The other day on Twitter I asked a number of fellow expats in Italy - @michellefabio, @mybellavita and @tinatangositaly - to complete the sentence: “You know you are it Italy when…" The responses I got were great – between us we had some responses which kept me in stitches. The Michelle put the list on her bleeding espresso blog, and more people added to what has become quite a lengthy list!
After reviewing the responses, I realized that capturing these thoughts & moments was akin to capturing defining snapshots of the expat experience in Italy. Snapshots that when quickly reviewed could effectively capture the essence of living La Dolce Vita.
Thinking that it would be both useful (to aspiring expats) and fun (for past and present expats) to collect more of these “snapshots”, I have included the list collected to date here.
And to inspire other expats to add to the list I’ve decided to run a contest! (Grazie mille to Michelle Fabio for the great idea!)
Today The Expat Snapshot Contest is born!
*** The Contest Details ***
The Expat Snapshot Italy contest requires entrants to complete the sentence: “You know you are in Italy when…” with an answer that bests captures a defining moment in their experience in Italy.
Entrants should be a current or former expat in Italy. For the purposes of this contest, we’ll define an expat as someone who has spent at least 9 months living in Italy.
However, anyone who has already contributed to the list (via Twitter or the bleeding espresso blog) automatically qualifies. All of the submissions to date are listed below.
To submit an entry: Make a comment on this blog post with your answer. You can submit as many times as you like. When you leave your comment, the email address left with your comment (not shown) will be used to contact you in case you are a winner.
The deadline: Midnight, Central European Time (GMT +1), Thursday, September 23rd.
The prizes: The top 5 responses, as determined by a panel of judges, will win a half kilo of my favorite Italian espresso. (In the case that I cannot send you coffee by post due to your location, I will send an alternative prize.) Judges can submit entries but cannot win prizes.
*** The Fabulous Judges ***
Michelle Fabio, the author of the Bleeding Espresso blog, is an American freelance writer and attorney who moved to her family's ancestral village in Calabria in 2003. In her blog Michelle discusses her writing career as well as life and love in southern Italy--and, of course, her adventures in the Calabrian kitchen.
Miss Expatria is the Internet's leading enabler of travel addiction, inspiring others to follow their dreams to the arrivals gate at their favorite destination. She splits her time between her gay mafia in Rome and her adoring boyfriend in the South of France; but, between you and me, she thinks Italy is way better.
Cherrye Moore is a Texas-born freelance writer and B&B owner living, working and writing in Catanzaro, Italy. She blogs about her Calabrese adventures and shares budget travel tips and Italian and Texas-influenced recipes at My Bella Vita.
Tina of Tina Tangos is an Italian-American girl in Buenos Aires, where she has happily lived for the past seven months, dancing Tango and working from home as a freelance translator. Her first passion, however, is Italy, where she has both traveled and lived - and will live again, when she can bring herself to leave Argentina, that is.
Megan Fitzgerald is an expat career & entrepreneur coach and author of the Career By Choice Blog. When at work, she helps fellow expats build careers or businesses to support their life abroad, wherever they call home. When at play, she enjoys exploring her expat hometown of Rome, international travel, film, photography and a caffè macchiatto to start her day.
*** The Expat Snapshot Italy Entries ***
You know you’re in Italy when…
1) …you can have a conversation with a stranger comprised entirely of facial expressions, hand gestures, and no words.
2) …you can say, “Boh?” and you’ve said a mouthful.
3) …you have to apply to complete an application for something.
4) …you wait in line for three hours at the Post Office…to pay a bill. And then queue up to do it all over again because you also need stamps.
5)…your taxi driver’s hands are too busy waving & threatening other drivers to actually touch the steering wheel.
6)…you pour the wine over-handed and your guests gasp and bless themselves.
7)…your ability to digest milk (at any time of day) and drink ice cold drinks even while eating hot food astounds.
8)…perfect strangers worry about your catching a cold because you’re not dressed warmly enough. In July.
9)…you’re handed a scarf when you say your throat feels a bit scratchy.
10)…you’re the only person at IKEA without their entire extended family in tow.
11)…someone you just met invites you to dinner at their house.
12)…€5 on a bottle of wine is a splurge.
13)…posted schedules, hours of operation, etc. mean precisely nothing (except scioperos).
14)…someone, somewhere is in sciopero.
15)…you get honked at for letting an old lady cross the street.
16)…someone thinks your turkey wrap is a foreign food they’d never touch.
17)…your friend says “I quit drinking coffee. Now I only have three cups a day.”
18)…you find figs on your doorstep.
19)…your morning errands take you to one shop for produce, another for bread, another for cheese, and yet another for meat–and you love every single minute of it.
20)…you ask for cappuccino after lunch and they all look at you funny.
21)…the guy from the telephone company comes to fix your phone and when finds out you have DSL, he does the sign of the cross.
22)…perfect strangers acknowledge you while you are out taking a walk - like a simple “buona sera” or just a “sera” from the old timers at the beach.
23)…you are 34 years old , dragging along a stubborn child, feeling a right mess and a 24 year old waiter eyes you up and calls, “ciao bambola!”.
24)…it’s 90 degrees outside and people are riding in their cars with the air OFF and windows UP. Fear of catching a breeze?!?
25)…the vendor at your market says “buona giornata tesoro” .
26)…holding and hugging and kissing your child is considered spoiling them, but making their bed for them until they are 40 isn’t.
27)…you pay extra for the faster train (ESor IC) and still arrive an hour late.
28)…you can not get your check after you have eaten until an hour later.
29)…you pay for ISDN double access on your phone and for a year pay extra and it doesn’t go faster and finally get it removed and the repair guy says “of course it’s not working, only one of the wires was connected”.
30)…given hot milk when you are congested.
31)…you are living with your boyfriend and he still takes his laundry to his mom to be done “or she will think he doesn’t love her”.
32)…you are watching the news and see that the ex-workers for Alitalia are absolutely in shock that when they said the company would crash if you didn’t make a deal, and you didn’t make a deal, it crashed.
33)…then the president of your union says, “I am certain the Berlusconi will come up with something.”
34)…you get a doctor’s appointment for the same day and you treat everyone to a round of drinks.
35)…drivers go the wrong way around roundaouts because it’s faster.
36)…if you happen to smile at a man as you pass by and he suddenly does an about face and is practically glued to your hip chatting you up as you continue walking.
37)…you’ve struggled through antipasti, primo, secondo, side dish, bread, cheese, fruit, dessert, coffee, cake, chocolate and your hosts can’t understand why you might be struggling to move.
38)…you can’t go directly to the person you need because it means a loss of face. First you have to ask someone you trust to introduce you to someone who then introduces you to someone else…
39)…the only remedy for a bad stomach is white rice, olive oil and parmesan cheese washed down with hot chamomile tea.
40)…friends and family tell you it’s dangerous for you to swim in the sea because you’re still warm and congested from your last coffee over an hour ago.
41)…police don’t bat an eyelid when you overtake them, thus breaking the speed limit.
42)…police drive Fiats - not known for being the speediest cars in the world.
43)…women go for evening passaggiatas on the beach wearing four-inch heels.
44)…you see driver and female passenger with their lips clamped together in an act of passion while he’s driving at 100km per hour down the highway.
45)…someone such as an Internet provider makes an appointment to visit your house and then they never show up. You keep calling and calling and more appointments are made, but still no one ever shows up.
46)…you see a small local fire start up August and thinking you are doing the right thing call you the fire brigade, only to be waiting on line with the automatica voice telling you that you are 4th in line…and when you get to being 1st in line and speak to a real person, they hang up on you!
47)…you are the only one on the bus/tram that actually stamps your ticket. Others sit there with ticket in hand (unstamped) but ready to do so should an inspector board. Meanwhile, you overhear many snippets of conversations about how bad/slow the service is…
48)…you get asked for every scrap of small change at every store you go to. If you don’t have any it often involves asking other customers or the shop assistant digging into their own wallet to get the right change.
49)…as soon as the weather drops below 30 degrees all the kids are back in jeans and sweaters (heaven forbid they catch a cold!) but are never restrained in the car and in fact often seen ‘driving’.
50)…people will pull out suddenly into heavy traffic almost causing an accident only to stop at the next store, 20m down the road.
51)…you see guys on motorbikes who have their mobiles wedged underneath their helmets (coincidence that helmet use coincided with mobile phone developments?) who will stop their bikes to use TWO frantically waving hands to emphasize their point in their PHONE conversation!
52)…your mother-in-law will call you daily for no other reason than to ask what you are having/ had for dinner, where were you when she called before when you didn’t answer and where you are (if on a mobile phone).
53)…every second phone mobile phone conversation you overhear starts with ‘Ciao Mamma’.
54)…you walk into your neighborhood bar and they are already making your drink of choice, and later when you get up to pay, one of the regulars has already paid your bill.
55)…your regular butcher knows your name, what cuts you like, and teaches you some Italian while also passing on good recipes.
56)…you can buy fresh milk from a machine that gets reloaded every three hours or so.
57)…you can hear both your neighbor’s hens cluck and the distinctive sound of a Ferrari speeding down the road at the same time.
58)…you can’t wait to get back to your hotel in the middle of the day and take your afternoon nap.
59)…you have studied to learn Italian, but no matter how you speak it, you are always answered back, in English.
60)…you decide you are hungry around 2:30 pm, but every good cafe is closed until the dinner hour.
61)…you look both ways to cross the street, step into the road and a vespa comes out of nowhere and almost kills you...and then beeps their toy-like horn as you jump out of your skin.
62)…the liquefaction of the blood of a man dead for centuries does not provoke terror, but rather relief.
63)…you set out to run three errands and you’re lucky to get one done.
64)…a group of older men applaud you (yes, applaud you) as you walk by them one sunny day, wearing a skirt and some lipstick.
65)…every other guy you date turns out to have a girlfriend or a wife and doesn’t feel the least bit guilty about it.
66)…everybody in your group of friends knows what’s going on in your life before you’ve even told anybody.
67)…you wake up to a view of cypresses outside your window. Sigh…
68)…the waiter at lunchtime, straight-faced and serious throughout the meal, brings you a free limoncello and a smile at the end.
69)…the wine you’re drinking was made just down the street - right near where your olive oil was pressed.
70)…you go for a walk to pick your (wild) salad for the day.
71)…you offend someone by telling them you went to a certain city without telling them first, because they know someone who knows someone who could have met you at the station.
72)…you find it perfectly normal for someone you’ve never met to pick you up at the station and take you to their home for dinner, because they know someone who knows someone you know.
73)…you get a phone call that you need to run to the station to pick someone up whom you’ve never met before, and you don’t think twice about it.
74)…a significant percentage of your meal’s ingredients comes from outside your back door, or from the garden of someone you know.
75)…you have at least 2 cell phone numbers for each person in your address book.
76)…you know you’re in Italy when you actually let your child back into the swimming pool before (2 1/2 hours before) the compulsory 3 HOURS after eating a half a sandwich and are called a bad mother by all the clucking hens around you… He’ll die of indigestion!
77)…your mother-in-law actually spends precious time ironing socks and underwear.
78)…you go to do a construction project and you ask the muratore (mason) how much it’s gonna cost and he tells you “stai tranquilla” - stay calm.
79)…your neighbor teaches you how to clean the chain on your chainsaw and he tells you “calma calma sangue freddo” - calm, calm, with cold blood - I guess that is to differentiate from all other moments where hot blood is preferred - or else you might cut your pinkie.
80)…your neighbor yells at you – loudly - for not picking the cherries on her tree before they all fell to the ground.
81)…the muratore forgets to cash the check you gave him 8 months ago, until one day you look at your bank statement and think what the h…. and remember you wrote a check for that amount 8 months ago.
82)…you want to hire someone to help you with the cleaning and she brings her mother to the job interview to size you up.
83)…people from other countries come up your driveway and tell you you are the luckiest person on earth to live here.
84)….you try and tell your new landlords that in fact both parents have been married and divorced 3 times each, they cross themselves.
85)…you see more vespas than people in a city.
86)…you shoot lemoncello back like a shot of whiskey and then you immediately have to explain that you’re Irish to smooth over the faux pas.
87)…gelato has become the only reason to go to the centro commerciale.
88)…you give rude drivers the finger and they wave.
89)…you tell Italian friends that you ate other cultural cuisine (in my family’s case, sushi) you get ranted at and asked repeatedly what you have against Italian food.
90)….you see the local kids eating nutella on everything and anything for breakfast, with chocolate on the side.
91)…chocolate is considered a health food.
92) …your hosts offer you wine with dinner, some form of alcohol drenched pastry for dessert, and then a lemoncello (or two or three) on your way out the door.
93)…the Prime Minister owns half the tv stations in the country, a publishing house, newspapers, banks, a film production company, a soccer team, etc. and most people are ok with that.
94)…everyone around you picks the same hot, humid, stagnant day to burn their garbage, field, whatever, and your forced to keep your windows open because to run the air conditioner would cost the amount of a car payment back in the states.
95)…motorcyclists drive on the sidewalk.
96)…motorcyclists wear their helmets (so as not to get a fine), but they don’t latch them.
97)…seatbelts are considered to be for sissies.
98)… you see people driving with their infant or small child sitting in their lap.
99)…an octegenarian bursts out in song “un’ora sola ti vorrei!” as you walk by.
100)…an 18-year-old you’ve never seen before in your life jumps up to kiss the window of the train you’re sitting in.
101)…two cars and one motorino are neatly fitted into one parking spot.
102)…the young lady who orders cabs at the Auditorium in Parco del Musica waves, greets you by name and asks how your summer was.
103)…you’re in hospital and the woman across the hall’s cell phone rings at midnight - its her daughter who hasn’t visited that day and the entire floor hears what a bad daughter she is and by the way your brother’s wife is a ungrateful slut!
104)…when you get yelled at for coming to full stops at Stop signs and red lights
105)…you’re never too old to get your cheeks pinched by relatives or random people on the street!
106)…the tooth fairy is a mouse.
107)…the pizza is so thin that you have to eat it with a knife and fork.
108)…the phrase “were you born in a barn” translates into “were you born in the Colosseum”!
109)…getting marriage proposals from taxi drivers, even after it’s been established that both parties are married, is just par for the course.
110)…the tabbaccaio has two stamps and you need two stamps. However, they will only sell you once in case someone else comes in and needs a stamp.
111)…a latte is a glass of milk.
112)... everyone follows tradition but no one follows the law.
113)…you can get an excellent espresso for less than a euro just about anywhere and it isn’t served in a paper cup!
114)…every person at the table orders their own pizza and the pizza is not pre-cut.
115)…almost everything you eat is fresh and is not full of preservatives.
116)…the shop owner is standing at the door tapping his/her toes waiting to lock up for lunch while you are obliviously wandering around the shop.
117)…you sneeze and your neighbour insists you visit the doctor.
118)…you have to go in person to pick up your new bank card and the lady in her little office takes a 10 minute personal phonecall just before you sign for it.
119)… someone asks for directions from the bus driver and everyone on the bus has to put in their two cents worth.
120)… an overheard cell phone conversation on the bus is made up of only one repeated word - “Mama” - but the 72 inflections that word is given during the conversation conveys the entire history of a mother-daughter relationship.
121)…there are three different prices for coffee depending on where you sit (and you don’t care because you are in Italy!).
122)…you can turn any corner & get the best coffee in the world with a heart-warming smile early in the morning;
123)... you see scooters racing at crossroads signals with wildly gesturing riders revving to go & you think this might well be India! Be still my heart…
*** The Contributors ***
Megan Fitzgerald @ Career By Choice
Michelle Fabio @ Bleeding Espresso
Tina @ Tina Tangos
Cherre Moore, @ My Bella Vita
Miss Expatria @ Miss Expatria
Paul @ Crazy Like Whoa
Diana @ Creative Structures
Gil, frequent visitor to Naples
FigCharlie @ Fig and Lemon
Joanne @ Frutto Della Passione
Diva @ Divina Cucina
Emma Bird @ How To Italy
Judith in Umbria @ Think on It
Sara, @ Ms. Adventures in Italy
Leanne @ From Australia to Italy
Vanessa in Sicily
Beatriz @ Suitcase Contents
Erin @ The Olive Notes
Jennifer @ The Verge
Dominique @ Finding Italy
Saretta @ Amid the Olive Trees
Willym @ Willy or Won’t He?
Christina Arbini @ The (Mis) Adventures of a Single City Chick
Lisa, @ Sofia Vincenza
Scintilla @ Bell’Avventura
Casalba @ Casalba News
Deeba Rajpal @ Passionate About Baking
*** What Does Your Expat Snapshot of Italy Look Like? ***
"You know you are in Italy when..."
Submit your answer by midnight, Thursday, September 25th to potentially win some of Italy's finest espresso!
Don't have an idea for a snapshot but have a favorite? Leave your thoughts and help the judges decide!
Know an current or former expat in Italy? Spread the word!
Feel free to share via email, facebook, twitter, delicious or stumbleupon (below) so that others might become aware of this contest. Many thanks!
*** THE WINNING SNAPSHOTS can be found here! ***