Friday, May 11

An Expat Roster - Why Italians think we're Strange...

In Italy, foreigners are called stranieri. And the word for 'strange' is 'strano', so, much like English-speakers refer to immigrants as 'aliens', it's no wonder that in Italy, we're truly the out-of-town 'strangers'.  For anyone living anywhere abroad, our different ways of approaching pretty much everything than the locals becomes a real-life Twilight Zone for any observer.  It's a wonderful mix which always makes you wonder how life was back in ancient Rome, when people flocked to Rome from across the entire Empire.
So I was tickled pink to come across this terrific posting by a relatively new blogger (who takes breathtaking photos around her Italy), listing 10 Reasons Why Italians Think I'm Weird.  Here is Michelle's post below, but click on her link to get more from Michelle in Torino:

Why Italians Think I’m Weird

The intermingling of people from different cultures is bound to result in some raised eyebrows. Italians do some things that seem strange to me, and it works the other way around as well. Here are ten reasons why Italians think I’m weird:

1. I eat potato skins and the skins of fruits (apples, pears, etc.) Seriously. I’ve been met with horror-struck stares as I bring a forkful of with-skin potatoes to my mouth, spurring the starer to blurt out “It still has the skin on!” to try and save me from culinary disaster. It’s called fiber, people!
2. I eat risotto and pasta with a spoon instead of with a fork.
3. I don’t like or drink coffee. I’ve yet to meet an Italian who isn’t shocked by this revelation. Once in Salerno when I declined a coffee after dinner, my host’s sister remarked, “Tu non prendi caffè?” Questo è grave!” (You don’t drink coffee? This is serious!)
4. I like to walk around the house in just my socks, instead of wearing house shoes too. This comes from growing up in houses with rugs. I haven’t yet seen a carpet grace the floors of an Italian apartment.
5. I never saw the movie Rocky until I came to Italy. They’re crazy about him here.
6. I tend to forget and refer to black tea, green tea, raspberry tea, fennel seed tea, etc. all with the name té (tea.) People adamantly correct me, since herbal teas have another name (tisana) and the two cannot be (gasp!) lumped into the same group.
7. I’ve asked people for their sauce recipe after eating a tasty tomato sauce with pasta. This resulted in a combination of pitying looks mixed with poorly-disguised laughter. “There is no recipe!” they insist, but what they’re really thinking is, “this poor foreigner needs a road map in order to throw together oil, garlic, tomatoes, and basil!” Apparently, Italian babies are born with red sauce-making knowledge running through their veins.
8. Sometimes I cook pasta or eat dinner leftovers for breakfast.
9. I usually just drink water (also see #3.)
10. I want to live in Italy.
And while I won't eat dinner leftovers for breakfast, some of my own eyebrow-raising traits include:  
  • I laugh heartily in public
  • I don't pack bathrobes in my suitcase
  • I used to rollerblade -- and used all the padding I could put on (trust me, a 40-something on skates is a sight to see, but one decked out in a helmet, etc. is about as alien as one could get).
  • I put cheese on my salad (which I also like to eat with the meal, when I have the choice - seeing that I have given up on before the meal)...
If you're an expat, what are yours?


jacques said...

- I will dare to drink milk - cold no less (!?!) - with food that is not breakfast cookies;
- I don't eat any breakfast (unless i am travelling and have breakfast in a very good pastry shop) and only drink coffee (sometimes, with the pastry, a cappuccino);
- I dare to take a shower within three hours after eating a meal, and still haven't died of a blocked intestine.

Dave514 said...

Well, eating pasta with a spoon even here in the US marks you as a contadina! It's like eating peas with a knife! Well, I suppose here in the US you've got to excuse it, most Italians here are from Bari, Calabria, Naples, or Sicily. You know they're really all Sicilian...remember your Italian history...right.

elyssabernard said...

I drink more than one glass of wine, and sometimes not as part of a meal (for my Italian friends, this makes their head spin, or makes them fall asleep, or both.)

I use air-conditioning, even to sleep with.

I bake with peanut butter (my Italian friends often find this curious but they do seem to love it!)

Dave514 said...

I have to add a country that pronounces the word Brusssshetta and the words panecot and provalon...must also contadini.

I suppose it would be too too much to hope for Americans to speak any language including their own half way decently.


Kay said...

I'm a barefoot Kiwi... or would be, except for the hard tiles and things that bite.

I too laugh out loud, eat with a buona forchetta(instead of pushing my food around the plate pretending to eat), have a second glass of wine on occasion, and I choose to live here when I could be in New Zealand. (I have yet to meet an Italian who can understand THAT!)

The fact that I am an artist helps me to "get away with" my casual sporty dress, lack of make-up, and refusal to play the mating game.

It's a privileged life, even if I do occasionally drink "aqua sporca" and suffer the comments that go with such a habit... espresso is great, but so tiny that it is merely a tease!

'Twas great to meet you on Saturday, I'm sorry I had to leave as soon as the presentations were over. Next time...

Irreverent Italy said...

love these!
and, Kay, it was great meeting you too!!!

I like your makeup comment -- I walk my dog in the early hours of the morning, in any manner of pajamas-cum-clothing -- I just can't bring it in me to put on the full monty just to take my dog out & clean up his poop!

a presto (spero) --

Dana said...

I allow my child to run about in shorts and short-sleeved shirts when others are still bundled. On the same note, I don't always have a hat on her head. If she is cold, she will let me know! :)

Dana said...

The comment about the hat refers to the winter, of course :)

Joanna said...

Seconding the no makeup one. I never wore makeup in England unless it was a special occasion, now I'm too paranoid to go to the supermarket without it.

I dress according to the temperature, not what month it says on the calendar. In September when I arrived it was 30+ every day and I was in maxi dressed while the Italians were in jeans and pashminas. It was 28 degrees in May and I went out in just a T-shirt and six different people asked if I was cold.

Linked to this, I don't wear outerwear enough to please the Milanese. For them winter is a puffa jacket like I'd wear to the Arctic, for me it's a parka. For Autumn/Spring they're glued to their quilted leather jackets while I'm in a cardigan. In summer, I'm bare armed and they're in cardigans.