Let's start here
I live in MIlan now. I feel entirely foreign, understanding maybe 40% of what's happening at any given moment.
Like right now, I am sitting near my open window. There are people talking outside. I don't understand what about, but whatever they're doing sounds like it's happening on my balcony, which is unsettling and mildly irritating. I only understand the phrase "Non lo so." I don't know.
Italians are a mix of loud and quiet, balancing between silent politeness and making their presence (and all their thoughts and feelings) known to the world. I think it's a fact of life here, a cultural thick skin that's developed over centuries of living in apartment buildings, homes stacked one on top of the other. Prone to thieves, they've developed houses with heavy shutters that close over every window, and multiple, strong locks that turn two, sometimes four times (rather than the customary single turn that American locks have).
Sometimes I can barely leave the building. I mean, I literally am incapable of figuring out what key to use in what locks to get outside. I have a fistful of keys, and I usually have to try three or four in each lock until I can get them to open.
It's a decent metaphor for where I am now, in a foreign society that I can fully grasp and have the keys to be a part of, with it's complicated locks and shutters, but I don't quite know which keys go in which lock well enough to move gracefully through it.
This is going to be an interesting ride.