As 2014 comes to a close, I sit here smiling to myself as I think about all of the new things I’ve “learned” thanks to my year here in Italy. It’s a lovely country and so are the people, so bare in mind that these are just meant to be fun things I’ve experienced personally with my husband (who’s from southern Italy), his family and friends here, or stories I’ve heard from other expat friends. There are certainly some generalizations, but it’s only meant to be taken lightheartedly and provide a bit of laughter and insight to my oh-so-fabulous life here in Italy! 🙂
1. Cold-drafts are the devil. No really, air-conditioning will kill you, or if you’re lucky, just leave you paralyzed. In no other part of the world is cold air as deadly as it is in Italy. The slightest mention of a headache will cause them to immediately spring to their “see, must have been that cold air!” conclusions with quite satisfaction. Women, you can avoid this unfortunate fate by carrying a scarf in your bag at all times, or like one guy I know of, just work from home for the week the AC is on during the scorching hot summer. #truestories. I’ve asked why no one in other countries die from chugging cold water, drinking out of chilled glasses, doing ice-bucket challenges, or living in homes with AC but… No answer.
2. Air-drying your hair is asking to get sick. Use a blowdryer you crazy foreigner! My husband regularly asks me how it’s possible I don’t get headaches from air-drying my hair. I don’t know. Magic?
3. Be sure to wear rubber flip-flops when blow-drying your hair: electrocution by blow dryer tops the charts over here (as I’m told by my concerned husband). I’m lucky to be alive sans flip-flops! (Which then leads me to wonder “What are they doing with their blow dryers??”)
4. Because of the fear of cold-drafts (or anything cold for that matter), it’s very difficult to find cold drinks in Italy. Say god-bye to chilled beer glasses or ice with soda/coke, ice-cold water and iced coffees. My #dream and their #worstnightmare: the milk & ice combination.
5. Everyone wants to steal from you, EVERYONE! And people in Naples have a “long eye” (per my Napoletano husband)… I think he means “far sighted?” (i.e. able to predict what will or might happen in the future).
6. Don’t be caught walking around the house without shoes, slippers or wooden clog things as it is dangerously dirty, but not washing your hands after using the restroom is ok.
7. Pasta, pizza & bread are healthy. A balanced meal consists of pasta with bread, pizza with bread, or even, you guessed it, bread with bread. “This is healthy. There are tomatoes and some green vegetables.” (i.e. the basil).
8. A small espresso shot with three heaping teaspoons of sugar is “healthier” than a cappuccino sensa zucchero (without sugar). Milk will make you fat… not cookies, sugar, Nutella or packaged sweet goods for breakfast. ( And *bonus* lesson: you are not supposed to drink cappuccinos after 3pm).
9. Yet, there is always room for one, or two, or three more servings of food at any given meal.
10. Everyone will bash American coffee drinks, and especially Starbucks, but while on holiday they will post pictures smiling with their Starbucks in hand.
11. There are correct gestures and words to describe each type of pasta in Italy. Choose your words wisely. In my attempt to describe penne pasta the other day, I was informed that I didn’t use the right descriptions that Italians use. (Hmmm… How am I supposed to know these things?? #notitalian).
12. You will think everyone around you is arguing or fighting however these are just normal conversations. I had to finally get used to that.
13. Get used to taking a number. If you want to get anything done, be it errands at the post office, bank, any government building, to make an appointment, ask a question or order a coffee, you will more than likely need to stand in line to pay and take a number, and then wait while your number is called. Forming a queue senza numero (without a number) doesn’t go over well in Italy.
14. Google isn’t the answer. You don’t research anything or buy anything online – you go somewhere and take a number (or you ask the nonna i.e. the grandma).
15. Rules? What rules? They are more like …. guidelines. Red doesn’t necessarily mean red and no parking is definitely debatable.
16. Pause briefly when the light turns green for all the cars that will, without a doubt, run the red light.
17. The food is delicious. You will eat forever. The average Sunday lunch or dinner with La Famiglia will last 3-4 hours, and a minimum of 6-7 on special holidays like Pasqua (Easter), Pasquette (the day after Easter holiday) and La Vigilia (Christmas Eve).
18. You will feel obligated to eat until you’re ready to explode on a regular basis for fear of offending whoever prepared the meal, in most cases “la mamma” of La Famiglia who will be sure to glance at your plate throughout the meal to be certain that you are not slowing down, or avoiding more food… “Mangia! Mangia!” (Eat! Eat!) will be the dreaded words you constantly hear paired with looks of “Why are you not eating?!” while you’re thinking to yourself “What is wrong with you people!?” I’ve actually had to create an “allergy” or “feeling under the weather” excuse (“I warned you about those cold drafts” they so anxiously want to say) in order to avoid more servings as they just can’t take “no” for an answer (and are convinced you are just being shy as they put more food on your plate). In the rare moment that no one is watching, I quickly put food on my husband’s plate and am eternally grateful (at which point he always reminds me that I “have a lot of ‘debits’ with him for these favors” haha). Food is like a love language 🙂
19. The “5 Second Rule” would never, ever, ever, ever exist in Italy.
20. Italians are very particular about their group of friends (who they will call their “brothers” or “sisters” aka good friends from childhood). They don’t really like to make new friends past their high-school days which means that they will pretty much have the same circle of friends for life.
21. You can’t walk into a car dealership and leave with a car the same day. You will need about a week for the paperwork.
22. Even if it’s warm and sunny in April, you do not, I repeat, DO NOT wear dresses, skirts, sandals or bare legs until at least June. Prior would be a serious fashion faux pas. 23. It’s hard to make money. It’s hard to get ahead. Italians are actually hard workers and extremely underpaid. People in bank jobs, high-tech and accounting hardly make much more than the person who works as a sales associate in a boutique or waitress. #truth
24. It’s normal to be in a relationship for 6, 7, 8 or even 10 years before deciding to get married. You only get married when you are ready to have a child that year. Basically. And in most cases you live with your parents until then.
25. Better to let your child scream and throw a tantrum at the table or in any public place than to (heaven forbid) leave the table, or discipline them publicly. Just laugh and go along like nothing is happening, everything is cool.
Share your stories, I’d love to hear them! 🙂