Tuesday, December 11

Cross-Cultural (mis) Connections

This past weekend, I had made ‘plans’ with two different friends, one American, one Italian. Needless to say, I ended up having a terrific time with the American, I’ve yet to hear hide nor hair of the Italian. Although I love my Italian friends dearly, and have many many of them, problem is, this happens all the time.

It all began last week, Monday. I heard from both*. Alessandra was coming to Rome and could we get together? Cathy, asked if we could have a movie night. I spoke briefly with Cathy…how does Friday nite look to you? Great. End of story.

The odyssey of Alessandra was just beginning, but, I am well-prepped for the rigamaroll… In Italy, it is never enough to simply ‘make a date’. First, you must confirm it weeks in advance. After which, you must be prepared to reconfirm the confirmation each day up until the actual event. Throughout this time, the other party will begin the horse trading as your date, like stop signs, doctor's visits and deliveries is merely a suggestion. She will offer new options, include more people (or less), change the hours, day, and entire plan altogether.

If you don’t call to reconfirm, the date is on, or, it’s off. I once exchanged a dozen text messages with a girlfriend after I proposed seeing an English-language movie at 8pm (she said great!). At that point, she set out offering me nine other options. Ultimately, she went to an Italian flick with three other girlfriends at 10pm. I ended up watching the movie I had originally intended to see.

If instead, all goes smoothly, the day of the event it’s a total crap shoot whether you will, indeed, be having an outing with your buddy. If you (the foolish American) did not reconfirm the umpteen prior confirmations, all bets are off. If instead you do call to confirm, you have provided the perfect opening to get dissed.

For it is at that precise moment that your pal will let you know if they’ve received a better offer in the meantime: usually using a phrase which begins with “Not feeling very well”, Italian code for “I don’t feel like it.”

If you call at the prescribed time to query the whereabouts of your party (as they are significantly absent), you are met with a perfunctory “Ahhh…come? Non ci siamo capiti”, the most hated words in the entire Italian language.

What they say is, “We didn’t understand eachother”, a perfect misunderstanding, if you will. What it truly means to me is, 'one of us understood perfectly, and it obviously ain’t you!' To Italians, it’s bella figura -speak for, “I got a better deal.”

Just as they drive down the white medians to hedge their bets on the highway, this practice is put into place on many many levels. So, I offer this to you, because after all, forewarned is forearmed.

As for Cathy, I showed up directly Friday night, no confirmation necessary. I was welcomed with open arms, pizza & brownies. I still haven’t heard from Alessandra.

*names have been changed to protect the innocent


Anonymous said...

I would leave a comment but "non mi sento tanto bene, sai, il fegato..........." Ci siamo capiti?
tee hee. You have captured it perfectly!

Anonymous said...

kudos to cathy--and everyone else who can make a plan (a week in advance) and stick to you!