First Time On Surviving In Italy?

Your First Time Here? STOP. This is mostly a humor blog. If you’re offended easily or struggle with sarcasm or irony you should skip my website and watch this instead. Also, I swear ALL THE FUCKING time and ramble on about the capybara. You still there? Winning! I’ve Put Together Some Of My Most Popular Posts For You To Start With:

LIFE IN ITALY

21 Ways To Survive Being An Expat 

Why Everyone Should Live In Italy At Least Once In Their Lives

Christmas In Italy 2013: The Time The Blowdryer Ate My Mother-In-Law’s Head

13 Things That I’ve Learned From Marrying An Italian Man

17 Signs That Italy Might Make You Crazy Or Homicidal

Italian The Hard Way

10 Reasons That I’m Surprised That Someone Married M.E.

In My Husband’s Family, Leaving The Table Is Like Announcing You’ve Eaten A Child 

TRAVEL ITALY

Dining In Italy: How To Avoid Making An Ass Of Yourself

Rome With Rick Zullo

Travel Bologna With Sarah Dowling

5 Steps To A Non-Conventional Night In Florence

A Weekend In Chianti

Vacation Apartments In Florence: How To Overcome Writer’s Block (Or Just Hang Out).

MOVING TO ITALY

Moving To Italy: Studying And Living 

Frequently Asked Questions: Jobs, Immigration, Circumcision, Love

31 Reasons You Would Be Better Off In Italy

How To Move To Italy

 

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Does This Video Change The Way You See Italy?

Similarly to a turtle that’s stuck on it’s back, Italy is desperately flailing to get to it’s feet and recover from it’s economic, political, and social setbacks. Their solution? This video, titled, “Italy, The Extraordinary Commonplace.” I actually don’t even know what that means. Does anyone know what that means? The video is in English, and aims to clean the soiled reputation of a once great nation.

Italy is trying to rebrand itself.

The video has gotten mixed reviews but a lot of them are good. ABC recently wrote a story titled, “Italy Promo Gets Thumbs Up For Turning Stereotypes Around.”

The video was created by The Ministry Of Economic Development. So far the YouTube video has been viewed over 390,000 times. It’s nice to see that Italy has finally found a way to market itself differently and is trying to change it’s image in hopes of increasing interest from foreign investors. At the very least I can say that it’s great that Italy has possibly found a way to market itself to the world. You know what they say? It’s all about marketing. Once they figure that out, they might be able to fix the country.

Part of me wishes that I found the video as inspiring as other people. The problem is that I work in marketing (Yes, during the day I’m a copywriter for an SAS company. I market to people, it’s what I do). The video just made me giggle and roll my eyes.

I get the point, Italy has become known, not for its craftsmanship, but rather for being a country of lazy, ass-backwards mommy boys who avoid responsibility at all cost and party hard into their fifties. Italy’s reputation for pasta, booze, and easy sex with overly willing (and often married) Italian men, has made it a favorite destination for the recently divorced and 20-30 somethings looking for a good time or an exciting change of pace.

Nobody says “Italy” when asked the question: Who is the most productive country in Europe. Nobody moves to Italy for “better job opportunities,” or to “enhance their career,” unless they’re job of choice is to sell pasta or wine. People move to Italy for what they think will be a relaxed and easily life free of the stress that comes from living in a country that commands productivity and work ethic (like the US, which kills it’s citizens with stress and mental illness).

It’s sad. It’s sad because Italy is a lot more than spaghetti. The point of the video was to dispel the bad image and replace it with a new one which is super smart but…It did not work for me.

Here’s why:

1) Denial is never a smart way to go. I found the idea that they were trying to bury their “undesirable traits” beneath the “desirable” ones kind of silly.
2) There were no connections between any of the points. It was confusing as hell.

The video begins with:

“PIZZA MAKERS? Italy is a world leader in the creation of infrastructures-1000 construction sites in 90 countries.”

Uh-huh…go on…

Those two things have nothing to do with each other at all. Also, why do either of those things need to be mutually exclusive? And, what’s the point in downplaying that make pizza makers?

ITALIANS ARE NOT PIZZA MAKERS! WE BUILD STUFF! WE BUILD STUFF DAMNIT!

Here’s what a US version of that video would look like:

A country of fat asses?
The US is really good at aeronautics and has a lot of spaceships.

WHAT THE SHIT!? Exactly.

It goes on to include: “Party Addicts, Gesticulators, and Latin Lovers?” among the other “bad” stereotypes they’re trying to bury under more desirable traits like “Engineering, biomedics, etc.”

Also, Gesticulators? Why is that in there? Am I the only person that thinks of a dance group from the 70’s.

It’s a brilliant concept but it only got to second or third base. It missed a home-run by even having the “stereotypes in there in the first place. If you’re going to have them, then just embrace them. It’s such a bad idea to try and dispel stereotypes by connecting two completely different concepts together. “I am not an asshole. Jolly Ranchers are often cherry flavored.”

Here’s what I wish they would have done:

Left out the stereotypes or Embraced all of them. Yes, Italy is a country of pizza makers, and people who party into old age, yes they’re are “latin lovers”, yes, family is important to many of them, yes, yes, and…? ALSO, Italy is creative, brilliant, innovative, professional. ITALY HAS IT ALL. ITALY HAS IT ALL AND THEN SOME, BITCHES!

I would have liked to see this: “Work. Play. Thrive: Italy, where everything is possible.”

That rings a lot stronger to me than, “Take us seriously! We’re really not mommies boys! Look, we have architects!”

Yes, I know that many of you loved the video. It’s not that I don’t agree that it’s a step in the right direction. I just think it could have been better and more effective. And hey, they’re trying to target foreigners so I’m interested in what foreign people think of the video? Are you totally in awe of Italy’s badassery now? Or did the video also confuse you a little?

What did you guys think? Did Italy get it right or not?

7 Things You Didn’t Expect Before Moving To Italy By Marta R.

Ah, Italy! The very word fills us with romantic visions of white-sand beaches, medieval villages scattered amongst the Tuscan hills, wine-filled evenings and all in all la dolce vita. While Italy has all this and more to offer, it’s not always all sunshine and roses. If you’re thinking of moving to la bella Italia, you may want to learn more about the everyday side of living in this beautiful, but at times rather confusing country.

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Italians take their food very seriously.

Italians don’t pay much attention to rules of any kind, but this surprisingly changes once food is involved. If you’re ever at a restaurant and begin receiving surprised looks verging on pure disgust, it’s probably cause you’re not having your food the Italian way.

Rule number 1, never, ever order a cappuccino after midday. It’s a major offence and you’ll get stared at and labeled an ignorant tourist before you even have the chance to have your first sip. Cappuccino is considered a morning drink to be had with a sweet pastry (if, God forbid, you decide to have a savoury breakfast, don’t order a cappuccino or any other kind of coffee with it – have water or juice instead).

Other no-nos which you want to avoid are: having wine with pizza (I’m still puzzled by this one), ordering coffee with a meal unless it’s breakfast and you’re having something sweet to eat; assuming that Americanised versions of Italian food, such as pepperoni pizza and chicken Alfredo’s, are authentically Italian and asking for them at a restaurant. Just don’t.

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Italians don’t do queuing

The concept of queuing simply doesn’t exist in Italy. There, I’ve just made your life easier. Next time you’re patiently waiting your turn while the crowd begins to drift along from all directions, with a very liberal use of elbows and occasional screaming, do yourself a favour and do as they do if you want to get things done.

The only exceptions are post offices, hospitals, and government buildings – these places use a ticketing system to keep things in check. This isn’t necessarily a good thing – a lot of the time the ticketing system is so overcomplicated that even Italians get confused by it. Which brings us to the next point:

Italians love overcomplicating things

If something can be done quickly and efficiently, Italians will find a way to overcomplicate it and make it extra hard. Whoever’s in charge of the bureaucratic side of things in Italy appears to love red tape, which would explain the never-ending amount of papers and stamps for any purpose you can imagine. If you’re lucky enough to get to the right place and line at the right time (irregular opening times are notorious), you will then have to deal with a completely unfazed worker who will most likely tell you that you need additional documents to sort out whatever it is that you’re trying to get done.

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The concept of personal space doesn’t exist

Bad news for those with any kind of a social phobias: Italians don’t do personal space. Blatant staring, intense eye contact, expressive hand gestures, standing or sitting unsettlingly close to you while the rest of the street/bus/train is empty…all this is perfectly socially acceptable in Italy. The lack of personal space isn’t necessarily a bad thing – it shows that Italians are simply more open than other European nations.

It’s Expensive

When I moved to Italy from the UK, I was expecting everything to be significantly cheaper, at least based on the exchange rate. I was right to some extent (at 2-3 euros per glass, wine is practically free; coffee costs next to nothing, and instead of splashing out on dinner you can spend 8-10 on an aperitivo buffet), however, overall, Italy is expensive, especially if you live in a city. Accommodation will be a major setback; shopping isn’t cheap either. What will set you back the most, however, if the fact that once you’re in Italy, you always want to be out and about, travelling, exploring, dining outAll this fun comes at a price!

You won’t get anything sorted at lunchtime (or on Mondays)

Italians are very passionate about their food culture. In a country where no Sunday could pass without a 3 hour long family lunch, it’s no wonder that meal times dictate the daily routine. The majority of privately owned stores (including letting agencies and some cafes) will be closed around lunchtime, between 12:30 or 1pm till 3pm or 4pm. Similarly, most privately owned stores are closed on Mondays. No one really knows why, but just take it as a given that urgent matters won’t get sorted on Mondays or at lunch. Relax and have some pasta instead!

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Nothing ever happens according to schedule

The Italian way of life is much more slow-paced compared to the Northern European countries, which could potentially be the reason why Italians are so inefficient at time management. If something, whether it’s a concert, a tour, an event of any kind or even a doctor’s appointment, is supposed to start at a certain time, chances are you’ll still be waiting 30 minutes in. Just take it as a given that things don’t happen according to schedule and embrace the chaos – it’s actually fun!

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Author Bio

Marta

Marta is a digital nomad and a travel blogger, currently based in Italy. She’s the creator of A Girl Who Travels, a blog aimed mainly at female travelers, dedicated to solo travel, location-independent lifestyle and travel advice. Marta hopes that her blog will inspire other women to follow their passion and discover the joys that come with travelling. You can follow Marta’s adventures on Instagram: a_girlwhotravels.

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The words of guest bloggers are their words, and theirs alone. Opinions, perspectives, etc., do not necessarily reflect those of Surviving In Italy or M.E.

What Would Dante Do? Posthumous Observations by Il Poeta By Laura Shewan

Quando leggemmo il disiato riso, esser basciato da cotanto amante, questi, che mai da me non fia diviso, la bocca mi baciò tutto tremante.”

~ Dante ~


Is there anything in this world more frightening than a Florentine shop assistant? If there is, I haven’t yet found it. The only thing that enables me to transcend my terror and cross the threshold of an Italian boutique is The Pure Unadulterated Desire To Shop. Yes, the clothes are sooo pretty, but they come at a big price; and i’m not just talking about the label. I mean, the sweaty palmed experience of being scrutinised. Most of the time I can be found trembling in the changing cubicle, whilst an immaculate madonna peers through the curtains at me, simultaneously scowling and staring. (Seriously: HOW do they DO that??) The terror is confounded by the knowledge that they somehow know I am a secret hippy; despite the designer attire. I am pretty sure they have a sixth sense for it, and can sniff out the scent of incense and post-meditation samadhi. I also have my suspicions that they feed hippies here to the pedigree dogs; (how else would you account for their absence from an ENTIRE city); a belief which doesn’t do much in favour of the sweaty palms.

Anyway, I mention this mostly because whenever I see the chiselled visage of a Florentine shop assistant I can’t help but think of Dante. It doesn’t matter that they also have the exquisite allure of a little nymphette, or the grace of a Mona Lisa; somehow all I can see are the Eyes of Judgement. Il Somma Poeta is everywhere in this city, the sentry who stands watch over everyone from his precarious plinths, omnipotent, all seeing, and I can’t help but feel, all judging. I mean, have you SEEN that sculpture of him in Santa Croce?? Not only is Dante the father of the Italian language, but he is undoubtedly the embodiment of Firenze. It makes me wonder what he would think today if he sleepwalked out of his catacomb of Santa Croce, or was miraculously reawakened like a sort of profane Pygmalion?

At this point, I offer a slight disclosure: I am a BIG fan of Dante. Like – not just I like his poetry and can appreciate his contribution to the Renaissance – more like, I can be found weeping over the little quotes of his scattered around the city, in the same way that some people might do at Elvis Presley’s grave. I once had to forcibly restrain myself from wrapping my arms around his statue in Santa Croce, and camping out beside it with a candle in an act of devotion. If he was alive today I would probably be put away for public indecency or something.

So despite the fact that every statue of his makes him look like he had a face that had just been slapped by a fish, I happen to agree he was a great humanitarian on par with St Thomas of Aquinas and St Francis of Assisi. I mean, how can anyone who wrote so knowingly of love, not be sexy? Ok, ok, I hear you say …. Romantic Love in the 13th and 14th centuries was slightly different to the ways in which sex is plastered all over the city today. But still, there is the element of longing, the allure of the unknown and the unimaginable, and the taste of the erotic which does translate. And how could anyone who understood Love to be the binding force of Life mind seeing young people on every Ponte tasting each other’s lips as though they were a rare delicacy? I think Dante would have secretly quite liked it.

For sure, I am not certain he would have been that ok with the way in which sex has been appropriated for selling stuff. Not that this is merely an Italian issue, but sadly one which has taken root globally – maybe it always did. I can imagine him tutting and then writing a tract on the opulence which can be found in Florence on a daily basis; and I definitely always think of Dante when I see tourists with selfie sticks trailing around each other like sheep. Especially in the Uffizi. WHAT IS WITH THAT, PEOPLE? I mean, seriously. You are in the presence of one of the most beautiful contributions to humanity that a being has ever made; a Botticelli which is so totally sublime it just makes you want to weep; and you are posing there TAKING A SELFIE?

Sometimes I stand in front of the Nascita di Venere and cry for this reason alone, and I think, for fuck’s sake, this is what Dante called the masses who will no doubt populate Purgatory with their stupidity and lack of self awareness. (I do have a bit of a bee in my bonnet about the symbiosis of narcissism and apathy, one of which equates to the other – but STILL. I seriously think they should stop feeding hippies to the pedigree poodles and sacrifice the tourists who fail to adequately appreciate the art to them instead.)

Anyway, maybe it’s because I don’t focus so much on the sin stuff in La Divina Commedia (why bother reading something you know doesn’t apply to you?) that I love Dante as much as I do. I tend to take away from his works his total faith in the possibility of transcendence, and the belief that love conquers all. For someone to write that the most profound pain possible for a being to bear is the memory of happiness when it has already past – “Nessun maggior dolore che ricordarsi del tempo felice la miseria” – suggests to me someone who knew life, in all its complexity. It is a beautiful reminder that we all share the same condition of fragile humanity. Despite the centuries which separate us, it gives me faith that we can understand each other, and connect through our shared experiences.

When I look around Florence today, on what has been a beautiful, mild, and sunny Sunday, I think Dante would recognise most of it. Aside from the selfie sticks… (and I mean, even I wonder what the fuck they are)… I see life being lived out in a very human and timeless way. Bustling around the organic markets, posturing and posing with Prada bags and purses, kissing, coffee, the never ending sound of sirens, streams of rowers on the river, people just being people: the Good, the Bad and the Ugly. And I definitely think Dante would be happy to be home.

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Blurb/Info on Laura:

Laura Shewan

Laura is an anthropologist with philosophical, political pretensions, dividing her time between Il Bel Paese and Brighton, UK. In the process of establishing a rural retreat centre in Toscana, she writes on life as a young woman and the eternal quest for Truth and Beauty whilst living La Dolce Vita.

www.rooftopchallenge.wordpress.com

This Isn’t A Real Post

Hey Everyone! So this isn’t a real post but I had a few announcements to make and what better way than with a fake post? Bazaaam!

Surviving Is Fancy! 

FlipKey (owned by TripAdvisor) just released a Top 8 Tuscany Based Bloggers List and SURVIVING IN ITALY WAS ON IT! HOLY SHIT! WOOT WOOT! We are winning! I’m honored and so excited to be listed with so many amazing bloggers like Girl In Florence. I feel like a shetland pony among unicorns and it feels awesome. Thanks again for all of your support! Seriously, thank you. Check out the awesome list and all the awesome other blogs HERE.

Italy Magazine: Vote For Your Favorite Blog

Also, Italy Magazine is having their blogger contest again so if you’re feeling sassy go vote for your favorite Italy blog or blog post. The shortlist will be available February 2nd. I have no idea if I’ll be on it or not but a lot of really amazing bloggers will be. I kind of wish they had a category for “most swear words.” Fingers crossed!  Stay tuned HERE.

Capybaras! Holy Shit! 

A badass reader (who I won’t name in case it creeps them out) just brought to my attention that there is a petting zoo nearby my house THAT HAS CAPYBARAS! I’m researching them right now to make sure it’s a place I feel comfortable supporting (I’m weird about animals in captivity…So I have to stalk them to make sure they have the best casa for DWAYNE EVER before I go). Cause animals are cute and helpless so we’ve got to get all bitchy and protect their fuzzy asses. If the place is nice, I may or may not be arrested for stealing and/or flinging myself into a cage to cuddle Dwayne Junior. At minimum I’m going to put him in a tophat. I’ll keep you updated with a video if I go. Fingers crossed it’s an awesome place so I can finally see one in REAL LIFE (instead of obsessively on YouTube Francesco!).

Would You Like To Contribute To Surviving In Italy? 

I’m looking for contributors! If you’re a writer, photography, foodie, historian, wife, mother, husband, wino whatever, and you have an idea for an Italy-related post, send me a message! I’m looking for all kinds of good content it can be unique, honest, informative, narrative, sad, happy, mad, nostalgic, How-To, lists, commentary, political, religious, historical, photo, art, whatever posts on all things Italy. I’m also looking for a photographer who would want to be a weekly “street journalist/street style” contributor. Your bio and links to your site will obviously be included in your post.

Don’t want to contribute but know someone who might? Share this post with them! If there is something you’d like me to write about let me know in the comments below! Questions? Ideas?

 

Happy (Late) New Year! What I’ve Learned

HAPPY NEW YEAR EVERYONE! Are you guys having the best time EVER!?

Happy New Years! Revisiting The 1920's, booze, guns, wine, and jazz!

Happy New Years! Revisiting The 1920’s, booze, guns, wine, and jazz! I HAVE A FEATHER!

This year has been crazy. I feel more like myself than I have in a long while. I’m hopeful and I feel like my goals, while scattered, are actually coming together. My book is quasi finished. It took me 6 months longer than planned but I guess that’s life, right? I’m okay with it (or at least I’m trying to be, if I say it over and over again I might be…).

For New Years we were going to stay home with the in-laws but decided around 11:30 p.m. to go out for a few hours. By then everyone was already drunk or asleep but we found a Gatspy party in Phoenix that F was totally determined to go to even though it was practically midnight. We only stayed for a short while but we saw friends, a few fire breathers, some samba dancers. Everyone decked out in their finest 1920’s attire. I was practically naked and totally freezing but that’s what champagne is for. 2015 started with us on a hotel roof, champagne in hand, me, clad in fishnets and black fringe, F wearing a mobster outfit and gun holster.

I think that this year is going to be a big year for us and hopefully it’s totally BADASS.

Resolutions: my entire life is a giant resolution. I make them daily, weekly, and monthly but I only accomplish them about 9% of the time. I usually skip the New Years resolution but I think this year I could use an extra boost. We have a lot of decision to make, we’re on the cusp of so many huge projects coming to fruition. Holy shit! It’s pretty scary. I want to finish my books, get more articles published, blog more, and do more things to make the world totally badass so we don’t die. The world needs a lot of help, guys. Did you guys make any resolutions this year?

What I’ve learned this year: The only way to accomplish goals is to take the steps necessary to accomplish them every, single, day. There is never a right time to do it. Don’t think about it, or talk about it, just get on it and get it done. Don’t try to do it all at once, just do it a little at a time. Put everything you have into everything you do. I wish I’d learned this earlier. What life lessons have you learned? Put it in the comments below. I’m a slow learner and could use any help I can get.

What else I’ve learned? Go to Hawaii for the holidays from now on.

The holidays have been insane and have taught me a number of hard lessons like this gem via my MIL, “You’ll die if the house is warm and you go outside. So, you have to keep the house cold or wear three puffy coats, a hat, scarf, and hypothermia prevention blankets to venture out into 60 degree weather.” I might be slightly exaggerating that one, but not by much.

I’ve also learned that if I want to have any kind of a future, I should quit writing to “learn how to give pedicures at the beauty school,” again, according to my MIL. I should also get pregnant, like tomorrow, so my in-laws can punch my kids because good parents “smack their children a lot.”

We’re getting closer to starting a family. This year could be that year if I can get over my Tokaphobia (it’s a real thing) and be cool with having a freeloading sea monkey in my stomach for 9 months followed by it ninja-killing my vagina. Mostly. Having my in-laws here is kind of like baby repellent for me.

Another thing I learned: Multi-cultural families are very, very difficult. Approach with caution. They can be amazing, enriching, and wonderful but they can also be exclusive, prejudice, and confusing. A lot of the American expats I know find everything Italy related to be blissfully perfect (including nationalism and bigotry mistaken for “pride”). I don’t. I think that every country has its pros and cons and an ideal situation would allow you to pick and choose the best cultural things to create a whole lot of awesome. For example, I like the “Go Get It!” culture in the US, but I dislike the individuality and selfishness that can come with it. I love how family-oriented Italian culture is, but I dislike that appreciation and respect can quickly become controlling and manipulative.

After I gestate our mini-us, it’s going to have to be a person (and given the way my dog turned out my mini-person is going to awesome and a total terror). Also, this person will be related to my husband’s family. They’re not the worst people in the world and they have a lot of good things to offer our kids if they could just chill out a little (or a lot). It’s not just that they were raised in a tiny town, it’s not abnormal that they are traditional, a little narrow-minded, and not at all accepting of anything that isn’t from small-town, Italy.  They are also type A personalities, Italian nationalists, and people who have been married for forty years and dislike each other a lot which is probably common and is sad but they’re a little bitter and have some insane arguments on the reg that I’d prefer my kids not to witness, ever.

In addition, everything we do is always up for family debate. We once had a 40 minute conversation about what color of underwear I was wearing with tan pants and another time they carried my pap-smear results around the house talking amongst themselves about my vagina. I don’t mind the intrusion when it’s because they are concerned or just want to help. I loathe it when it’s a, “this is how we do it so you must or the world will end,” thing aka, “you can’t drink coffee before you shower,” or, “real men don’t do dishes.”

This attitude will be problematic for me because my idea of child-rearing is a bit different from theirs. Their parenting sounds like an 80’s rap song, “Just hit it… preferably in the head. If you can’t reach it to punch it, then scream in its face in public.” It’s not that I was never spanked, I definitely was, but I’d like to do things a bit differently with the fruit of my loins. What I’ve learned from having a dog around them is this: Regardless of how much I’m against hitting dogs, if I’m not around they’ll go ahead and do it for me. This worries me because if someone take it upon themselves to “spank” one of my kids I’ll break their damn arm off and beat them to death with it. The real problem is that my husband has “perfect son,” syndrome and he has a hard time telling them, “no,” and standing up to them. It’s not that he’s scared, it’s that he doesn’t want to hurt their feelings. I get that. I love my parents, a lot, but I’m okay with yelling at him, when he says something homophobic. Same with my mom. Franny, on the other hand, tunes it out and goes to his happy place somewhere deep inside his weird/brilliant engineer brain. Which is okay, but it leaves me yelling things at his parents like, “STOP POINTING AT BROWN PEOPLE AND SCREAMING, “MEXICAN!” WE ARE NOT IN A ZOO!” It’s awkward and not something I want to deal with as a parent. I might explode the first time my three year old plays, “Spot the Morrocan,” with it’s grandparents. I feel helpless because I feel alone in dealing with it. I also feel like it’s not my place to yell at someone else’ parents because I was taught not to yell at old people.

Even talking about children in front of them gives me anxiety. They have this idea that our children will only belong to Francesco. They’ll be HIS kids, completely absent from myself or my people. “You cannot raise your children to be multicultural. They must be Italian! THEY MUST BE ITALIAN” They told my husband, hysterically, as he tried to explain to them that our kids will be Persian, American, and Italian. Their view that anything that isn’t Italian is inherently bad is just depressing and it makes me sad to think that our kids will be “tainted,” in their minds. How will my kids feel being told they are only half “good?” My husband and I are in love and we’re happy. You would think that that alone would be enough for any parent.

Other words of wisdom from my in-laws regarding kids, “Your dog would be better if you hit him! HIT HIM! You can’t do like this with children! You’ll have to hit them”

“We believe that if you don’t baptize babies, if they die, they’ll go to purgatory.”

“Pasta is not a carb.”

“It’s healthier to eat donuts for breakfast than eggs.”

What I’m Trying To Learn This Year: How to navigate difficult personalities in a loving way without ruining relationships or murdering anyone. Hopefully it will be on my list next year of “Things I’ve Learned. If you have advice, I’d love to hear it.

Family aside, I want this year to be a year of accomplishing things without bullshit. I’m a procrastinator. I self-sabotage and am probably more afraid of getting what I want more than anything else. I hope this year I can kick my own ass and accomplish things I’ve wanted to do for a long time. Such as, FINISH MY DAMN BOOKS, travel more, possibly bake a mini-us, paint and draw more, and train Oliver to walk on a leash. Also, to be more romantic with my husband (on days I don’t want to put forks in his eyes). By “romantic,” I don’t mean “have more sex.” I mean, like, surprise him with dates, buy him flowers, and stuff. You pervs.

Another thing I’ve learned this year: We don’t have that much time. Time goes so fast and before you know it you’re 90 and haven’t done shit that you set out to do.

I hope you guys have a wonderful new year filled with magic, love, and accomplishments. Thank you for all the support, for the fun stories, the great advice, and the new friendships. Tanti baci, from us to you!

THIS IS A VERY LATE COSI POST! CHECK OUT MY FAVORITE ITALY BLOGS AND THEIR ITALY NEW YEARS STORIES ON COSI!

 

 

Surviving Christmas With Italian In-Laws

I want to start out by wishing all of you a happy holiday! Thank you so much for all the support, for keeping me sane, and for contributing to my life by sharing your stories with me. I wish you all the best this month, and for all the months! You’re all such epic badasses! Please excuse my posts this week. I’ve had to write them on my phone.

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Awe, Christmas! That warm, happy, stressful time of year where you desperately want to feel warm and tingly but instead just on the brink of a heart attack. Buying gifts, coordinating family, dealing with in-laws!

And this brings us back to my three weeks of in-law mania. Today was more mild than the other days because it’s Christmas. People usually try to be a little bit nicer on Christmas. This isn’t to say that my in-laws are demons, they are just difficult, and often don’t realize that a whole world exists outside of themselves. This, obviously, is frustrating as hell. This holiday season we’re staying at my dad’s house (hail Persia!). My cousins from England flew in, I have three siblings living at home, plus my in-laws, Francesco, Oliver, my parent’s dog and myself. It’s a full house.

We woke up this morning to a foot of snow. The Christmas scenery was perfect. We drank coffee, then all 14 of us sat around the tree to open gifts. My dad gifted me a beautiful Persian recipe book with an inscription in Farsi. He couldn’t remember what he wrote, “something like, I hope you enjoy this season I love you.” My father isn’t much for gift-giving or sentiment, opting to leave these things to my step-mum so my sister and I were both very touched (he sent one to her as well). I did not get a capybara. Dwayne is obviously upset.

After gifts, my step-mum made breakfast, while my MIL observed, “pastries for breakfast are more healthy than eggs, I think.”

Around ten my MIL took over the kitchen to prepare dough for dinner. She wanted to make lasagna and tagliatelle for dinner. She makes everything from scratch, completely handmade, simple, and delicious. My MIL is hands down one of the best cooks I know. The ragu takes hours to simmer so we started that first.

“Misty, translate for me, please,” she waved me into the kitchen.

“What do you need?” My step-mom asked me to ask my MIL.

My MIL turned to me, “well, I need onions, carrots, tomatoes….and hlkutj.”

I asked her to repeat the last part because I couldn’t quit make it out.

She exhaled, gestured to my step-mum, “My God, even she speaks Italian better than you!” She doesn’t speak any Italian. That was my last draw with obnoxious comments on how much I suck at talking so I told her that if I sucked so bad she could fair just fine without me (with a big fat smile pasted to my exhausted face). I left to shower. Rule of thumb: Don’t be a jerk to your translator.

Last night while cooking dinner my step-mum tried to pay me a compliment, “We’re so proud of you! You speak Italian so well! Doesn’t she speak Italian well?” She asked my MIL. I, of course, had to translate this knowing full well that what was going to come. My MIL  glared at me, stirred the dough frying in the Olive oil in front of her, “No. She doesn’t speak well. She understand fine, I guess, but she should speak a lot better than she does.” She went back to her fried pizza.

My step-mum shot me a look that was a mix between confusion and disappointment, “oh…” she said.

I headed for the office with my glass of wine, wondering if I can really go fifty years like this. Marrying my husband always seems like the best thing I’ve ever done in my life, until we spend any significant time around his parents. It’s only then that I start wondering if just maybe we jumped into things. I feel like that’s how a lot of people feel during the holidays though.

While rolling out the pasta dough, the machine thingy broke. It was a gift from me and F to my parents last year. It breaking was a sign that we were epic failures and total assholes. My MIL totally lost her shit at F in the kitchen, while throwing a very visible fit, because “How dare you have bought a pasta roller thingy that broke?” We pretty much ruined Christmas with our bad purchasing choices. The fit was entertaining to all who are not used to it.

I went sledding with my brother, sister, father, and cousins. We flew down the hill near my baby sister’s school, three to a sled, giggling all the way. We crashed at the bottom. It was awesome. We came home covered in snow, freezing our asses off.

When I entered the kitchen my FIL gestured to the pasta dough drying in front of him, “Instead of going around doing things, why don’t you get in here and learn how to cook.” I shrugged, “I have no interest in learning how to make that.” Which is partially true but only because they think I “must” learn how to do it. I’m an obsessive learner; I love learning. I want to know everything that there is to know. I believe that knowledge is everything, it’s all we have, it’s all we can give to others that matters. However, there is something in my biology that rejects anything that is stuffed down my throat. My gag reflex is strong. Maybe it’s normal, maybe it’s not, but if someone tells me I “must learn Italian because you’re not allowed to speak English around me,” I’ll never fucking speak Italian around you ever again. Tell me I need to cook, and fuck you, it’s Spaghetti O’s from now on bitches and I won’t even microwave that shit first. It’s immature, I know. I’ve tried not to be that way with internal dialogues about how it doesn’t fix anything or solve any problems or prove anything. Doesn’t work. My brain is against me on this one.

My FIL keeps referring to everything as “goooood shits,” because my step-dad taught him that. He likes to use it to refer to people, too. “Bob is goooood shits!”

We ate dinner around 8:00. The salad, pasta, upside-down-pineapple cake, were amazing, as always. We applauded my MIL who spent all day on Christmas to prepare this meal. Six hours. I asked her if she was tired, “Have you seen the amount of work I do at home in Italy?” She had a point. I’ve never witnessed so much exhausting work in my life. I have no doubt that it slightly contributes to the crazy. “Can I clean the oven?” she asked, after. “What the hell? NO! Get out of the damn kitchen!” I said. She laughed, hugged me, then walked off. I drank twenty glasses of Prosecco. My family teased my FIL about how he needed to move to the US to learn how to assist in cleaning since in Italy he doesn’t help around the house at all. We laughed.

I’m in my little sister’s room right now. Listening to my massive family laugh downstairs. People are screaming in Persian, Italian, and two different dialects of English.

 

If This Was In Naples It Would Be Full Of Shit

“I have to put this on Facebook! The Grand Canyon is amazing!” My FIL is obsessed with FB. He’s been carefully planning every post to “make my friends jealous.” Naturally. He tries the posts out on us, asking our opinion on the impact of his words. “Good morning friends! Good morning from Utah!”

Grand Canyon

Grand Canyon with F and Oli

He is really enjoying the US. He’s impressed that people don’t litter. And efficiency! Man! “Things here are fast!” Standing in front of a panoramic view of the Grand Canyon with his 2005 digital camera stretched in front of him, “If this was in Naples it would be covered in shit. Our people are practically monkeys.”

My MIL rapidly came to Italy’s aid, “that’s not true! Italy is the best country on earth!” My FIL scoffed, “Really? Then why so much corruption? Why the economy? Why is the money gone?” He waved his hand dramatically,” Why is our country covered in garbage? We are monkeys! WE ARE MONKEYS! ”

This argument continued for twenty, thirty minutes. It ended with her pouting, and him brooding. They settled, sort of, on the idea that Italy is beautiful and the food is good. But that’s where the “positives ” end, according to my FIL on that particular day. He changed his mind at least 72 times throughout the week.

I have a deep appreciation for culture. I’m proud that I hail from an ancient blood, a line of warriors, scholars, longtime rulers of an old world. Pride is great. But nationalism and self-proclaimed superiority is terrible. I struggle with it when it’s Iran, or Italy or the US. I hate the line, “God bless America,” which brings an image to mind of an overweight Jesus on a cloud wearing a trucker hat with “USA,”burned into the outsourced cotton and he’s giving the finger to the rest of the world, especially the middle east, because seriously, fuck them, as far as American Jesus is concerned.

My FIL mentioned that he loves how people dress casually most of the time in AZ and Utah. “It’s so much more comfortable! You can feel good!” He gestures to his outfit, explaining that the constant need to impress or be judged is hard on people in Italy. “I’ve never liked that much.” I watch him talk in my rear-view mirror and, honestly, I’m not even sure I know who this man is. In Italy, he’s obsessed with appearances. He’s always yelling at me because Francesco’s shoes are dirty (it’s somehow my problem?), and because my outfits are not colorful enough (because my job is to dress like a peacock and then strut through Cassino earning his family stars for my steller outfit?). Looking good is more important to him than enjoying life, often citing, “what would people think?” as a reason for having the least amount of fun possible. Making an impression is everything to him. I had no idea that deep down the pressure to be accepted by the community weighed so heavily. The thought that he’s molded his life around impressing other people makes me sad. It’s sad.

Fitting in and doing exactly as everyone else does comes from tiny community mentality. The idea that you only had your community and without them you could potentially die. Back in the day it was the same way in the US. If you were outcasted, who would you trade with for food in the event of a crisis? Who would help you deliver your babies? Who would give you water in time of drought. Fitting in could literally be your lifeline in a small town. Also, fitting in was a huge part of fascism in Italy and the older generation still has the fascist culture that presses for people to conform above all else.

My FIL is an old school, southern man. As much as I love learning about traditions and watching them, I’m not always all about living them. I’d like to think of myself as progressive, and  racism, sexism, bullying, or fear tactics give me icky feelings. My MIL once said of her husband, “my husband must control everything, and he believes that he is the center of the world that revolves around him. My mother didn’t believe that men should be the boss. That is why my mom hated him and he hated her.” According to my FIL, men rule, and they should rule with authority and fear. Men don’t do things like the dishes. Real men sit at the table wearing a bib, getting crumbs all over the floor, banging silverware on the table while waiting for their food. “Real men” sound a lot like toddlers.

I was the most nervous for him to be in the US. Him and his rigid, Bella figura or death mentality are so exhausting in Italy and the source of so many arguments. “In Italy, you will learn to be Italian. You can’t be like you are in my house.” BUT he fucking LOVES the US like nobodies business. He’s having a blast! He loves that things are “clean, orderly,” that people are, “polite,” and that they “do what they should do.” He likes that there is rosemary randomly grown in places that he keeps foraging. He’s come home with bushels of it in AZ, and even Las Vegas.

 

My MIL in-law likes a few things but overall she hates the US which isn’t that surprising. In Italy my MIL has a bad case of classic superiority complex. “It’s just not possible for a her to be a good mother or wife…she isn’t Italian,” she once said about me. While in the US she’s spent most of her days noting how Italy is decidedly best. “Italian food, is best. Italian style is best. Italian children are better. Italian parents are better. Italian manners are better,” were among some of her larger statements.

Don’t get me wrong, Italy is awesome, but as a friend said, “it’s okay to be proud of your heritage, but feeling superior because you’re good at making spaghetti? Seems like a bit of a stretch…”

On a list of things she’s actually liked: She likes eyebrow threading. “That  dark brown woman! Where did she come from? That brown woman is good at this! With one thread! Nobody back home will believe it!” She made me search for threading on YouTube where she watched the videos over and over again, writing the URL down in a notepad to show her friends back in her village.

She really loved the Swiffer, and our little Bissell vacuum which she bought and crammed into her suitcase to take back to Italy, “The technology is amazing here.”

One morning I caught her with her entire head in the clothes dryer. “It just dries your clothes! Right in your house!” She’s obsessed with affordable controlled air, noting that in Italy her cold apartment is giving her neck problems.

In Sephora the worker put makeup on her and took the time to show her around the store. My MIL was so excited about this that she hugged the woman afterwards. “I think that my granddaughter should come here at eighteen to become a beautician.” I took her to one of those nail salons, the ones with an exclusive vietnamese staff and the suspicious nail pimp who trolls the technicians. The nail technician looked at my MIL’s nails, “who did her nails? This is the worst nail job I’ve ever seen in my life. Tell her not to go there anymore,” she filed her fingernail violently.I agree with this. Nobody are as good as these places called, “Starz Nails,” or “Diamond Nails.”

“The Chinese are so good at this!” She exclaimed as we left with her new shiny red toes. “Vietnamese,” I corrected her. She stared at me for a long time trying to figure out what the difference was.