My wife and I are returning from our honeymoon in Italy. It was a wonderful trip splitting half our time in Tuscany and the other half in Rome. So much to see and do we couldn’t fit it all in one trip. As we were heading to the Rome airport for our departure home at 6:30AM we stopped at a stoplight. Across the street from us were 3 girls that appeared to be still out from the night before. They definitely didn’t look Italian since most of the Italian women in Rome were darker complected and more slender. They had dresses on that were several inches above the knees and it was quite obvious they were still drunk. One was having trouble walking and was throwing her sandal on the street. They looked like a mess, a disaster. It was quite humorous as the cab driver was laughing and so were we. He looks over at us and in his Italian accent asks: “They are American, huh?” “Oh yes” I said. They definitely are. Who are we? Us Americans that are so obviously noticeable to the European world. What do they think about us? Does it even matter? After a 9 day trip in Italy, everything came full circle.
Upon arriving to Florence, the first day of our trip, we had the unfortunate news that our luggage was lost. We were staying in a Tuscan town called Montalcino that was 2 hours away from the Florence airport. The airlines ensured us that our luggage would be delivered to us in 2 days time. This meant it was time to go shopping and get the necessities. As most of my friends know, I wear long sleeve button down shirts most of the time. I have a slight addiction when it comes to buying them. Once we arrived in Montalcino I knew I had to get underwear, socks, toiletries, and a couple button down shirts to wear for the next couple evenings out. I was excited at the opportunity to wear some of these Italian clothes. The first store that caught my eye had several shirts and sport coats displayed in the window. This looked promising. I immediately started searching through colors and sizes that would fit me best. The Italian gentleman working the store comes over to us and says “Oh no. No fit” he points to his stomach insinuating that I am too big for their clothing. As it appears with the lack of anything over an American size large, I probably was. The rest of the stores in Montalcino had similar sizing and I eventually called it quits for the day.
I am a Syrian/Lebanese male born and raised in Wichita, Kansas. I am 5’9″ and weight around 220lbs (probably a little more after some extra honeymoon weight gain). My shirt size in the US is XL. I rarely eat fast food and I do not drink sodas. I own 2 restaurants and consider myself as someone that eats and drinks well. There is nothing I won’t try, be it food or alcohol. I know I am overweight and have been up and down in weight for a very long time. I wouldn’t consider myself an excessively obese person but I know I could loose some pounds.
After our difficult time of finding clothes for me to wear I decided we needed to get out of the city and head to a mall. We were told to go to an outlet mall that was about 45min away. I walked into the first store that looked my style. Within 3 min the female working the store told me they had nothing in my size. Rude! What if I wasn’t even shopping for myself? We left abruptly and toured the rest of the outlet mall. None of the Italian or French stores had my shirt size. Unfortunately, I ended up settling on 2 button down shirts from the Gap. Go figure, an American store. Luckily our luggage came and 2 days after that we were in Rome. Once we checked in to our hotel we decided to do a few tourist things. This was not our intention for the trip but there were some things we wanted to see. First stop was the Colosseum. After walking around the historic structure and snapping a few pictures, it was time to eat lunch. From our past experience in Paris a year and a half earlier we did not have good luck at any of the restaurants that catered to tourists. The food was overpriced and awfully prepared. This being Rome, we went in with a clean slate.The first restaurant we saw by the Colosseum looked very trendy and had that American touristy feel with a full on English language version menu. We were hungry and it’s Italy so it can’t be that bad right? My wife ordered a chicken burger and I ordered a prosciutto panini. We also ordered drinks which sat at the bar for quite some time until they were delivered to our table. The chicken burger came out and it looked like a 3-inch flattened disc that was frozen and thrown on the flat top. It tasted like it too. We quickly finished our drinks and asked for the tab. Everyone was oblivious to the fact that I ordered a panini until we told them we didn’t want it because it never came. That was it. The rest of the trip we ate at local non-tourist places and had some of the best meals we’ve ever had together. These experiences beg to ask the questions: Who are we? How can places like that get away with serving us food like that? Not to mention the terrible service. Maybe we don’t care. Maybe we are used to food like that. What does the world think about us as a culture?
Our last night in Rome we had one of the best meals we had all trip. Another small local spot that was full with mostly Italian customers. The meal was over and we were waiting on some espresso. The servers quickly set up a table for 6 next to us. In walked a very large gentleman with two large women and two boys that were sadly overweight for their young age. The father and the two boys were boisterous. “I want pizza” one of the boys yelled. (Pizza was not on the menu at this restaurant.) The server came over quickly and proceeded with the nights specials. It was 10PM and some of the dinner items were no longer available. The father of the boys made it very obvious to the restaurant that he was unhappy because they were out of some items. He said “You have no idea how disappointed I am” in a loud voice. For several reasons that table was out of place in the restaurant. They were Americans and I’m sure all the Italians were saying the same thing. I’ve read “Fast Food Nation” and seen various documentaries about our diet/weight problems. You see and hear reports and studies all the time. Going to France and Italy helped me verify these reports in someway. From what I’ve noticed, the French and Italians don’t even exercise that much but they somehow seem to stay thin. Moderation when it comes to eating and drinking must play a large part. I am no doctor or nutritionist but this life of excess some of us live in in the US is what makes us who we are and how we are viewed across the globe. The obnoxiously loud, overweight, drunken, sloppy dressed and unhealthy “Americans” are why our culture is viewed a certain way. Can we break the stereotype? Or do we even care?