What I learned in Europe… this time around

Thank God for the Blackberry! Every chance I got, I wrote down my curiosities and experiences. The Europeans must’ve thought-“that’s one long text message she’s writing!”

A street in Milan

Europe is gung-ho for China
Chinese New Year notwithstanding, Asia’s largest country was on the tip of everyone’s tongues. The examples are endless: Tourism advertisements on TV and in the papers, a news commentary on Chinglish, the often comical translation of Chinese to English, China’s growing force in the world economic sector, plus the growing desire of luxury goods by a newly wealthy Chinese class. China is undoubtedly becoming a world power.

London’s Chinatown


The fabulous, celeb-filled Mr. Chows in Knightsbridge



Milan is not for fat people
With the highest model per capita ration (Forbes) my ego was definitely put to the test. Getting into my hotel room shower required a bit of artful maneuvering. As I set one leg into the slim door opening, and entered sideways, my bubble butt got caught in the door!

No Fatties Allowed
In Milan, I saw not one fat person. Everyone was young, thin, and rich. Did I mention that Italians are extremely rich. Milan is one of the richest cities in the EU, with salaries far surpassing that of the average American. No wonder everyone can afford a maid, a Benz, and a Louis Vuitton bag. Even in my best clothes and shoes (Louboutin, of course!) I felt homely against the backdrop of the affluent Milanese.

A tranquil Milanese street at night

European subways are much more efficient that New York…
I actually knew this from my last trip here. But with fashion shows to attend, time was essential. With a digital estimated time on each platform, I had no question about my time of arrival. Milan even has video commercials in the station to kill time!

…But their street signage stinks!
I pride myself on my keen sense of navigation-I can visit a place once and remember how to get there years later. And give me accurate directions, and I’m off like a jack rabbit. So tell me WHY I had to walk 5, 10, 15 minutes in Milan before seeing ONE FRIGGIN’ SIGN??!! How could a city that is home to Armani and Aston Martin be so horribly blasé about its street signage? This sad point indelibly added travel time to my excursions.

One of Milan’s TEN THOUSAND Piazza’s

Madonna is big, Kylie is magnanimous
Case-in-point—the Victoria & Albert Museum’s exhibition of Kylie Minogue’s costumes throughout her career. A thorough, if not gushing retrospective.

Europeans are celeb-crazy:
Blogs stateside are candy filler compared to the ferocity of English wag-mags. And celeb news is always up to the minute-how did I even KNOW that Britney shaved her head this past weekend? I’m supposed to be a world away!

Everyone speaks English (in the city):
When I landed in Milan, I was petrified because I didn’t know a lick of Italian—save Arrivedercci, Grazie, and prego. But you can get by without knowing the local language. But I have to admit, it can be frustrating if you need to ask complex questions. I found myself seeking out the Africans where I knew that at least they spoke French, and I could ask them questions.

The Duomo, the center of Milan


Facing the Galleria


Black people abroad are more culturally aware:
Every Black person I came across, be they Black-British, African, or Milanese- spoke a requisite 3 languages, which really made me feel inferior. I think as a whole, Americans-including myself-are very lazy when it comes to learning other languages, and most expect foreigners to know English. But after this trip, I’ve made it my resolve to pick up my conversational French, and learn Spanish and Italian as well. It adds such an air of sophistication, and definitely helps with one’s travels. Concerning news events, I realized how sheltered I am as an American when it comes to the news, and how much information I was missing. Yes, I knew that American news was censored, but to be abroad, and to see the news was mind-blowing. No wonder so many foreigners view the American people as bumbling idiots!

Benin painter Julien Sinzogen paints the “Gate of Return” a counter the “Passage of No Return” in Goree and Zimbabwe.
Commisioned by the Victoria & Albert Museum in London

The Japanese and the Russians are the most powerful people in the fashion business.
They are so well known by the PR firms, that nary a word (or an invitation) need be shown for entry into the presentations. Many fashion houses even had Japanese representatives just to greet their Japanese clients! It’s no wonder- The Russian and Japanese markets, respectively, are the number one and two highest grossing retail markets in the world. To be so fashionably powerful…

In Milan, fashion is serious:
Even more so than London. You would think the bodyguards standing outside of the Burberry presentation were guarding the crown jewels. The seriousness of the Milanese was apparent, even during the show. There were no games here, and no crazy buzz å la New York. In Milan, you take your seat, you don’t move, and you DON’T take pictures. It’s just not civilized, and everyone will stare in disdain at you. I tried feebly to take my usual snapshots but when I saw no one else doing the same, I abruptly stopped. Even the photographers at the back of house were straight-laced, and demanding as they shouted directions to the models (on the catwalk!) for their best shots.

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