Culture Shock 101 - Italian Style

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January 15th 2013
Published: January 15th 2013
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I realized today that blogging really isn't as simple as you'd like it to be! haha. I think anyone who begins a blog just imagines themselves spending a few minutes a day to jot down their thoughts and ideas.. but the reality it is sometimes it is very hard to find the time to do so!!! This is my first actual entry in Italy and yes I know, I have already been here for just over two weeks. Sigh. All I can say for myself is that I now have a whole new respect for those poor 16 & Pregnant girls haha. I guess I just had no idea how busy life would really be here, "La Dolce Vita" is a bit more of a romantic ideal than the actual lifestyle of most Italians, let me tell you. Never the less this past two weeks may have been insanely hectic but the best news of all: my paperwork and immigration, etc. is now FINALLY complete and I can say with much pride that I am officially a resident of 'La Serenissima', Venice.

So what have I learned might you ask? Hah. Now that is a question with about a thousand
Buon NataleBuon NataleBuon Natale

Apparently 2400 corks were used for this tree! Aiyiyi Mama Mia
answers. But there are definitely a few major cultural shocks that I have encountered along the way. Daily life in Italy could not literally be more different than that of fellow Canadians at home, which has been both a blessing and a bit of a tough experience to cope with. The very first thing is the disorganization that is Italian Bureaucracy.. more like Bureau-crazy! In Italy it is not just one or two steps at a particular Government building. It is signing ten pieces of paper, each being sent to a different Government office in different cities, then going to the TOBACCHO shop to buy a "tax stamp" for said papers, to go to the Post Office where they are reviewed, photocopied, stamped again. More signatures. Then off to Roma they go. Ah but you see to get a transit pass, or a mobile phone, or a residency card.. those original papers are needed. As well as several other papers. That are to be acquired at a different "office" on the other side of town. Did I mention there are no official lines? So when waiting at these offices it is important to be on high alert for people snagging

New Years Day festivities in Piazza Ferretto (main square in Mestre)
a spot ahead of you. Especially the senior citizens, bless their entitled souls hahaha.

Secondly, the Italians are very private people. The first taste of this was prior to even arriving in Italy, as the family I am living with warned me that some people would be very excited to meet me, while others think they are totally crazy for having a foreigner living with them in their home. Some welcomes were very warm, others I could tell were definitely skeptical of me. This was repeated numerously in questions such as, "she is HOW old? 22? No! Looks too young.." "She's not American is she? So Canadian, but she just speaks English?" and finally the most common question.. "She is a WHAT? An au pair? What is this, I have never heard of it?!". Yes that is right folks, I am only the second au pair ever in the Venetian region! Now try explaining that to all the government officials who curiously eyed me up as I came in to sign documents with Micky, my host dad hah. Lucky for me Micky is a very humourous, charming character and soon discovered that simply telling people I was "Mary Poppins"
Saldi, saldi, saldiSaldi, saldi, saldiSaldi, saldi, saldi

Saldi = Sales. NON-refundable Italian purchases :-)
seemed to do the trick! I am considering getting a t-shirt made for this as well. Even Canadians are very rare here, let me tell you. Many people are very curious about us Northerners, as their only experience is with Americans, and as you can imagine those aren't always the best impressions. So I am working hard to build our image here in Italy, big smile plastered on my face constantly and forcing down all the mountains of Italian 'cibo' (food) and 'dolci' (sweets) that are sent my way! Quite funny actually, the day I finally received my residency card the lady at the office almost had a small heart attack when she saw CANADA on my passport. Turns out I am the first Canadian she has ever processed, and (surprise, surprise) her 11 year old daughter is a huuuuge Justin Bieber fan. Has seen him in concert already 3 times and is headed to Bologna next month to see him again! I almost told her I was his cousin just to get her to process things faster in his honour, but she was already so excited I was afraid she would faint hahaha.

So many things I have learned in such a short time let me tell you. I think at the end of this trip I could write a 10 volume manuscript on "Moving to Italy for Dummies". There is so much to learn its unbelievable! So here are my first major points to remember when coming to Italy:
1) THERE ARE NO RETURNS HERE! For all women/shopping-addicts/anyone in general: when you purchase anything here it is automatically non-refundable, exchangeable YES. Not nooo refunds. There is some reasoning to this, thanks (as usual) to the Italian government's heavy taxation rules. Sellers are charged 20% tax immediately at the time of sale on all goods. So for their finance's sake, you cannot in any way get your money back! They are happy to exchange of course though. This was a lesson learned after I purchased things during the sale days that I thought I would just take home to try on and return.. nope. Not a chance! But of course. Now I know 😊 and now so do you!
2) As I said, Italians are very private people. Therefore it is actually seen as impolite here to excuse someone for sneezing! The idea behind this is that by saying 'Salute' (instead of Blesss You) you are actually drawing attention to the noise/embarrasment and that is a big no-no. So simply ignore it, as strange as it may seem.
3) Italians taxi cabs, are not Canadian taxi cabs. As their cost is about 10x that of our normal cabs, I guess I shouldn't have been surprise to find slick new Mercedes & BMWs rolling around the streets here
4) Men here do not approach women at the bar. No, not even a one. Instead they sit there and stare at you.. awkwardly. Very openly. The word gawking seems like a light description for this act actually. And don't ever imagine this means they will be buying you a drink either! In fact the first drink I had bought for me was by a girl my own age who spoke a little English and was so excited to meet an English speaker, she thought I deserved a Prosecco!! hahaha.
5) Bars are not bars. They are in fact 'caffe bars', open during the daytime only and serving the delicious espresso Italians are known for. But do not order yourself a latte, why? Because 'latte' is actually Italian for milk. No
Marco e PaoloMarco e PaoloMarco e Paolo

Apparently IKEA bookshelves are much more exciting than toys!
way to better stand out as a foreigner! If you would like a little milk, order an 'espresso macchiato' or for more milk opt for a delicious 'cappucino' instead. Espresso is served standing up at the bar. Drank almost like a shot. And then off for the rest of their day they go! It actually seems to me that these bars are busier in the afternoon than the morning, when business people and students alike need a little pick me up after a long and delicious lunch.
And lastly 6) The all important European double-kiss greeting! Do NOT under any circumstances hug an Italian, they will look at you like you are crazy for getting in their "personal bubble". Instead the tradition air kiss to both cheeks is seen as the proper way to greet one another. For loved ones and families a hug can be seen now and then, but only with very close members of family such as a mother and son etc. The same can be said for 'Te Amo' (I love you).. never, never, never say this to anyone except your romantic lover! And only if you are very serious. Italians don't use "I love you" commonly or as often as us Canadians. In fact even the other form, 'Ti Voglio Bene' (literally means.. "I want you well") is said very rarely and for "special occasions". Example: your child says their first word, or gets a good report card, etc. Strange I know, but I guess it means when you hear it, you know you are really loved!

Well I think that is all for now. I am off to class to further my knowledge di Italia! Now that life here is getting in to more of a routine, the parents are back at work, and the boys also in school, I am hoping to have more time to actually WRITE some blogs! But for now, ciao ciao belle!


16th January 2013

First Blog
Britt, this is seriously well written. Keep it up and you will be able to write your first travel book when you get home. I love you. Dad.

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