I attended a networking event tonight that brought together a LinkedIn group of Italians with English-speakers in Florence, called FlorenceIN. Along with The Florentine, they were hosting a debate called, "Mediating cultural exchange: facing issues of adaptation and integration in Florence and Tuscany." It sounded interesting and even though I didn't know anyone else who was going, I decided to take a taxi to Bagno a Ripoli to the Together Florence Inn where the event was being held.
I arrived at the new and modern hotel in the middle of a residential area with four-story apartment buildings. It seemed an unlikely place for a hotel especially since the end of one of the bus lines is right around the corner. When I walked into the lobby of the hotel, I quickly spotted a few people I knew who worked at The Florentine. We chatted before the event and then walked into the large conference room where there was a long table in front of a large screen.
To start off the event, one of the founders of FlorenceIN, Laura De Benedetto, talked about how the group was created and why. She discussed the importance of meeting in real life to strengthen relationships created over social networks like FaceBook and Linked In, which is certainly true for groups that are created where the members don't know each other already.
Marco Badiani, Executive Director of The Florentine, talked about how he sees his English-speaking paper as a piazza where people can connect. As an example, he mentioned an aperitivo that they organized where expats, locals, students, and tourists could meet each other.
Alexandra M. Korey, an Art Historian who teaches at a few universities for their study abroad program, spoke about how many students initially don't appreciate the differences, but gradually learn to question their own culture and eventually acquire a few new aspects of the Italian culture that they do appreciate. I was touched when she said that living in Italy does have a profound effect on the students, and that many are inspired even after they return home.
The next American woman (whose name I didn't catch), working in international marketing, spoke about how ad campaigns can't just be translated per country that many of them have to be modified to fit the local culture. Even though people talk about the global marketplace, each culture still maintains its differences. She discussed the different aspects of a culture, like its personality, its communication style, how people obtain information, how they commute to work (whether they walk or go in a car), and their family values.
Suzi Jenkins was the next speaker who spoke about integrating into Italy and how at first you must observe the local habits, confront them with your own, and decide what works and what doesn't. The final speaker, Nina Peci, the Creative Director of an advertising and design company in Florence, who spoke about cross-cultural networking.
I was expecting a real debate, but instead we went to the outside courtyard to enjoy an aperitivo while the sun was setting. Fortunately, the weather was wonderful and I had a chance to talk to many of the people there. I even met a few that I will be trying to interview for the expat articles I'm writing for The Florentine.
As soon as I got home, I looked at the FlorenceIN website to sign up because I'm interested in meeting more people in Florence: both Italians and English-speakers.
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