Wednesday, 29 January 2014

Charm offensive

Someone stole my shopping today. Two courgettes, pine nuts, walnuts and a packet of pasta. I was only in the Post Office for 10 minutes - which is a miracle and in itself worthy of an entire paragraph really. In my excitement at seeing there was only one other person there, I shot inside faster than you can say 'don't worry, I have my own pen', stupidly leaving my shopping in my bicycle basket outside. I suppose I should be grateful that they didn't cut the lock and take my bike too (wouldn't be the first time. Or the second).

The real story is that today, while some scallywag was sizing up my veg, I made the Post Office lady laugh. She actually chuckled at a joke I made. Of course, she doesn't realise that she is my arch-nemesis and that in my head the PO has come to represent everything that is rotten in the state of Italy and generally the reason that it will never become the truly great country it deserves to be.

She doesn't realise any of that because to her, I, customer, am lower and more insignificant than a speck of dust on that ink pad she wields so mightily. My envelopes are the wrong size. How dare I only have a €10 note - she's going to have to ask her colleague ONE WHOLE METRE AWAY for some change. Her computer has frozen at the very sight of me and she can't even sell a stamp now. She needs a coffee. It's all my fault. People keep asking her complicated questions. She can't understand my accent and I'm too NICE.

Being nice is, in a stolen walnut shell, part of the Great Cultural Divide encountered by many of us Anglos. We say lots of pleases and thank yous and sorrys and often (spoiler alert: I'm about to make an offensive sweeping generalisation based on a shallow national stereotype) this excessive politeness is taken as a sign of embarrassing weakness. That, or a sign of guilt - in which case, what do we all feel so guilty about? What have we done? (apart from interbreeding with the locals and infiltrating the supermarket with our baked beans and our sweet chilli sauce).

Anyway, somehow, I made her laugh and for a second she was on my side for once. All was well with the world. But then my nuts were nicked and I had to go back to the supermarket feeling totally daft.

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Wednesday, 15 January 2014

What they don't tell you about living in Italy

1 You will, sooner or later, become trapped inside a building because you can't find the switch that opens the front door to let you out.

2 Nobody is scared of eating seafood. And nobody has heard of salmonella.

3 Everybody is scared of the rain. And everybody knows the fatal powers of a cold draft.

4 You will feel fat

5 You don't have the right hair. Or shoes. Or bag. If you live here for a hundred years, you will still look foreign. People will tell you this.

6 The Post Office doesn't sell stamps, or indeed provide any kind of service beyond selling those brightly coloured kids' books with padded covers and being a cosy warm place for elderly people to gather in winter.

7 Your children will be the only ones in the park allowed to play with sticks and dirt.

8 Italian women clean their houses EVERYDAY. Your house is filthy. A bit like your children.

10 If you drink a really cold drink on a really hot day, something dreadful will happen.

11 Good customer service is as easy to come across as Hawaiian pizza.

12 If you (female) dare to eat out by yourself (say, to spend some time updating your blog or something) then women will stare at you like you have some kind of disease and men will stare at you like they want to give you some kind of disease.

13 People will tell you that you're beautiful. You will bask in this. Even when it's that creepy mechanic guy or the ancient barman up the road. This will make up for no.s 4 & 5 above.

14 Strangers will literally swoon and gush at your children. They will stop other complete strangers to point out the beauty of your off-spring. You will bask in this A LOT. Then they will tell you that your children are under-dressed.

15 The concept of an over-dressed child doesn't exist in the Italian psyche.

16 There's no Hawaiian pizza. The food is better than you can possibly imagine. Especially the seafood.

17 In the winter, the weather is shit.

18 Your family doctor will refer you to a specialist. You will never have a simple cough again: you will have bronchitis.

19 There's nowhere to park.

20 Despite, and indeed because of, all of the above, it is the very best place to live.

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