There used to be a blogger near Lecce who wrote about living in Puglia but he gave up when he realised that he was starting to seemingly whinge about Italians and their traits which he actually had moved here to enjoy. It was, he thought, a problem that when you started to write you embellished a little and a quirk became something more and after 100 or so posts started to lead his friends to say how much he seemed to dislike Italy. Nothing he said could be further from the truth. After his road to Damascus moment he changed his blog to be a “good news about Puglia” style blog where he posts news stories he finds which paint Puglia favorably.
It set me to wondering what Italians think of the British and, as certainly down here in Puglia they seem unable to distinguish between accents, all English speaking peoples. I looked for blogs written by Italians from abroad in Italian but couldn’t find any but did find a few forums that started to give an insight into certainly the UK side of it.
Of course for the UK the weather seems to feature highly not so much the winters which we will return to but the idea that high summer would be spring in Italy. Then there were things like fully fitted carpets in every room and horror of horrors fitted carpets in the bathroom. Talking of bathrooms where was the bidet hiding and how do the British cope with out them ? One poor girl asked her English family at a mealtime and said the english seem to get terribly embarrassed about things ‘ down there’ and none could answer her as to how they manage without a bidet. Separate taps on washbasins was odd but rather quaint. Wall paper was considered weird especially in every room of the house
At work many said that they couldn’t get over just having a snack for lunch and having no real break for lunch. Everyone eats at their desks they moan . Most Italians said they would get back from the office starving hungry. Much longer hours were worked then they had ever done in Italy but they were better paid and felt more valued. However when they returned home starving hungry there were things they couldn’t get on with in the food department. Shepherd’s Pie is clearly a tool of torture to an Italian and they sit in awe at the amount of it consumed by flatmates. Spag Bol with soggy pasta and cheap minced beef comes a close second but to really get the forums humming lets talk about Marmite. Some seem to even know how it is made and that is so gross that the terrible taste ( as they see it) pales into insignificance.
Going out is hard work as the English have friends and resent interlopers. You don’t really get on if you don’t drink alcohol and everyone drinks as if Prohibition is about to be announced by David Cameron. Oh and dogs are more welcome in bars than children
What really they find odd though is the way people dress in winter. Schoolchildren seem to go to school with no decent warm clothing and parents should be arrested for allowing it. Dogs seem to have better coats when being taken for walks. The real shock is what girls wear or rather don’t wear in the evening. The idea of teenage girls walking about without coats or even a skimpy jumper takes the cake. Do they not know of ‘ colpo d’aria ‘ the famous Italian malady a hit of air that can cause almost death if exposed to it. There is they say not even an expression for it in the english language – how odd is that.
Many however would like to be born English next time around and are delightfully surprised to find that their British friends want to be born Italian.
Mike Hedges sent me a fun list of English expressions that mean one thing but are taken another way by all foreigners like:
‘Oh incidentally……’ which really means ‘ pay full attention the main part of our discussion is coming up’ but the foreigner takes to mean ‘ this isn’t important, switch off ‘.
or ‘ I’m sure it’s my fault’ which really means ‘ it’s your fault’ but the foreigner takes to mean ‘wow it’s his fault’
or ‘ that’s very interesting’ which really means ‘ what a load of tosh’ but is taken to mean ‘he finds what I say fascinating’.
I met an American called Bob last year when out walking ( well you would wouldn’t you on the roads of Puglia) and after some pleasant moments of conversation and as we parted I said you must pop in for a drink sometime. He being American and forthright said straight away that he didn’t socialise with expats, ever. I in turn had to to tell him that I, as an Englishman, was just being polite and would be horrified if he actually turned up one evening. We parted with a much better understanding of each other and have become friends.