America for (Italian) dummies #15.2

Galateo: The Rules of Polite Behaviour.

Good news.

Any Italian living in the US, is always quite shocked about something.

The post office.

Smiling employees, greeting you and politely asking how are you and what you need. People waiting quietly on line.

In Italy that’s science fiction. An Italian Post Office normally looks like a circle of Dante’s Inferno. Tons of people waiting nervously, watching the clock and thinking about the time their are wasting, mothers trying to calm down their kids, foreign tourists looking lost because nobody speaks English. It doesn’t matter what time you go, it will be packed. Always. I you will wait for ever. Frustrated employees fighting with computers often too slow. Old ladies trying to cut the line. People getting angry and arguing noisily, with old ladies trying to cut the line, with other customers, with employees.

Any American post office compared the Italian ones, will look to an Italian as a Paradise of courtesy.

In Italy, when you go to the grocery store you are lucky if the person behind the counter lazily says you “‘giorno”. Short for “Buongiorno” (the entire word is probably too hard). Same for the person at the check out. Smiling is a mere optional, don’t expect that. Despite our reputation of paese del sole, we are not so solari, not “sunny” people, we are rather quite musoni ‘gloomy’.

And do we want to talk about political correctness? Something that never really reached Italy.

In Italy nobody even think for example, that someone doesn’t celebrate Christmas, or that a woman might be actually able to fix a car herself without the help of a man.

In the US anyone would introduce a negative comment with a positive one “You did a really good job with x, however I was wondering…”… in Italy people just brutally disagree: “Ma questo non è vero!” (‘That’s not true!’).

Ah Italy…

…That’s why you will hear very often “però gli Americani sono sempre educati!” (‘Americans are always so polite!”).


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