I know this year I haven't been posting as frequently as I would have liked but between January exams and work I just got lost in a bubble and I am only just starting to resurface. I frequently get writer's block when I am so wrapped up in the daily trivialities life puts in front of you but I also didn't want to write a shitty post just for the sake of it, so I took time off to gather my thoughts.
I haven't done a post like this before so I figured it would be kind of fun. A comparative study if you will.
Living in Venice is equal parts funny and tragic and the best of times. One of the hardest things to wrap my head about it the blatant cultural differences that occur on a daily basis here These are some which cut me deep.
1. Coffee Culture.
We all know Italians take their coffee seriously. But, what many of us foreigners didn't know is that coffee is a quick thing here. Brewed in the mornings from a Moka or coffee machine as they translate it. (A small metal kettle which sits on a stove) coffee is the way to start breakfast here and a cappuccino may only be drunk for breakfast. Afterwards, the only tolerated drinks are Espresso, Lungo (An Americano to us foreign heathens), and Macchiato.
The first time someone invited me for coffee here I was so overjoyed. I was sure we could become best friends over a nice hot drink in a chill coffee shop and share our hobbies and a bit of gossip over a brew, what they don't tell you is that a mere two minutes later after having downed their one tiny cup of espresso an Italian will wave goodbye and say see you later. So much for coffee culture. I thought sulkily after an innumerable amount of these experiences. Coffee shop bonding is a remnant of American culture dragged over to the UK where we would spend hours in a coffee shop working and or chatting to our friends. Not a hastily spared 3 minute outing to a tiny bar across the street with no chairs.
2. Hand gestures with actual meanings
Us Brits are no stranger to gesticulation but, not everyone is aware that each Italian hand gesture has a very specific meaning and it is possible to have entire conversations in hand gestures alone. For example, to poke your finger into your cheek and move it from side-to-side indicates you think a particular dish is delicious, To move your hand across in front of you, palm facing downwards indicates the conversation, or thing, is over. (feel free to help me describe these better if you can). I have unwittingly had many conversations with Italians where my simple mimicry of their gestures are interpreted as actual sentences.
Note to the public: Don't do any hand gestures in Italy unless you are 100% sure what they could possibly mean. (You don't want to tell the kind old lady at the supermarket to fuck off by mistake).
3. Language difference.
This one is for the linguists out there. When learning Korean, I used to pay close attention to the mistakes my friends used to make when speaking English because often it is a strong indicator of grammar patterns in their own language. One key difference I have noticed in Italian are verbs being used differently.
For example, a common Italian/English phrase is to take or do breakfast. Whereas in English we 'have' breakfast. (italian: Ho fatto colazione stamattina) the concept of doing and having is entirely different between Italian and English. Italians even translate sex as something you 'do' rather than something you 'have'.
Another language difference, ever present in Latin languages is the masculine, feminine, singular and plural forms. Though very similar to Japanese, Italian gender is also determined by the speaker as well as the object. I'm constantly rebuked for referring to myself using the masculine forms of words. And remembering all of the changes with the articles seems nearly impossible.
4. Drinking outside in the freezing cold (Venetian)
This is a very Venetian thing to do. Why oh why in the middle of December or January would you ENJOY standing OUTSIDE of a bar with a cold glass of Spritz or Prosecco in your hands. The temperature is pushing the minuses and Venetians can still be found outside merrily chatting and singing away as they enjoy their cocktails late into the night. Staying inside the warm cozy bar is simply not done here. You take your Spritz outside as is the Venetian way. Can anyone explain to me why this is? I am always cold. Can't we go indoors?
5. Food being objective not subjective.
Finally, the last thing here that baffles me is how food culture is spoken about here in Italy. Food is seen as an objective thing. Good food is Italian food, and food rules must not be broken otherwise, the dish will cease to be categorised as 'good food'. But I am from London, England. I like innovative food. I like food that breaks rules. I like that Koreans mix spicy food with cheese. I like that Carbonara can go with 불닭볶음면 (fire noodles), I like California rolls even though it isn't really sushi. I like fusion dishes. I like to put cheese in seafood pasta. Sometimes my pasta isn't served 'al dente'. Perhaps that's why my favourite pasta dish Spaghetti alla puttanesca, it's a pasta dish which allows some flexibility for you to throw in whatever you can find. I find it quite stifling that breaking a food rule in Italy is akin to a cardinal sin.
And why don't y'all butter your bread!
Finally don't forget if you head to Italy a pepperoni is a pepper. The meat as we know it needs to be referred to as Salami at all times. Or Italians won't understand.
Did I miss anything? What else baffles foreigners here when it comes to Italian culture?