Sunday, August 24, 2008

More stateside observations....

Yowsa...I can't believe it's been a whole month since my last entry. We're getting into the swing of things, and just when I think I'm getting used to the whole American thing, something crops up that surprises the Italian in me. Here we go with three more Americanisms:

1. We bought a car--on a Sunday. If you're American, you're probably wondering why this is on my list. If you're Italian, you're thinking that the word "Sunday" must be a typo.

In Italy, you'd be hard-pressed to buy a liter of milk on a Sunday. Well, you could, but you'd have to go out of your way to one of the larger grocery store chains, because everything else is closed.

But a car?? That's right. We saw it on the Internet at a car dealer, called Friday night, went to see it on Saturday, liked it, made a deal, returned on Sunday to sign the paperwork and drive our new car home. Just like that. And did I mention it was a Sunday?

2. Walk-in freezer--I've heard of these things, but had never been in one until I went to Shopper's Food Warehouse the other week. I was stuck in the cereal aisle with my indecisive kids (why can't they make up their minds? There are only 246 kinds to choose from...) while my husband went to pick up some beer. He couldn't find it, so we headed off together. We finally found it--in a walk-in freezer the size of a 7-11 store, I swear. My (Italian) husband opened the door, stuck one foot inside, withdrew his foot, closed the door, and said: "I'm not going in there. It's freezing!"

If you're new to this blog, or Italian culture in general, you might not know that Italians don't like cold (or even cool) breezes blowing on them-especially on their neck. Over the door to this freezer was a machine that was spewing Arctic air on anyone who dared enter this beer tundra. So I left my husband standing there with the kids and braved my way through the doors. Before the door shut, I heard my daughter say, "I want to go with Mommy!" I turned back to see my husband grasp her hand and shake his head, then look at me like I was going off to Siberia. I got the beer, then headed back into the slightly less-frigid air-conditioned store. And I didn't even catch pneumonia.

If the Italian government wants to put an end to alcoholism in Italy, all they have to do is install one of these walk-in-freezers wherever alcohol is sold. No one would enter. I'm not kidding.

3. I know I've spoken of waiting-in-line etiquette before, but I was still surprised the other day when I was in line at the grocery store, and a cashier opened up a new line right next to mine. I was third in line, with two people behind me. I was ready for the mad dash, but when I turned to the newly-opened line, no one was there yet.

"Just my luck!" I thought. "No one else heard the cashier say the line was open!"

As I glanced at the person behind me to size up my competition before sprinting away, the lady behind me said: "Please, go right ahead."

All the sprint wooshed out of me. "Are you sure?" I said.

"Of course," she replied. "You're ahead of me." And she was right. I was ahead of her.

In Italy, I would have had my toes run over by the cart-pushers mowing me over from behind.

Here in America, grocery shoppers' toes are safe. Just watch out for those walk-in-freezers.


Romerican said...

Sigh!!! Yeah, you know you're not in Italy when people are civil and orderly in lines... I've tried in vain (obviously) to control the stampede of Italians running to a newly opened register but my words were lost as people trampled and rolled over anything and anybody in sight. What always annoys me is why the cashier doesn't try to instill order.
Go stand in some neat lines for all of us ex-pats here in Italy ;)

Anonymous said...

Glad to see you back!

Danette V.

Lillian said...

Natalie, I enjoyed your current entry. I know you must be very busy adjusting to life in the US but I hope you will continue with your interesting, fun, and delightful blog.
Welcome back!


Barbara Y said...

You're lucky to be wherever you are. Here in Illinois (or at least in the Chicago area) you can't buy a car from a dealer on Sunday. The auto dealers pushed through a law that requires them all to be closed on Sundays, so that they get a day off. Without this law, some dealers would stay open and steal business from the ones who wanted to be closed. When I was a kid, you couldn't buy meat in the supermarket on Sundays, because the butchers wanted the day off and had a powerful union. Even though the supermarket was open, you couldn't even buy already cut and packaged meat. You still can't buy alcoholic beverages before noon on Sunday here; you're supposed to be in church, not drinking (no matter if your religion doesn't have services on Sunday mornings).

Luisa from Toronto, Canada said...

What is it with Italians and air conditioning? I went to Israel with a group from Bari, Italy (I was 1 of 2 Canadians)this summer. It must have been 40 degrees Celsius. I was dying but looked forward to the bus because it was air conditioned....until the Italians complained it was too cold on the bus and told the driver to SHUT OFF the a/c! One lady held her sweater over her mouth so as not to inhale the cold air. I was sweating buckets and tried to over extend my neck to feel the breeze coming from the driver's window.
Did you ever have issues with 'giro d'aria' with the Italians? I've never understood that either....I welcome it--doesn't air need to circulate?
One more issue from my trip...our hotels in Israel had no BIDET! Scandalous! The Italians were totally thrown off!

Raffaella said...

That's right!

The "giro d'aria" is the main concern for every Italian (GOOD!)mother. Perhaps, we (I am Italian) are genetically modified to live constantly around 30° Celsius without any kind of breeze.

Natalie, the idea about how to put an end to alcoholism in Italy is great! Any Italians, apart from those who have suicide insticts, would never ever enter into a walk-in-freezer. We've just escaped from the last ice age, 12.000 years ago, why take a step backward directly into a walk-in-freezer? I freeze just walking nearby the cheese and milk aisles. By the way. How many kind of milk do you have in the States? I mean: no fat, low fat, 1% fat, 2% fat, 4% fat, half & half, skimmed...

My apologies for all the Italian queue-jumpers you have met in your life. You're perfectly right about this typical Italian attitude.

I gave to my American collegues the link of the video "Italians VS. Europeans" (see some blogs ago). Perhaps now they have understood that these isn't anything personal against each of them. We (Italians) are just like that...
My American collegues are still laughing.


Natalie, un grande abbraccio a te e a tutta la tua bellissima famiglia.

Julie_c said...

You know - not EVERYONE is cool about the line thing. There are plenty of people who will jump right ahead of you. You'll see.

Glad you have a shiny new car though! :)

Ello said...

Ok I found you on the BB thread about who was on blogger so here I am! I love your blog! This had me giggling because somethings still depend on where in states you are. For example, nearly nothing is open on a Sunday in New Jersey. And try going to a department store during a major sale. You will have people snatching things out of your hands and racing you or cutting you on line.

Natalie said...

I'll think of you the next time I'm in line here, romerican. Whatever you do, just don't venture out in open-toed shoes. :-)

Thanks, Danette! :-)

Thank you Lillian! It is an adjustment, but we're settling in bit by bit. Thanks for your kind words.

Hi Barbara--I remember living in Texas and having the Blue Laws, too. Your no-meat Sundays reminds me of Trieste, where there is no fish to behad in supermarkets on Sunday--same thing. And even the city newspaper doesn't come out on Mondays, because everyone is off on Sundays!

Hi Luisa! Yes, the giro d'aria is a big thing--my mother-in-law used to practically have a heart attack when I'd come back from running on a hot day and stand in front of the fan. Oy.

Ciao Raffaella!
So nice to have an Italian perspective--thank you! And you are one of the least likely people to cut in front of anyone, so I was definitely not talking about you! :-)

I'm glad you enjoyed the video--Davide and I both laughed!

I also laughed about the how many kinds of milk question--I'll have to count for you the next time I'm in the grocery store. The one thing that amazed my Italian father-in-law when he visited here were the gallon-sized milk jugs. He just shook his head and said: In America, tutto e' grande. I don't know that *everything* in America is big, but the milk jugs are whoppers compared to liters.

Julie and ello, you're both right that there are line jumpers here. They must be Italo-Americans. ;-)

Carrie Harris said...

All of a sudden, the world makes sense. My Italian boss used to keep the heat up in our office so high that we'd all be sweating. Little did I know that he was just being... well, Italian. ;)

I found you via Blueboards, and LOVE your blog.