Wednesday, September 5

Home from the Holidays

Last week marked the return from holidays for a number of Italians, with ‘business as usual’ starting today. A friend from Milano came down to Rome to conduct some urgent business in what, for many Romans, was their first day back from holiday (notice, I didn’t say ‘back to work’). He was there for an American client, who, with their 2 week vacations (aka 10 days + a few extra sick days if you can get them), didn’t quite grasp the summer holiday work stoppage.

So, down he came, pretty much one of the few guys donning business attire (and in Italy, there’s no such thing as casual Fridays) on an Indian summer day in all of Rome.
After making the presentation, briefing his colleagues thoroughly, and then going over the strategy and other details of the new project, he noticed however, that eyes were starting to gloss over. To the point that finally, he gave in, closed his book and apologized for the intrusion.

After all, the first week back from holiday isn’t a time where you check 480 emails (actually, there are probably a lot less than that, since no one else was working either), but a time where you all regroup, treat yourself and your colleagues to a nice lunch and compare tans.

Yes, Italy is still one of the last bastions of dark tans – no sunscreen. Adults and children alike. It is more than a national pastime. Tanning is a badge of honour. Whereby you declare to the world, you had Time Off and a great time at that. They’ll have none of that American martyrdom here, where people actually spend their dinner conversations and cocktail hours one-upping each other on how stressed out they are and how much they worked over the weekend or holiday. No. In Italy, the tan is the award-winning logo of the Mediterranean Quality of Life.

They love their tans so much here, I think all the tanning parlours in Italy put together must make more than Microsoft. And, by sheer force of will or the grace of God or what, the Italians also do not seem to have the cancer rates of other countries. I’m with the guys who claim it’s due to the red wine. So, just make it a good red instead of lemonade.

And so it’s true, back at the office, everyone sort of gathers together, discussing their holidays, comparing destinations, new tattoos and tans -- and slowly going about the business of Getting Back to Work.

And my friend? He told me we would see each other next week, as he’d most likely be back -- he was certain that he’d have to make the presentation all over again when people were truly ready to work -- and simply treat the entire endeavor just as a dress rehearsal.

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