In Rome, the same behaviour is called not having lunch.
When an American leaves their desk at work around 1pm, goes outside, and buys a sandwich to take back upstairs, this is called "having lunch."
In Rome, the same behaviour is called not having lunch.
There is a figure in the lives of those of us lucky enough to have them who is educated in medicine and very good at listening. You go see them at their apartment building and they carefully consider your health-related questions. If they know you well enough, they may break all the rules now and again and prescribe an antibiotic sight unseen...maybe even for someone who is not you. They'll let you bring your brother-in-law's cousin over to check out his cough even though he's just visiting and has no insurance. It's not unheard of that they may even visit you at home when you are feeling too awful to brave the elements. And then won't charge you for it. They'll be thorough, spend lots of time, listen, hold your hand, wear an old-school stethoscope, touch to see where it hurts, remember your name, and other nice and helpful things.
On the other hand, they won't actually do anything to you that requires any kind of equipment whatsoever. No swabbing, no blood tests, no shots, no needles, no stitches, no steri strips. No. No, no, no.
In America, this person is called "your cousin who went to med school."
In Italy, it's your primary care physician.
Here's a little guessing game. Read the text, then answer the question:
You look at me, and I don't answer
because no answer exists
as a morning of crystalline waters,
as a window
that illuminates my pillow.
as the shadow under the pines.
As you move away from me, still you are with me forever.
A) An excerpt from the mortally boring standardised AP Literature Exam for high school students, which test-takers are supposed to identify as lines from a poem by the Nobel-prize winning Chilean communist poet and politician Neftalí Ricardo Reyes Basoalto (better known by his pen name, Pablo Neruda); or
B) Lines from the number 1 Italian pop song of 1997 by Italian rapper Jovanotti.
The answer is B. Because the most nihilistic and skeptical culture on earth is also the most unapologetically cheesy. Sorry they're not sorry.
PS - Another line from the same song says: "and when the bread comes out of the oven, I'll keep it warm for when you get home." Those Latin lovers. They really know romance.
Recently I took a pair of boots to an Italian cobbler to get repaired that I had already had repaired once by a cobbler in New York City. When I went to pick up the boots, the guy showed me what he had done. Then he cleared his throat and told me, gently but firmly, that I should not attempt to repair my own boots in the future because, lacking the proper tools and experience, I had made a royal mess of the leather and he had been hard pressed to fix it.
I explained that the mess in question had been made by a professional cobbler. The Italian cobbler was shocked. He hoped the American cobbler had paid me for the damage to my boots. Then he charged me one fifth of what the New York guy had charged me.
Shut up, Italy.
Young people in America are expected to prove themselves. Start at the bottom rung of the work ladder. Take unpaid internships. Pull their weight. Work for less. Pay their dues. Kiss some ass. Go the extra mile. Get schooled by their boss. Pull themselves up by the bootstraps. Be happy for the experience they're gaining and wait for the salary to slowly rise.
In Italy, the same things are expected of young employees. Until they're fifty.
When I wrote that Crock Pot should look to expand to the Italian market, it was a crock. I was still woefully ignorant of Italian habits regarding electrical gadgets. It turns out it will be a cold day in hell when an Italian leaves the house with a machine running, especially one involving any form of heat whatsoever. Half of them even disconnect the gas line to their stoves every time they step outside. Mea maxima culpa.
In general, if you are a parent or a pet owner, and you really want to blend in with Italians, you should say everything you would ordinarily say to your child to your pet, and vice versa. Consider these two examples, overheard at the park today:
Woman (to obese beagle): Come on, Bruno, let's get going. How many times have I told you that if you eat as much as you do and don't get a little exercise, you'll gain weight? But you never listen to me... Come on, seriously. We have to get dinner started before Daddy comes home...
Woman (to child): Princess! ...Treasure! Do you want a little snackey? A little, itty-bitty treatsy? Ok, then sit down. Sit. Ok.
When you ask an American if they speak Italian, or an Italian if they speak English, you will likely get what appears to be a clear and straightforward answer. But beware. Yes and no do not mean what you think they mean. Here is a little translation cheat sheet, to clear things up for the unsuspecting tourist:
When you ask an American if they speak Italian, they could say:
1. No. Translation: No. This person speaks no Italian. They will speak English with you, throwing in Spanish words they remember from middle school at random.
2. No. Translation: Yes. This person speaks passable Italian, but they will shyly refuse to do so. Watch out, they can understand 3/4 of what you say!
3. A little bit. Translation: Yes, better than you. This person grew up speaking Italian, majored in Italian in college, and wrote their PhD dissertation in Italian. But they are still American enough to respond to this question like one.
When you ask an Italian if they speak English, they will almost always say:
1. Yes. Translation: No. This person speaks pretty much zero English. But they will still try to speak it for you.
2. Yes. Translation: a bit. This person speaks some words of English, and will speak all of them for you.
3. Yes. Translation: Yes. The English coming out of this person's mouth will be perfect!
I'm an American living in Italy and making gross generalizations about it.