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French and Russian undergraduate student, trying my hand at the real world.

Wednesday, 17 July 2013

Cultural observations Part 3: The Italians

So the third part of this series of blogs is on the Italians.

We travelled to Italy by ferry from Patras to Bari, which unfortunately was not the best first impression we could have got of Italy. No one goes to Bari expecting a whirlwind of culture, it is the Dover of Italy. Our ferry was delayed by four hours, so we had to wait another four before we were able to move on to our next destination, Naples. (Which I loved, by the way. I think it's my favourite Italian city).

We were lucky enough to spend an entire week there, which was an ideal amount of time to really take in this enigmatic culture. I came to the conclusion that the Italians are immensely laid back people, but not so much as the Greeks. I will confess that my views about the Italians are a little less established, by which I mean I lack a proper cultural portrait of them in my head. Perhaps this is because I have found them to be quite reserved people, but perhaps also because Italy was so filled with Americans. I'll be honest, this did lower my enjoyment of the place, as some Americans have a rather low view of any country that is not America. "Oh my god, does no one round here speak English?"...

Actually I have a rather good anecdote about that one. I am not very good at delivering anecdotes and maintaining their humour, but I'll give it a go.

Armerican woman outside museum in Rome, looking at the audioguides.

"Hey Bryan? Bryan? They have the walkie talkies in English, but not American..."


There are a number of cliches and stereotypes associated with the Italians, some of which are more accurate than others. They do talk a lot with their hands, but one thing I noticed was that their faces are almost deadpan when they talk; all the expression is in the hands. My Italian friend once told me that the way to spot a foreigner from a mile off is their inability to do this as fluidly as a native Italian.

Apparently every grandmother in Italy has her own sauce recipe. I absolutely wish this was true, though I am sure there are plenty of cheaters out there. What I love though is that the Italians are not afraid of food. Real food. Bread. Pasta. There are English and American women collectively hyperventilating as soon as they so much as read those words. "But b-b-b-but what about the carbohydrates?!".

Have you *seen* an overweight Italian under the age of 35? I think it's about time we bucked up our ideas over here and stopped eating so much in between meals and instead ate better food at actual meal times. I ate Italian sized portions of carbohydrates, everyone, and I did not gain so much as 100 grammes! I am fed up with people (Women in London especially), who claim to be eating "only Goji berries on a Thursday because they have, like all these antioxidants and like yah... Oh, look its time for my wheatgrass smoothie and polenta salad. I'm like totes gluten free these days - just like all my Pandora and Cosmina..." . How utterly insufferable.

So, then. Pasta. Wild boar pappardelle. Real tagliatelle bolognese - eaten in Bologna of course. Why on earth would anyone willingly succumb to stupid diet fads?

I loved Italy, but goodness knows they could make their trains run on time. I guess you have to be as relaxed as the people are when you have such an inefficient public transport system.

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