Seventeen days in Italy is not a long time to stay in a foreign country. However, it’s my first time to be in a place where most people don’t speak English. I had been always thought that English was spoken all over the world, especially in Europe. I was wrong.
In Cagli, a small, remote town, most people speak only Italian, which caused me so much confusion and also stole some of my confidence. I was afraid of communicating with Cagliese and could only depend on other classmates. Also, because of my lack of Italian, I understood nothing when the Cagliese tried to explain something to me or have conversations with me. Therefore, I used my smile and body language to respond to them.
I believe nonverbal communication is the best way to overcome the language barriers between two different cultures. I also believe that wearing a smile on my face when people talk to me is the easiest way to reduce the tension. There is a famous saying in Chinese culture: “Never slap a smiling person.” Not able to speak Italian actually gave me the chance to experience the power of nonverbal communication.
Our body languages, our hand gestures, and our facial expressions are all beyond the things that come from our mouths. Communicating nonverbally also helps us gain a deeper understand of culture. Knowing a language helps us to get to know a new culture faster, but it doesn’t make us know a new culture deeper.