Difference living in Italy vs. US PART II
By request, I've been asked to also share some of the not so great differences of living in Italy vs. the U.S. I can't say that I hate these differences; hate is a strong word. It's more like they irk me. Although I do hate the smoking situation. In any case, life isn’t always rainbows and gelato...
So where do I start? I think a good bad difference to start with is:
#1 - Service. Or lack there of... in Italy. From clothing shops to official businesses like post offices to grocery stores, pharmacies, and restaurants - there is a lack of customer service.
What do I mean and how do I explain? Imagine walking in a shop and no one says hello. No one says welcome. No one says how can I help you. Imagine that a shopkeeper seems annoyed even to have to serve you. As if they are doing YOU a favor being there rather than you choosing to do business there. If I remember correctly from my business degree this is an "operations" focus rather than a "service" focus. But they’re not doing it for good business sense - they just lack the drive to care about customers more than self.
Here are a few examples: I've legit waited to pay for a girl to finish her cigarette. A phone call. And even an Instagram post. No shit! And if an Italian worker is in conversation with another worker, forget it. You'll wait for the rest of your life. I would just assume that everyone hates their job.
I often find myself wanting to say, look if you don't want my money, just say, so I can fuck off somewhere else! But I know they won't care. So I just leave. Given this is the norm - this is a way of life for Italians. They have no idea how good customer service can be. They’ve never had a caring waitress or a friendly cashier. They don’t tip so they don’t judge their experience based on customer service, and they don’t complain about being snubbed in a place of business because they don’t know any better.
While we're on the subject - if you ever buy anything in Italy, make sure it's 100% what you want because there is no return policy. And to me, this plays off of customer service. 1 - they don't care. 2 - why did you buy it if you don't like it and want to return it? And 3 – they don’t care anyway! You might get a store credit but you're probably just stuck with the purchase forever.
#2 - Italy is a coffee snob. And honestly, I don’t understand what’s so great about the coffee here. Come on, a sip of coffee? So melodramatic. And it’s not even good. It’s strong and bitter. Like this blog post. And if you want more you might order an “Americano” which is quasi offensive is it not? But guess what it is? It’s their little sip of coffee with a side of hot water. Ha ha, I’m not kidding! Depending on the attitude of your bar tend (see #1) – it’s mixed. Or not. And don’t get me started on a cappuccino. I have one word: gross. It’s an espresso and milk… with a sprinkle of cinnamon (or cocoa powder). It’s not fancy. It’s pretend fancy – much like… well, let’s keep this kind.
Honestly, I don’t believe it’s the people, it’s just the culture. Because I guarantee you these Italians - with their gelato, granita, and crema di caffe - would fight for some pumpkin spiced latte frappe mochaccino!!
It’s time to move on Italy – your coffee is not that great.
#3 – Parking lot mafia. I need to be careful saying that because, mafia? what mafia? That’s not a real thing… Someone check on me in few days, k? Thanks! But legit, there is always a guy (or two) running a parking lot. A free, public parking lot. Not only are they directing you in to blatantly obvious empty spots but the idea is that they will then guard your vehicle while you’re busy being treated like shit shopping. Uhm, guy, the only person my car needs protected against is you!
The goal is not to make eye contact. They can’t legally do this so you don’t legally have to give them any money. But don’t be a dick either because maybe you come back and your tires are missing. And too, feel the room because maybe it won’t hurt to toss them a few coins anyway!
# 4 – Stuck in a time warp. I’m going to go with circa 1950/1960/1970. In so many ways!! For one, the look. Italy does not like to keep up with modernism. Advertisements, buildings, houses – old. It all looks old and broken. I’m not talking about this ancient, architectural beauty / ruins that you are craving to photograph in Italy – that’s here no matter what. I’m talking about these 1950’s billboards and weird neon or huge iron signs. I’m talking about paint (lead!?) chipping and falling off of everything. I’m talking about holes, broken bricks, walls falling down, roofs caving in, dirty, broken, trash in the streets, old… You can make OLD look clean and modern. You just have to care.
But also in beliefs: Italy is anti-gay, sexist, and racist. Probably like the 1950’s.
It might be getting a littlebit better. Like maybe we’ve moved into the 60’s now… but it’s disturbing.
Gay is taboo. Men rule. Women are paid less. Smoking is still cool.
Italians think you can get sick if you leave your house with wet hair, if cold air is blowing on you, or if you forget to wear a scarf. Little medical science for you: colds are caused by viruses.
Economy and growth: We all know the bureaucracy is hell, systems are broken, red tape everywhere. But it’s like they don’t WANT to be better. They don’t want to be modern and efficient. It drives me nuts!
Italy is in economic stall because the people seem to want it this way. It’s like they’re so stuck in tradition they aren’t making way for actual growth. I read this in an article (from a finance professor in Rome) and it really resignates with me, “It’s serial stagnation. The economy doesn’t contract, it doesn’t grow. Italy is a country that is weak, that is old, where there is no investment in new ideas.” It’s true and young Italians are fleeing like refugees. They can’t get jobs in Italy! I believe it’s a little better in the north because they’re more connected with the rest of modern civilization, but everything goes south from there (see what I did there ;) )
Italy is ancient and it shows.
So without any further detail or offending the rest of any Italians that I haven’t offended yet… I also very much hate these differences: highway tolls – literally highway robbery. Women wear heels hiking – not all women, obviously, but enough for me to notice and dislike. They also wear makeup to the swimming pool and the gym. I think this is partially the whole time warp aspect and women having to be a certain way in public, partially cultural, and mostly giving way too many shits about what other people think about you. People at the grocery store who are only buying 1 item and cut in front of everyone else. Hey jackass, I only have THREE items, wait your damn turn! Queues in general – Italians hate standing in line and will bum rush the front to be first/next. You will get KNOCKED OUT in the U.S. for this foolery! And my final one:
#5 – Walking dogs off the leash. My biggest reason for hating this is the safety of your dog. Story time! I wasn’t there, but my colleagues told me about it. Once at Run-N-Tri a guest visited with a chocolate lab. The guest was bragging about how well behaved their dog was when he suddenly takes off running in to the street (Cowan!!! A 4-lane road!!). He got hit and killed by a car. Dogs are not to be trusted off leash unless in a completely safe area!! WTF people!
My second reason – I don’t know your dog and I don’t trust your dog – with me nor with MY dog. If your unleashed dog runs up on me and my leashed dog and my dog feels threatened, what do you think is going to happen? I don’t know if your dog is going to attack me or Jake or what’s going to happen because I promise you – I love dogs, LOVE! But if it hurts mine, I will boot kick the shit out of that maniac or snatch him by his neck myself. A leash = control and obedience. Severely lacking in… well… all of Italy.
Walk your dog on a f*#!ing leash.
We take the bad with the good, right? Life inconveniences, intolerances, annoyances – they’re everywhere. And different for everyone. As heavy as they sound, the good differences outweigh the bad. I mean, plus I have my Luca and he trumps ALL the bad with his love (and constant effort to make us happy and comfortable in Italy). Awwwww 😍
I still want you to come visit me! I’ll show you what I mean in some of this and we can laugh and be astounded Americans together 😆😆😆