureaucracy to the commentary of the popularity on labor-saving gadgets, as one reads the book one marvels at the fact that some of the observations are just as relevant today, 10 years after the book was first written. Take the way in which American’s drink their coffee for example: “Americans take theirs at volcanic temperatures in those deadly polystyrene beakers or in mugs decorated with hobgoblins, cartoon characters, superheroes, or snappy one-liners.”

In many ways the stories offer insights into two cultures: Beppe’s Italian culture and the East Coast D.C. life in which he is living. It offers an interesting glimpse into some of the difficulties that expatriates may experience as they attempt to assimilate into a new culture and is interesting for the fact that it provides a view of what an outsider thinks of the realities of life in America. Worth a read.

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