This month for the #Dolcevitabloggers link up we're writing about our experience of 'Culture shock' in Italy.
You may think that being married to an Italian is plain sailing and you just gaze into each others eyes while your partner gesticulates, talks loudly and cooks you heaps of pasta.
The pasta part is quite true! However there have been many times over the years when I have wondered if I could have taken an easier route.
Italy and its inhabitants don't take any prisoners. You can't ease into this culture or your Italian family. The place and its people assault your senses! Whilst this may sound amazing if it means you're sipping a cold Asti on a summers day. It's not quite the same if you're being asked to discuss the benefits of the bidet in your first meeting or your mother-in-law just walked in on you getting changed!
So if Italy is not all pizza, pasta and Prosecco, what exactly am I complaining about? And I appreciate it better be good because sunshine, beautiful buildings, people, amazing galleries and museums are all quite a hefty bargaining chip.
How long have you got?
When I told my Italian Husband about this month's topic he asked if I was doing a 'series of blog posts' not just one as there would be SO many moments of culture shock!
He's right I can't go into them all. And many I don't notice anymore but here is one that used to actually upset me a lot when I first started dating an Italian man....
I’m from a small family. And everyone respects each other’s space. Their need for it and that it’s best to let people know if you’re rocking up to their home. We plan to see each other and when we do it's lovely. This may seem very normal and from looking at my friends situations, is like most British families.
However not in italy! My first Christmas with my boyfriend (now Husband) we spent 10 days at his hometown outside Milan.
There was a constant stream of people popping in to say hello, have a coffee/ spumante /cake. All bringing a long line of gifts usually involving food. We seemed to exchange endless Pandoro and Panettone. We had bought some, but it became very hard to tell if you were giving away the one you had purchased or just playing pass the parcel with someone else's gift who had stopped by earlier. But no one seemed to mind this and I think it's almost expected that Christmas cake is currency.
I found it completely overwhelming. There was no where to get away. It’s quite exhausting speaking a second language for that amount of time when you’re not used to it. I had only been using Italian a short time as this point. I was enthusiastic at first and then by late afternoon a fog set in and my brain was extremely tired!
During this period I would sometimes escape to the bedroom to have a moments silence, well not silence because you can hear everyone, everywhere, plus the church bells ring every 15mins! And then there is the....
No one knocks on the door before they walk into a room in Italy. How many times has a relative caught me half dressed? Or dressed for bed but not really for seeing your Father-in-law. Hmm a few I'm afraid!
In the UK if someone has put on weight you don't mention it. In Italy, you are fair game! Not in a horrible way but it's much more socially acceptable to comment on someone's appearance.
My Mother-in-law's carer once told me that she was so pleased I hadn't put on weight because in a photo I had sent over she thought I was looking fat. She wanted to tell me how delighted she was that in real life, I wasn't... Thanks I think!
Then you have children...
There are many, many benefits to having children in Italy which I have discussed before. I am now very happy with the craziness this involves.
However there was a time when I had just had my son, where I was a little fed up with random people who we were apparently related to, popping in to wake up my finally sleeping baby.
They had come specially, but completely unplanned and now they were insisting to have the baby woken up and brought out to be cuddled.
I think I shocked everyone by refusing. My son had literally just gone to sleep and I was not going to wake him for the Queen of England!
Alla fine - At the end
So in conclusion, boundaries are different in Italy. Your own boundaries are instinctive and it's quite hard at first to adjust to these changing so dramatically.
Now I accept the differences. I know what to expect and I care a bit less. It's still worth all the Prosecco and Panettone...
Have you had any moments of culture shock?
Tell us yours!
If you're still looking for a break this year, here are some great offers from Mark Warner...
Love more on Italian culture? Check out our definition of 'La dolce vita'...
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