Italy is a beautiful country, however, after living here for just over three weeks, I’m beginning to see Italy as it really is – a country with pros and cons just like everywhere else. That said, aside from the wonderful food, landscapes and climate, there’s a lot we Brits can learn from the Italian way of life…
1) Be proud of where you come from.
I won’t even try to count the number of conversations I’ve had with Italians about their hometowns. They all have names for where they come from – just like we use ‘scouse’ for people from Liverpool – however, they have names for every little village or town. When one guy started speaking in his town’s dialect, the others had to ask him to translate. I just can’t imagine going from Exeter to Topsham and not being able to understand a local from Topsham. Equally, every area has it’s own unique traditions – its own local food, celebrations, historical stories.
I love the way each person lights up when they start talking about their hometown, and how they are so proud of where they come from. It made me realise how we should celebrate our own local histories and specialities more. There may not be as many differences from region to region on our beloved island, but there are still some, and we should showcase them with pride! Personally, I’ve never felt more English. I talk with pride about my love of scrambled eggs in the morning, 10 cups of tea a day and Dairy Milk.
2) Socialising in the evening doesn’t have to mean getting absolutely wasted.
For students in England, going out at university generally means going out clubbing, which generally equates to dancing and thus having to get sufficiently drunk enough to dance without a care. And, therefore, downing a lot of alcohol in a short space of time. Now I know this is a big generalisation and a lot of people socialise in other ways – some will prefer to go to the pub for a few beers or watch Bake Off together.
But this year, I’m quite enjoying the European style of socialising. At 11pm all students congregate in the piazzas and bars, chat, have a few beers, a cigarette (or fifty), and pass away some hours together outside. Ok, I admit, better weather allows this ‘piazza culture’, however, even in the colder temperatures we’re still sitting outside in coats and jackets and the piazzas are still buzzing. Maybe we should start this kind of trend in Exeter – drinks outside the forum?
3) Support and encourage local festivities and events.
Every festival there has been – the good and the bad – here in Arezzo, they have always attracted a huge number of people. Young and old, everyone gets involved and sees what’s going on. The more events they support, the more there will be. So far I’ve been to a street food market, a pizza in piazza event, a horse festival (a very random show with people simply riding on horses to very dramatic music), and a big antique market they hold every two weeks.
Living in a house in the old town I witnessed a tongue-in-cheek ‘fight’ between the winning quartier and their defeated neighbouring quartier. Boys and men from the ages of 10 to 50 had a hilarious scuffle involving the jousting lance outside my window. But in all seriousness, Italians have made me realise how I want to grasp every opportunity to be sociable, and get to know everyone in the community as they do here.
4) Drink Espressos.
I’ve been converted to the belief that an espresso = a coffee, and black coffee = “acqua sporca” (dirty water). Yes, it feels very strong to us at first, but you adapt, and once you’ve adapted to that warm, bitter, fantastic taste, you will never turn back. The kitchen is always filled with the smell of coffee bubbling away in the morning and it slowly lures me out of bed.
Also, the coffee is so much cheaper here. I never want to pay Costa or Cafe Nero prices again. A cappuccino is 1.10 euros, which equates to less than £1. This way, everyone can afford a coffee a day and I love that. I love the cafe culture in Italy. I can read the morning paper for free, sit and relax a bit before work, and bump into loads of local people. Many friendships have begun from chatting in cafes this year.
5) Have a strong sense of what is “corretto”, “correct”, and what is “maleducato”, “rude”.
It’s important to be polite, friendly and courteous here, as it is in England, but perhaps they take it a step further. People seem to be more laid back about things such as money. After a night out in England, sometimes money matters can become awkward – “you owe me for that drink” or “I paid for your entry”. There’s more of a trust here that I admire – “here you go, here’s a drink”, and then I’ll buy the next drink for them. “Want to come round for lunch?” The next day I cook lunch for them. There’s a sense of fairness here. You help me and I help you.
6) Don’t be ashamed to show you love your family.
Family is really important in Italy, as it is for us of course, yet they seem a lot less ashamed to show it. How many 22 year old guys I’ve heard answer the phone with “ciao mamma” and have their friends not bat an eyelid as he says how much he misses her has been so refreshing. One guy’s dad calls him every time he is out with his friends and he would never dream of not answering.
So there we have it. A few lessons I’ve learnt so far from my time in Italy that I think are really valuable and we should perhaps try to translate into our own culture. Organisation definitely isn’t their strong point, but knowing how to live life well with their friends and family certainly is.bookmark me