Comparisons of life in Italy
There are number of things that you may experience in Italy that you may not have experienced in your previous homeland. The greatest of these for me must be the summer time. This is a very infectious and energetic time. In the UK I was very used to coming home after a long day and doing one of two things:
a. Opening a bottle of wine and cooking with my wife; or
b. Having a couple of beers (or opening a bottle of wine) and sitting on my arse in front of the TV
This differs tremendously from my life in Italy as I find myself in the evenings strangely having my 2nd shower of the day as I get ready to got out and hit the town! Although this is still quite foreign to me its pretty common for Italians. Italians love to get out in the evenings either to partake of an ‘aperitivo’ (a small drink and possibly some nibbles before dinner, or an after dinner drink) or a ‘passagiata’ (a stroll with or without an ice cream). I find it quite refreshing and enlightening to partake in casual conversation and to ‘people watch’; it beats sitting on front of the box every night and general the drama that unfolds before your eyes is far superior than any soap opera script I’ve came across. Luigi screaming to Guiseppi about how crap his football team and the signs and verbal abuse that ensues; or Carmela shouting at her useless cretin husband (‘cretino inutile’) Stefano (according to her) in front of everyone is a sight to behold.
Generally speaking life is slower here. That’s not to say that Italians do any less work than the rest of the world. The 9 to 5 grind is pretty much the same all over the world, particularly in the bigger cities and with those who want to get ahead. Although many Italian business close for a couple of hours over lunch (as family time is sacred and especially time eating with family) unless they are transacting with foreign markets; they make up for it elsewhere, generally office hours are from 8am till 1pm and 3pm till 7pm. The siesta is not really common here anymore.
So during the day its business as usual but at nights and during the weekends the pace is less frenetic. You learn to live with this or adapt. Guess what? I don’t need my groceries delivered anymore during a specific time slot (and God help them if they are 5 minutes late!). I also don’t need the latest iPhone or gadget delivered next day; if it comes the day after, that is also ok. I’m starting to realise that focusing on the more important things in life and less about what we think is important but isn’t really, means that I probably won’t die from a heart attack or stress which may have been the case if I continued my busy lifestyle in the UK.
Back to focusing on the more important things in life (Italian style) such as whether the olives or grapes are getting enough water/rain this year because not only does this have an impact people’s livelihood but also on the general mood within the village for the next year. So putting things into perspective, I’d gladly give up my next day delivery of the latest gadget to have everyone around me happy.
Summer and the pace of life here compared to ‘back home’ are not the only things that I find myself comparing. A few other things that spring to mind are:
a. In the UK the pedestrian is king – good luck with that in Italy!!
b. Italians drive on the wrong side of the road (and I’m not saying that because I’m used to driving on the left in the UK). Honestly, I experience this most on our mountain roads, Italian drivers on my side of the road!
c. They don’t go out in the rain. Can you imagine this in Scotland…the whole country would come to a standstill?
d. There are certain things Italians live by:
- ” Don’t swim for 3 hours after eating
- Don’t eat ice cubes, they are not good for your insides
- Always dry your hair after a shower before you go out otherwise you will die of pneumonia”
e. When you ask an Italian if he would like a coffee he will always look at his phone before telling you; we don’t.
f. Also on the topic of coffee, if he has already had 2 in a day he would NEVER have a 3rd, its just not done. I on the other hand have as many as I feel like. Italians don’t understand this concept. I should be ‘following the rules’! “Hell, this has worked for centuries so why break the rules?” they say.
g. Still on coffee. No cappuccinos after 10.30am. Starbucks would go out of business! By the way, cappucinos in Italy have about 85ml of milk in them (and there is normally only one size on offer) compared to their British or American counterparts which seems to be somewhere between half a litre and a litre of milk depending on the size ordered. Also, if Italians add anything to their coffees other than sugar it is generally a grappa or some other alcohol; no such things as shots of vanilla syrup, caramel syrup or hazelnut drizzle.
h. Brits and Americans are very polite. Especially the Brits when it comes to driving. However don’t expect an Italian to allow you to cut in during traffic and if you let her in don’t expect a ‘thanks’.
i. Italians love food and they have healthy appetites. They will generally consume a large amount of this over a nice relaxing 3 hour lunch. In the UK and US the same amount of food is generally crammed between a hamburger bun or roll and the same amount of food is consumed within 45 minutes (unless there is a t-shirt to be won for finishing this in 15 minutes!).
j. Italians are passionate people and will hurl abuse at their friends, storm out and you will find them sitting at the some table the next night with the same set of friends as if nothing had happened the night before ready for another episode. This can go on every night for weeks. We don’t understand this. In the UK this argument would probably have been fuelled by too much alcohol and would result in some sort of physical violence which would mean a night in jail for one or both parties. In America the same behaviour would result in a drive-by shooting the following day!
k. Elsewhere in the world we are generally subtle about a persons appearance or will partake in telling the odd ‘white lie’. Not in Italy, no holds barred. If you look like shit they will tell you. They may not call you ‘fatty’ but will certainly comment on you ‘robustness’ (robusto).
l. Italians love to dress up and so it is very rare that you would see a mother at the school in a tracksuit or without make-up (unless its us!). The same can’t be said in the UK. Many of us have just climbed out of bed two minutes beforehand.
m. Family comes first! I’ve never experienced anything abroad to the same extent.
n. Respect for the ‘oldies’ or OAP (Old Aged Pensioners). The young have in-depth conversations with the older generation here. The nonno’s and nonna’s (grandparents) are treated like demi-gods here in some circles. In the UK these two groups don’t mix ever, unless under duress. Respect is gone.
o. Italy reeks of culture. The UK is close. The US has gun culture and rap culture!
p. On the topic of driving Italians seem to get a bad rap but I think this is a generalisation. Rome and Naples may be a bit crazy but in most places I’ve driven in Italy I’ve never experienced road-rage like I have in the UK, US or during my time in South Africa. In the UK things are a little more orderly on the roads granted but you will hear the horn or clacson honking a lot more in the UK than you will in Italy. In Italy anything goes on the road but so long as you know what to expect, I think its cool. I quite like the fact that there isn’t a nanny state as such and that the rules are bent slightly….the fact that a vehicle isn’t within the lines when parking or someone double parks works both ways. We will at some point in our lives find ourselves in a situation where you just need a loaf of bread or a bag of sugar 2 minutes to closing and can never find parking; this is where this abandonment of the laws comes in useful…I say, ‘if the shoe fits, wear it’!
These are just some of the comparisons in life between Italy and the UK, US or other cultures I’ve experienced. If I’ve missed any, let me know.