City Feels

One thing that I have observed since being in Italy is that I have not really felt any culture shock, which I was warned about getting. I thought that I would get to these new cities and feel overwhelmed or out of place, but I have not reacted that way. The biggest cities I have been to have been Rome, Barcelona, etc. In all honesty, the touristy attractions are the only things that make me realize where I actually am. The city itself tho feels familiar to me. I almost feel as if I am back home and spending a weekend in Philadelphia, New York, Boston, etc. This is because of a few different things I have learned about in placemaking. First, I observe the people when I get to these new cities. Where I am from I am used to meeting and watching people from all over the world visit the melting pot and the city of brotherly love. I already am exposed to cultural differences and have been forced to develop cross cultural literacy from a younger age. Not understanding things because of language barriers is not something that intimidates me in the slightest bit. As a result, I go about navigating these large areas and destinations similarly to how I would back in the United States. The next thing I think about is food. When we go people watching you can see people eating different types of food and eating them in different locations from parks, centers, benches, etc. This is no different then being in Barcelona or Rome. People from different parts of the world still enjoy eating ice cream or gelato outside on a nice bench under the sun with their friends, just like me. People also still like eating the quesadillas or their pizza slices on their way to the station, mall, store etc, just like me when I am in NYC or Philly. The third thing I notice is the locations of big stores and designer shops. In NYC, there are certainly fashion stores both higher end and lower quality. Seeing the variety of stores open and available for the large demographic of people with different consumer spending habits is something I am used too. So I was shocked to see how very similar these European cities are to the U.S. After learning about people watching, sidewalks which I talked about in  my last blog, and building height representing power or importance of locations, I thought to myself placemaking has made cities all over the world similar, despite being so different at the same time. There are plenty of things that make you aware of whether or not you are in Italy, Spain, or Germany, but from a pure placemaking perspective I truly do not think cities at least the developed ones are all that different. Lastly, I though about why this observation I have made exists. I think it has to do with natural human interactions, preferences, etc. For example, we talked about comfortable sitting spaces and how it is more comfortable to sit watching in than to be in the middle and being watched. Also, humans want to have variety so when they see unique restaurants and clothing stores, they are satisfied. Spanish, Italian, and American people are all people when you break it down, so its not a surprise that we react the same way to structure. The connection I have made is  although cities and places become more complex over time, basic needs, preferences, and interactions between humans remains similar in most spots, so its no wonder cities cater these needs, and as a result seem so similar to each other.

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