Tuesday, January 8, 2019

Other Americans have difficulty “being Italian” (but they still love it here)

Six years ago, I wrote a blog about how I desired to fit in with Italian society but often fell short (I want to be Italian, but I come up lacking in some vital areas). It was lighthearted in tone, because fitting in is truly not that important or necessary for me. I’m not a teenager who needs to belong, and I’m not isolated from old friends and family, as is the case with some foreigners. I just made some observations that it would be easier to blend with Italians if I had more love for coffee, wine, fashion, art and a late-night lifestyle.

Hunter posted this photo of  the Italian
way of people waiting in a "line."
Recently I shared this blog on the Facebook group Americans Living in Italy, and it struck a chord with many people who were quick to pour out their tales of woe. It seems I’m far from the only American who suffers from a touch of chronic culture shock. I’ll use first names only for privacy reasons.

“This post is me exactly,” Sheila wrote. “I don’t like coffee unless it’s a frappuccino or caffé crema.” For health reasons, Sheila also doesn’t drink wine. “Italians are like, ‘Omg, you can’t drink wine?’ But then I tell them I save lots of money and my health when I don’t drink alcohol. And my vice is Italian sweets.”

Carole also is not fond of the tiny Italian servings of coffee to start her day: “I do the Italian life when out and about, but I have to have a mug of coffee in the morning that I can hug with both hands. I bought an American coffee maker from Amazon.”

Most of those adding comments brought up other Italian habits that they are loath to adopt.

An Italian breakfast.
Miranda: “I eat dinner early. I eat a big breakfast. I drink caffé lungo. In the summer when it’s hot, I go to bed with wet hair and the fan directly on me! I always go shopping on Sundays.”

Jack: “Ice! I want ice in my soft drinks.”

Reeta: “I want to enjoy my coffee for more than three seconds.”

Serena: “I miss salad dressing and Mexican food.”

Dawn: “I love breakfast. A REAL breakfast.”

Thea: “Yes. A PROPER HEALTHY BREAKFAST without so much sugar and flour in it, also known as cake.”

Sandy: “My personal temperature gage is not very Italian. I hate feeling hot so frequently. I’m dressed too lightly for my Italian friends, and they are scandalized by my short sleeves or lack of scarf.”

Kayt: “I just can’t make myself eat fish with the heads still attached. I don’t care how small they are. Gross! They’ll have to lie to me and tell me it’s something else, just like when they tricked me into eating ravioli with asino. It was actually not too bad, haha!” Note: asino is donkey.

Kim: “It mortified my Italian ex-boyfriend when I’d ask for a doggy bag. I wasn’t gonna let good food go to waste.”

A few people really took my blog as an inspirational starting point and added long lists of complaints about Italian society. Dawn from Rome made several observations:
  • ·       The slowness of this place or lack of urgency unless you are paid off really gets under my skin. I’m all about planning, preparation, timeliness, doing what I say I’ll do. Italians don’t grasp this concept.
  • ·       Food places close after lunch and don’t reopen until 7.30 p.m. for dinner. Come on, elderly people in the U.S. have dinner between 4 and 5. Also, places either don’t serve breakfast or stop by 10 or noon.
  • ·       I don’t dress like Italians temperature wise. I get overheated if it’s not that cold. I just started wearing a scarf two weeks ago (late December).
  • ·       The driving! I follow laws. To Italians, it’s just a suggestion.
  • ·       I hug. I can’t do the kiss kiss thing. It’s just unnatural for me. Not to mention I always lean to my left first and they always go to kiss my left cheek first so we pretty much almost kiss on the lips. It’s awkward.
Bush and Berlusconi combine hand shake and
cheek kiss greetings somewhat awkwardly.
Following Dawn’s “kiss kiss” comment, Kayla added an amusing story: “My husband accidentally kissed our babysitter!!! I have learned to go right, but he hasn’t. After I said goodbye to her, he went to say goodbye and they brushed lips! He was mortified, and she said, ‘I have a boyfriend’ and left. He’s still embarrassed, but it’s my favorite story.”

Lauren also made a list:
  • ·       I hate layers of clothing.
  • ·       I smile and laugh a lot and get stared at constantly.
  • ·       I hate eating past 5:30-6:30 p.m. We wake up at 5 a.m. daily, so by 5 p.m., we’re starving.
  • ·       I like yoga pants and sweats for comfort. At first, I cared and would get ‘dressed’ to go places. Now I do what I want.
  • ·       I also am paying for my (American) coffee. I’ll drink what I want. Don’t worry, my digestion is fine.
  • ·       Who the hell wants ONLY olive oil as an option for salads? It’s great, but I miss Ruby Tuesday’s salad bar. So many toppings!
Michael posted this photo with the tongue-
in-cheek comment that Italy has too many
traffic jams.
One might wonder why I and other Americans live in Italy if we have all these complaints, but several of the commenters pointed out that the benefits still outweigh the inconveniences. A couple of days later in the same Facebook group, someone asked the question: “Out of all of you who have bought property here in Italy, are you happy?” The comments are running almost 100 percent yes, so just because we face cultural differences and like to express them doesn’t mean we’re dissatisfied. It just means we’ve adapted and embraced that very Italian custom of complaining about our beloved country.

1 comment:

  1. This is great! Love that you included so many people's opinions, yet still came back to how much we love being here. I wouldn't change being here at all, even if I'd like a few things to change...LOL


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