Today I want to tackle your questions about living in Italy full-time. To be honest I haven’t been asked many questions so I got my virtual and real Facebook friends to send me some random ones, which I’ll answer below.
Maryann asks: How is the plumbing and the water?
Well, the average Italian bathroom is made up of a strange contraption called a bidet, which is parked beside the toilet, not it’s not an alternative place to do your business but rather a spot to sit and wash your intimate bits. You can also close the bidet’s plug to wash your smelly feet after a day of sightseeing or do a rinse of dirty socks or underwear, quite versatile really!
In private homes the hot water system is usually manually turned off and on as required. This is a money-saving device as electricity is so expensive in Italy (which is also partly the reason for the lack of air conditioning along with the fact Italians think cold air can make them sick, but this is a whole other topic to explore!) So you need to think at least twenty minutes to half an hour ahead before you want a shower, unless you don’t mind cold water.
You will find the water pressure totally piss weak compared to the U.S or Australian standards, so try to do one thing at a time, either wash your hair or give yourself a shower as you won’t be able to rinse well.
The drinking water here is awesome and there is plenty of it! Water restrictions and filters don’t need to exist here and in most major cities there are public water fountains overflowing with mountain spring water which are regularly controlled by the local authorities. Yes, you can even drink from a tap at the Trevi fountain, obviously it doesn’t come from where all the coins are thrown but it is from the clean source which comes from the original roman aqueduct.
It is an excellent sign when you see locals waiting in line with their water bottles in hand, it’s like drinking Evian, but it’s free!
Sharon asks me: Do you think in English or Italian?
Well, I obstinately think in English, simply because I read it and write it so much.
I quickly translate into Italian in my own head, I’ve been doing it for so long that it’s pretty much instantaneous.
I sometimes dream 50/50 Italian and English.
When my brain isn’t working I’ll accidentally slip in an English word or do something silly like pronounce an Italian word with a particularly heavy Australian accent which gets me some puzzled looks.
Why not check out our expat blogging group C.O.S.I’s last post about what it’s really like to learn Italian in Italy. See Tongue tied in Italy for more insights.
Michelle asks: Do you have pasta for lunch and dinner?
It’s true Italians love pasta and I think Sicilians would love to have it for breakfast, lunch and dinner if they could. I have overdosed on pasta and try to avoid it but the locals usually do have pasta at least once a day.
They are also big on bread. As if the pasta doesn’t make you gain weight, the bread will! After a plate of pasta there is usually a second course of either meat or salad in the summer and don’t get me started on their roasted vegetables usually conserved in extra virgin olive oil, their predilection for all things fried and cold cut meats!
Yes, my waistline has been gradually let out through the years.
Jason asks: Do all Italian men exude romantic charm?
Well, what a surprising question, coming from a guy too!?!?
I’m sure the majority of Italian men believe they are romantic and charming. But girls keep in mind Italian men are extremely sleazy, their ‘romantic charm’ is all an act to try and charm your pants off. Now there’s nothing wrong with that if that’s all you want, just don’t think you’ve found the love of your life or expect to be taken home to meet the family. If you want an Italian husband be prepared and expect a long hard road to be excepted into the family!
My Sicilian husband is quite shy and reserved and he doesn’t have a romantic bone in his body (we have a rule, if he wants to buy me a gift I have to be there to choose it or else he will get something I don’t like!) I guess I got ripped off with the whole ‘romantic charm’ quota, but at least I can trust him and he stands out from all those other Italian peacocks!
Aron asks: What are the biggest differences between here (Australia) and Italy?
Wow! Now that’s a huge question and I’m constantly making comparisons between my native Australia and Italy. It’s kind of tricky as over the past decade the Australia I fondly remember has changed a lot, it isn’t as relaxed as I recall it, Oz too is going through the same economic crisis as Europe and it has become a terribly expensive place to live amongst other things (which is yet another topic to explore!)
The biggest difference comes from the very distinct cultures, a general topic which trickles down to form the many bumps and pot holes in the road of expat adventures in Italy. The constant culture shock between Italy and Anglo-Saxon expats makes everyone around you think differently, behave bizarrely and confuse the hell out of you constantly.
One real shock for expats and visitors from outside of Europe is the discovery that Italy is a living breathing museum. Like the rest of Europe, Italy is a place where people have lived since prehistoric times and where history and people have left behind their junk. If you dig a deep hole in Sicily you will probably find pieces of Greek ceramics, Roman coins and Etruscan tombs. There are many stories of construction workers or farmers digging around who have discovered complete Roman villas and valuable archeological sites by mistake. The Roman villa filled with the best preserved mosaics from the late roman empire in the whole world at Piazza Armerina near Enna, Sicily was buried under twenty meters of earth, local farmers had been cultivating crops on top of it for generations without knowing anything about its existence.
Those are the end of the questions I received but here are ten more funny and infuriating cultural differences off the top of my head which I’d like to dedicate to anyone thinking about moving to Italy:
1) Italian’s don’t walk around without shoes, they take it as a sign of poverty/barbarism and if gals take off their shoes in the front of a guy it will be taken as a sign you want to have sex!
2) Italian’s are superficial, appearance is vital to them. They never do their shopping in a track suit and sneakers with morning hair. I’ve seen women do their grocery shopping in high heels, sequins and freshly dressed hair!
3) Food is a religion in Italy. Don’t you dare overcook the pasta or else you will be ostracized. It’s ‘al dente’ or die of shame. Stick to the cooking time on the pack!
4) Italy can be as dirty as a teenagers bedroom floor, recycling is a new concept and many Italian’s are used to other people cleaning up after them, which is never the case in the real world.
5) Italian hospitals are scary places, avoid them if you can.
6) Customer service is a foreign concept in Italy, as is politeness along with the words ‘please’ and ‘thank you’. You will be pushed aside on trains, others will jump the queue in front of you, doors will be slammed in your face and bank tellers will pretend you don’t exist and close as you reach the teller.
7) It is still fashionable and socially normal to smoke in Italy so you will have to put up with smokers puffing in pubs, restaurants, bars and people polluting your house and car.
8) Italian’s aren’t into sport as a pass time (of course there are always exceptions to this, especially when it comes to soccer or cycling.) So you won’t see many sports activities or clubs happening on the weekends.
9) Italian bureaucracy features heavily in Dante’s Inferno.
10) As of 2020 the act of breathing will be taxed in Italy.
5 thoughts on “Quirky questions about life in Italy”
I appreciate your observations and forthright responses. Life in Sicily seems to be relatively similar to many non-suburban and rural cultures, even in the U.S. There is culture shock between affluent suburban and rural life anywhere.
But when you talk about pasta…. when I was 12 my Sicilian grandfather from Prizzi, who had been in the U.S. for 60 years, came to live with us for six months. We had pasta with every meal and many times it was the meal. To this day, I still love pasta and can eat it at any time, in spite of health conditions that say I should not. Keep up the good work!
Thanks for your comment. Yes life in Sicily is pretty much like rural life in many places all over the world, I see many similarities with rural Australia and Ireland too! Small town ‘anywhere’ is a similar animal!
Yes, I agree with your attitude to pasta, there is something special about it, I can’t live without it, everyday is a little dull but it is so versatile you can prepare it differently everytime. I have also been converted to the ‘al dente’ club, I hate overcooked pasta!
I’ll do my best to keep things interesting! Cheers to you.
Perhaps Sicily is a bit different from the north, but I have found that smokers have been pretty good at going outside to smoke. I didn’t think it would happen, but have been pleasantly surprised.
Recycling is also well entrenched where I live and the streets are pretty clean. I recall 40 years ago when out walking with my ex family near Sorrento they would throw their ice cream wrappers on the ground and I would rush to pick them up. They didn’t understand this and when I explained that we would be fined for throwing rubbish on the ground, they replied that Australia was a wealthy country and we could afford to pay the fines!
Customer service is either fabulous or appalling in Italy. There is definitely room for improvement here.
I agree with you about the water, it is great, so why do so many Italians buy bottled water?
Italy will always be a puzzle to non Italians.
Yes, I find Sicily is often very different from other parts of Italy. Perhaps I need to qualify this in this post, that I am talking about this strange little island who dances to it’s own kinda music in respect to the rest of Italy. In regards to smoking I assume it depends on manners, I’ve had some bad experiences with my husbands family but you are right most people ask if they can smoke. There is also a big push for recycling here in Sicily so I hope this will help change people’s attitude.
Yes isn’t it strange how people buy their water here, there is no need and if they saw how those bottles are kept for days and days in the hot sun before they are delivered to the shops, no one would buy bottled water again! It’s a bit of a trend for now and for some reason people are convinced bottled is best! Yes! Italy is a puzzle, I don’t get it at all!!
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