Business in Italy, Culture, Life in Italy

Funny things about Italy 2, and what Italy is missing

Sorry I’ve been gone for about a month but my schedule has been pretty hectic lately. The good thing is that I was able to collect some funny experiences and stories during this time. This post is about some more funny things about Italians, Italy, and my experience in their environment.

Let me start out talking about pencils again. A few posts ago I wrote about how in Italy it’s very hard to find pencils with erasers and how ironic it is that Italians sell pencils without erasers. This month I have come to realize another ironic thing about pencils. They make pencils with geometric equations on them. Literally, you can see a triangle and the equation for the triangle. Man oh man, if only I had one of those pencils in high school I would have probably done much better in math class!

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So in all honestly, I can get over the pencils, but let me tell you something that I absolutely can not get over. We all know that Italians love pasta right? I mean they eat it every single day, they are dedicated for life. They are also dedicated to cooking as we all know. Well, did you know that they also cook pasta for their dogs? Ok, not everybody…but a girl I work with was complaining one day about how she had to cook when she got home. I said “Elisa, your husband is out of town so why do you need to cook?” She said “I need to cook for the dogs, a little bit of pasta with some sauce…” Let me tell you, she stopped me dead in my tracks, I couldn’t believe it. I have heard of people who cook for their animals, but cooking pasta for them was just hilarious to me. 🙂 Later that week I was having lunch with my in-laws and told them about this. They all laughed and said that they also have pasta for babies. WOW. Can’t get enough I guess. They asked me “well what do you feed babies in America, hamburgers?” haha, ohhhh the stereotypes…NO.

I want to say one more thing about pasta that I think is adorable. If you go to an Asian restaurant you will see the normal Asian food like fried rice, miso soup, and noodles. Noodles to Italians however are just spaghetti. Noodles are actually called Spaghetti made from rice. Awwee they’re so attached 🙂

Something else funny that I must share is about teaching. Last week I was teaching a lesson to a group of adults. Part of the lesson was conversation in which we talked about hotel experiences.  Keep in mind this is a beginners class so the students in general don’t have a large vocab base. So this guy started to explain his horrible hotel experience in Cambodia. He said “I went in the room and saw a beetle juice!” I said “A beetle juice! hahahahaha” I continued to laugh really hard because you just can’t make this stuff up. Then I explained that the insect he was trying to say is roach.  It’s moments like these when I like my job 🙂

So one major element of culture shock for me is the driving. On the one hand I appreciate that I can always speed and no one cares, I can park badly and it’s the best of the worst, but on the other hand I think the whole driving society is a mess. Take a look at this gray car…

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This guy is parked there believe it or not. He is not even fairly close to the edge, nope, he is in the middle of the street. This is quite normal here, not many people double look. In fact, they double look at me when I double look, like “what are you looking at?” gosh…You won’t believe that I am required to take a drivers test here in a couple of months because my American license is not valid after a year. I find that ironic as I’m probably the most law abiding non-citizen driver that Italy will ever see in the whole region of Puglia. I wear my seatbelt, always use my signal lights, stop at stop signs, stop at red lights, let jaywalkers walk on the crosswalks instead of run them over, if I had a child I would use a child seat…and so forth-all of which most people never do. SO, why should I pay 300 euros for my European license? Tax of course, Italy is all about collecting tax.

CULTURAL DIFFERENCES

Apart from some of these funny experiences I’ve had lately, I’d like to share some cultural differences I’ve experienced. Because I’m a business visionary, I often look around to find what Italy is missing that it could profit from (in other words how I could have a monopoly where I live). I’ve noticed a list of things, all ideas that have made me consider starting a business. Some things Italy doesn’t have that are so common in America are: zip lock bags, ATMS everywhere, second hand baby/children stores, thrift stores, book stores with the same atmosphere as Barnes and Noble-sitting and relaxing for hours, or studying with free wifi, coffee shops with the idea of Starbucks-atmosphere of staying for hours to relax or study again with free wifi are among others. When you don’t have these simple things you realize how genius they really are.

Zip lock bags are pure genius…you can freeze things forever and not have freezer burn because it’s locked! In Italy the freezer bags come with old fashioned ties which do not seal very well and this is why we don’t use them anymore in the States. You can find ATMs connected to banks but you won’t often find stand alone ATMs in convenient locations. There is really no such thing as a child/baby thrift store in Italy. It’s just not their culture to buy second hand goods. The bad thing about this is that a newborn onesie with socks included can cost you 30 euros ($40), and you don’t have a choice. I hate this because I often have to buy gifts and it becomes costly to have friends with children. :-/ This is one store I have seriously thought of opening up in Italy, a second-hand, cheaper children’s clothing store. Now, Italy does have antique stores where you can also find a huge variety of used stuff-like a thrift store, but it is not the same as in the States. Thrift stores in the States are much more put together, cleaner products, with only thrift stuff and not antiques, and reliable. Here, it’s just like a junk store, and no Italian or American would ever want to buy a stroller that has been collecting dust and grime for years without knowing that it even works.

Now onto the bookstores, in the bigger cities you can find very large bookstores which have a lovely atmosphere-but nothing compares to a bookstore with a lounge, cafe, and area for children to play! I’m still looking for that niche, and have yet to find it. I would love to create a store in Italy like this, that is more of a service provider instead of just a book vender.  It’s the same story for the cafes, they pretty much all have the same product, some have wifi, but none of them have the inviting atmosphere that says “hey come and study here, organize your planner, skype with your friends, read a magazine and enjoy a cup of joe”. Cafes in Italy are more of a quick joint, in-and-outs. They are solely for conversation and coffee. The reason Italy does not have a place like Barnes and Nobles and Starbucks is that it’s not in their culture to study or do work outside of the house. People have told me that students generally study at home, people don’t have that on-the-go mentality, or the kill two birds with one stone mentality either. Why do Americans go to Barnes and Noble in between work and school? They go to these places to multi-task, Italians are not fond of multi-tasking, but instead taking it slow and enjoying every little step of life. So, my conclusion is that I would love to come up with a store like Barnes and Noble or Starbucks in Italy, but it may be culturally challenging.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this post, a little different than what I usually write about. Is there something culturally funny or shocking that has happened to you? Is there something you have noticed that is missing in Italy?

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5 thoughts on “Funny things about Italy 2, and what Italy is missing”

  1. Maybe it’s a regional thing, but I find ziplock bags with no problem here in Reggio Emilia. The local COOP has them all the time.

    If you did have a bookstore similar to Barnes and Noble, you’d most likely only have ex-pat clients – and most of them would be Americans. Some of the Feltrinelli International bookstores are going that way already, though – there’s one in Parma that’s spread out over three floors, with a bistro downstairs and some big chairs on the levels where the books and music are. So, some things are definitely changing, but a lot has to do with which part of Italy you’re living in.

    However, you’re spot-on about the resale shops! I’ve found a couple of decent things in the local “mercatino”, but by and large, there’s nothing there I’d buy. Stuff in bad shape, badly worn out or just ancient doesn’t appeal to me. Although I *am* tempted to go back and get the Coca-Cola glasses which reminded me so much of home. LOL!

    1. Hmmm, I’ve been searching for zip lock bags forever and haven’t come across anything even similar, some other people I know say the same thing, but ya maybe it’s because we’re all in the same region! Like I said, this is just my experience. About the bookstores I have to say I disagree. I think Italians are starting to become more culturally rounded and think they would like a Barnes and Noble or Starbucks idea if they tried it out. I think this because I’ve been doing little surveys to find out more about this in particular. I’ve been to the huge bookstores in Rome but they weren’t on the same level for me.

      1. If you want, when I get back from the US (I’m away for the entire summer), I could send you some zip lock bags. 🙂 I’m all for bookstores where we can lounge – believe me! LOL! It was always one of my favorite things in the US (although when I worked in the bookstores, I wasn’t as thrilled about having to clean up after messy “browsers-but-never-buyers”. If you ever get it up and running, I might have to make a special trip! 🙂

        (Any excuse will do, really.)

        I really did love the Feltrinelli shop with the dining area in it. It had both a bistro and a cafe area, so covered all sorts of ground. It also had a foodie section, with gourmet this-and-that for sale. I need to make my visits there something regular. (I miss big, browsy bookshops…)

      2. haha thanks for your zip lock bag help but I’ll be making a trip home myself in a few months so I’ll just wait! I so look forward to going to Barnes and Noble and lounging. Don’t worry, I’m not one of those loungers who doesn’t buy anything and makes a mess 🙂 I hope one day that I’ll be able to start something whether it be a bookstore or an American food store or something to mix cultures.

        Feltrinelli had a foodie section? That’s a huge plus! Cool idea

  2. I know this post is a year old but I think it depends on the region you stay in Italy you find such items. I live in Rome, I can find ziplock bags , a couple second hand stores ( which is still a very new concept here) and a lounge/ cafe bookstore. Feltrinelli has something yet it is not the same. If you want a more local than commercialized feel I got to Ostinense area and it’s so great! They have many places that I have spent endless hours doing work, listening to music and I don’t come out smelling of coffee.

    The thing I struggle with finding is peanut butter…O how I miss peanut butter. You would think that Rome would have it being a tourist mecca yet not really. I found a Netherlands brand once and since that time no more. 😦 The search continues….
    I like your blog.

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