Ferrara, Italy is known as the city of bicycles, so luckily my host mom was nice enough to lend me a bike during my time here. One roadblock to this minor act of culture assimilation is that I have not ridden a bicycle since the beginning of high school, nor have I ever ridden a bicycle made for adults. As I have come to notice in my short time here, bicycling is one of many cultural differences between Ferrara, Italy and Nutley, NJ. Let me briefly outline my experience of relearning how to ride a bike…
One problem with this treasure of mine is that it is slightly bigger than I am comfortable with, meaning that I can’t exactly have a foot firmly planted on the ground while sitting atop my bicycle’s throne. This makes starting and stopping a bit clumsy and awkward. The first day of riding my steed was, to say the least, fear inducing, considering it is commonly practiced here to ride in the streets and among crowds of people because it is assumed that everyone has the skills equivalent to those who ride in the Tour de France.
Relearning to ride a bike here is part of my experience of the culture of Ferrara. Alongside my progress with the bike, I have being slowly learning the rules of this society. There are many things that I have found to be socially forbidden here that do not exist as concretely in America. For example, people here DO NOT cross the street unless they are given the green walk signal. For anyone who knows how I cross streets, this has been a kind of difficult rule for me to follow.
However, one cultural phenomenon I took to very quickly is the nonexistence of tips for restaurant staff. That definitely justifies the amount of extra money I spend on gelato and the occasional glass of wine in my book (although maybe not in my bank account).
Either way, the process of discovering and adapting to this culture, like the process of relearning how to ride a bike, started off very rocky, but as each day passes my understanding of the Italian way of life and my cycling skills* grow a little more.
Who knows, maybe by the summer, I will be so comfortable with this bike culture, I will want an adult bike for myself at home in America.
(Haha, just kidding – I like my car too much to ever abandon it)
*I hesitate to call them skills because only a few days ago did I gain the confidence and balance to start off with my right foot instead of my left foot a couple of times.