About Me

I am a 45 year husband and dad, currently adjusting to life back in the United States after living in Italy for a little over two years. I love spending time with my family, cycling, model railroading, mosaics and watching TV and movies.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Observations From Daily Life in Italy

We have been in Italy for two years now.  It's hard to believe our time is almost over.  Here are some of my observations of daily life in Italy:

- Breakfast consists of pastries, cheeses, meats, or cereal....and coffee.

- Most people don't have driers.  They hang their laundry out the windows or on their balconies to dry in the sun.  Washing machines are usually very small - we can fit about 1 - 2 days of clothing inside, depending on if we have jeans to wash.

- Sidewalks are generally only wide enough for one person to walk on.

- Italians rarely get drunk.  They drink wine with lunch and dinner, but do not tolerate drunkenness.

- There is no sales tax.

- Much of daily business is done with cash.  Credit cards and debit cards are available, but not very commonly used.  Bills come in 5, 10, 20, 50 and more.  Anything under 5 euro is a coin.

- A majority of Italians have the same ringtone.

- If you ask an Italian a question, be prepared for a long answer.

- You must bag your own groceries at the market.  As of January 1, plastic bags are now banned in Italy.  You can get biodegradable plastic bags and paper bags.  Oh, and you pay for them.

- Even in the spring and fall when its fairly warm outside, Italians are bundled up like its winter.

- Church bells are always ringing somewhere.

- In apartment buildings, hot water is usually from a common boiler in the basement.  Heat is from radiators in each room.  AC comes from units mounted in each room, not central air.

- Italians are very conscious of home security.  Windows on lower levels have security bars and security blinds.  Everything in Italy is fenced or walled in.  Security alarms are big business.

- Every shower has an emergency cord in case you fall.  Hardly any building or apartment has fire detectors.

- Stucco and concrete are the main materials for construction.  Steel is not very common, even in high rise buildings.

- Scaffolding and restoration seem to be a booming business.

- American shows are dubbed in Italian.  Imagine John Wayne with an Italian accent.

- The Simpsons are considered America's family.

- McDonalds is what everyone thinks Americans eat when we go out.  Its interesting that most people seem to say they would never eat there, yet the place is always busy and full.  Most of the food is the same, with some regional differences - McCafe where you can get pastries and coffee, mozzarella burgers, etc.

- Coffee shops (bars) charge you more if you sit down to drink rather than stand at the bar.

- Coca Cola has the market on soda.  Pepsi is difficult to find.

- You pay a 'coperto' when you sit to eat at a restaurant.  Its a table charge per person.  You don't tip in Italy.

- Wine is often cheaper than water in restaurants.

- Ice is uncommon

- Fashionable women wear full length fur coats with matching hats in the winter.

- Everyone has a 'city' commuting bike, even kids.  It's not uncommon to see seniors heading to the market or to the bar on a bicycle.

- Where there is a bar, old men congregate.

- Italian bread contains no salt.  In fact, salt is less common in foods.  Makes you wonder how much we really need it in the US.

- Nutella is to Italians like peanut butter is to Americans.

- 50% of the population rides scooters or motorcycles and 100% wear helmets.

- Seafood is very popular and is very fresh (often still alive) in the supermarkets.

- Its tough to be a pig in Italy.  Pork products are a way of life here.  I never knew there were so many types of ham.

- The pasta aisle at the supermarket is huge.

- After living in Italy, the DMV in the US is fast and efficient.

- You can pay bills, bank, and cash pension checks at the post office.  Oh, and you can send mail as well.

- Grappa is like moonshine.  Its considered a digestive after dinner drink.  Thats probably because it burns anything it touches!

- Great Mexican food does not exist in Italy.

- Great Chinese and Thai food does exist in Italy.

- When driving, the rules of the road are really only suggestions.  I rarely look at the speedometer anymore.  You drive and go with the flow.  Thats how it should be and I'm really going to miss it.  I read that most Expats who move back to the US end up getting a speeding ticket within 6 months.

- Italian pizza is one of the greatest foods ever!!

- The first floor is not the ground floor, its the next one up.  The ground floor is Terra (ground).  The basement is Sotto Terra, (below ground).

- Buon Giorno (good day) is the correct way to say hello to a stranger.  Ciao is for friends.  Salve is a greeting for people you see all the time, but you are not friends.  Ciao is almost always used with children.  Children are loved by Italians.

- If you are an American 9 year old and you speak Italian, people love you, kiss you and give you free things from their shops.

- Football is not the same as in the US.  In Italy its called 'calcio' and its huge.  Everyone has a favorite team.  Everyone seems to play the game for fun.  We have 28 channels of it on our TV and there are matches showing almost daily!

- Its not uncommon to see a Ferrari or two drive by on most days.  Lamborgini's are a little more rare, but I still see them once in awhile.  Porshes are everywhere.

- Italian businesses are not as internet and website savvy as American businesses.

 - In Italy, quality of food is more important than quantity.

- Freshly grated parmigiana is far better than the shaker can stuff.

- When eating out, order a nice glass of wine.  It's worth the extra money compared to the 'house' wine.  Life is too short to drink bad wine.

- Fiat 500's must be the hottest selling cars in Italy.

- If an Italian has a chicken, they will choose to eat it today rather than wait for eggs tomorrow.

- Turning right on a red light is illegal, and one of the few laws that are respected.

- Roundabouts / traffic circles are the best. I am not looking forward to stoplights at every intersection.

- The Catholic church must be one of the richest organizations on earth - churches/cathedrals, art, ancient artifacts, the list goes on.

- Some still think the north and the south of Italy should be two separate countries, and many Sicilians think they should be independent.  There is a saying in the north, "The north works so the south can play."

- Dogs are little in Italy.  Since many people live in apartments, they seem to have tiny dogs.

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