Adapting to a New Culture

Living in a new country is full of the unexpected. Some unexpected things are big (like Italian driving). Others are small (like having to weigh, bag and sticker your own produce before going to the register). It’s just part of adapting to a new culture and it keeps you on your toes. Recently, I ran into a new unexpected.

 I was out looking for a cute pair of strappy sandals to match my new dress. I went to a store called “Scarpe & Scarpe,” which directly translated means “Shoes & Shoes.” Seemed like a good place to start.

I wasn’t disappointed. It was huge – wall-to-wall shoes in every shape and style. I browsed for a few minutes, searching for just the right pair. When I finally found the style I liked most, I started looking for my size. I knew my American size but, of course, these were European sizes. So, I pulled out my phone and converted my size accordingly. Turns out, I’m a European Women’s 43.

Unfortunately, they didn’t have the shoes I wanted in a 43. Se la vie.

So, I moved on to my second favorite. No 43 there either.

I checked a few more styles. Empty-handed again.

Then, I got curious. I started scanning every size in every style; just going row by row, scanning the boxes from top to bottom. There wasn’t one size 43 to be found.

Like, in the entire store.

Not only that, there also wasn’t a single size 42 or size 41. I did manage to find a couple size 40’s but that’s the absolute maximum size that they had – and they were few and far between.

I tried on a few, just to see. It was a whole Cinderella-Step-Sister situation.

Now, I realize there are lots of people out there for whom this experience is common. I have friends who shop at Big & Tall and others who wear children’s sizes. Clearly, our fashion “norm” just simply isn’t the norm for every body. But this was a first for me.

In America, I’m pretty middle of the road. I’m 5’7,” average weight, with somewhat large feet (when I was growing up, my mom always told me, “It takes a bigger foundation to build a castle than an outhouse,” because she was #bodypositive before the rest of the world caught on).

People in Italy tend to be smaller and they also have smaller feet. I’m not Italian. I’m grown from sturdy Danish/Swedish/Irish/Scottish/English roots, which apparently, comes with specialty-sized feet. My norm isn’t the norm here.  

Around this time, my son found me and asked “When are we leaving?” in that characteristic, I-can’t-take-any-more-shopping tone.

“Soon,” I said. (Which is what moms always say. It’s in the handbook.)

Then I said, “Hey, I’ll give you $5 if you can find a pair of size 43 shoes in this store.”

He looked at me askance. “How about $10?”

“Sure,” I replied.

Ten minutes later, he was back. “Pay up,” he said jubilantly.

“You found a pair?” I asked, shocked.

“Yeah,” he said. “And it wasn’t even that hard.” He pointed to the men’s hiking boots.

So, apparently, they do have my size in Italy. I just hope they’ll match my summer dress…

In the meantime, I’m considering selling tickets so people can marvel at my massive feet.

I mean, if you’ve got it, may as well flaunt it, right?

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