There are lists of things that I’ve thought about while being in Italy that are examples of Italian weirdness from the American perspective. I will not start my blog about those. In fact, that may be a separate entry entirely. The following list, however, is a list of American weirdness from the Italian perspective. As a definitive non-Italian, I cannot explain why the following are so strange. I will just share what Italians seem to consider strange habits of Americans, things that I have noticed in passing (or while someone has commented while a friend or I has been passing, assuming we speak no Italian and therefore cannot understand).
We wear flip-flops. Everywhere, essentially. Not just to the beach, or around the house. Out.
Not only do we wear flip-flops, we dress very casually while out of the house. Sweatpants or leggings with sandals and a hoodie is not an outfit one would likely spot a real Italian in. Unless the sweatpants were matched with a paired zip-up jacket. Probably all velvet. Probably not without something shiny/metallic/bejewelled. Even going to the market or grocery store, the old women still wear stockings and a jacket.
We eat lots of weird/bad things. American cuisine, as a whole, doesn’t seem to be highly regarded (my English student, however, asserts his love of In-N-Out burger, which I fully support, and quite a few of our friends did enjoy the American pancake breakfast we made during the dig).
Not only do we eat lots of weird/bad things, we eat them totally in the wrong order! (Example: conversation at the dig table with La Professoressa. I have already finished dinner, am still hungry after a long day of manual labor—imagine that!–and grab some more bread and olive oil to snack on. Professoressa looks at me in disgust and says, “Sara, pane DOPPO frutta?! Che schiffo!” Bread after fruit is apparently NOT the correct culinary choice.
We tend to over-medicate. This is definitely true. Going into a pharmacy, I wanted some ibuprofen. I usually take 400 mg of ibuprofen if I need to take any at all. I am used to going to Walgreen’s and buying a huge bottle of pills for $4.99 or something similar. I ask for my ibuprofen, and it comes in a pack of 12. The pharmacist advises me to take one (that is, a 200 mg. Tablet) after a meal. I walked away wondering if it was some sort of super-ibuprofen, but then just realized that to Italians, to regularly down 2 of these for a headache or cramp may be a bit excessive. To their credit, though, the instructions for use did say that I could take 1-2 every 4-6 hours while symptoms persisted. That sounded a bit better to me.
We drink ice water. Not just cold water, ICE water. With ice! Our trench leader would shudder in horror to see Jeremy or I chugging a bottle full of mostly ice and little water. Why? We always asked. “Fa male!” He’d reply. It hurts! Our “proof” that ice water was the direct cause of horrible stomach pain when the architect’s assistant fell suddenly ill at the site after—wait for it—drinking ice water!
In general, we have issues with temperature. Not just ice water, but we use way too much air conditioning. The body’s shock in transitioning from heat to cool is nothing to be taken lightly here. I will take the liberty of using an example of something that happened to a friend. She was down south with her boyfriend (who is Puglian) and his family. His sister got out of an air-conditioned car, and after exiting, promptly threw up. Why? Definitely the air conditioning.
We are weird about dancing, especially males. This is something that I have already blogged about a little, this idea of dancing in public, often in couples. Here, it seems like everyone likes to dance whether or not they’re the next Britney Spears or Justin Timberlake. Everyone likes to have a good time, and music with a beat just naturally gives way to moving your body, which seems to be encouraged here. I will always remember the evenings during the festival over the bridge, in August. I danced with countless old Italian men who all knew how to dance—whether or not the steps were necessarily right is another story, but they all knew how to ask and how to lead and how to have a nice time doing it. Despite being so confident about so many things, Americans often seem to be very self-conscious about this whole “dancing” thing. As a random sidenote, I’d like to point out that it is for this reason that I love lindyhoppers. It is so much about the love of the dance, the music, the connection that it doesn’t matter what you look like when you dance, just that you’re having fun. And trust me, someone who looks like they’re enjoying him or herself while dancing sure as heck looks like a better dancer. (So, shout out to all my lindyhopping peeps!)
These are only a few things that I’ve thought about while being here, and surely discussed with some of you. Most of these can be turned around. I could phrase it that Italians are weird because they dress up to go to the market or think air conditioning and ice water can give stomach aches. But I have no way of knowing if one or the other way is right, just that they are different. I don’t get a stomach ache from drinking ice water, but then again, I’ve been drinking it all my life. Maybe if I hadn’t been, I would get a tummy ache from it, too. Who knows. In any case, these are just a few thoughts for you all. If you’re interested, I’d be curious to hear from those of you who’ve lived or traveled abroad what are quirks in other cultures.