I hope the month of May is bringing you everything you wanted and more. Unfortunately, May has brought a lot of rubbish weather to the south of Italy, and last night, it seemed like we had gone back to February. Today, we seem to be once again safely located in May. Here's hoping it continues because this Brit definitely doesn't want to have to retrieve her winter coat from the back of the wardrobe again!!
Today's post is one that I've been putting together for a while. As you all probably know, southern Italians are very warm, friendly people, who are often prone to outbursts of intense emotion and major hand gesturing. These qualities are all good. And often funny. But southern Italians do seem to have another interesting quality: they say what they think. Now, everybody says honesty is the best policy and I agree, but in some particular situations, is the truth really the best thing to say?!
1. How old are you?
Now, they don't always come right out with it. Often, you'll hear, 'what year were you born?', which seems slightly less direct but let's face it, it's the same question in disguise. Funnily enough, men seem to ask this question much more frequently than women.
2. Is that a cold sore on your face?
No, it's just a painful, red lip blister that I am trying desperately to forget about. Thanks for reminding me though! I have to add however, that anyone who has pointed this out to me has gone on to describe their bad cold sore experiences, and has offered rather large amounts of sympathy. So I guess it's OK. Sort of. They will also point out scratches, spots or any other facial 'disturbances' you may have.
3. I liked the other colour better.
Yes, I'm talking about hair colour; colour that you can't change so easily. A conversation I had with a student regarding my recent hair colour change (to blonde) went something like this:
Amy, but what has happened to your hair?
Well, I fancied a change really! What do you think?
Yes...well....I don't know. I think you'd look better with black hair.
Black? No, I don't think that'd suit me really.
I do. Did you know that southern Italian women all have dark hair, so..
Yes but I'm not Italian.
The most beautiful women have dark hair, not blonde...
4. Have you lost/put on weight?
Now this one is definitely a double edged sword. Women like to hear that they are looking trimmer, but the other thing? Now we don't really mention that do we. Oh, wait, in Italy we do! The first time this was said to me I have to say I was a little offended, but I have come to realise that a) comments like these can also be positive, in that you look 'healthy' (yes, I'm still a bit sceptical about that one), and b) Italians simply speak their mind. I was actually asked the other day how much I weighed.
5. Sorry I'm late, I was having a pedicure.
Told to me by a man. Enough said.
6. Are you having women's problems?
Again, asked by a man.
7. How much do you earn?
Granted, I don't hear this very often at all, but I still get somewhat prickly when confronted with it. How do you answer? With appropriate adverbs, a ball park figure or even the actual amount? I think I changed the subject. And definitely didn't reciprocate the question. (Even though I was curious...ahem!)
So, what can we conclude from all of this? Firstly, Italians are very different from Brits (you think?!). Our ideas of what courtesy and politeness mean are oh-so-different, therefore making a comparison rather tricky. What I can say though, is despite the occasional offense taken from certain questions, or the inability to deal with the 'too much information!' factor, I kind of respect their honesty. Sometimes it's just exhausting beating around the bush so much, as we Brits often do. If you've got something to say, why not just say it? I like the fact that I have acquired a thicker skin since coming here. And I don't worry so much about offending people either; they just take things with a pinch of salt. And I quite like that mentality.
Although I definitely draw the line at the following, said to me not long ago by a certain student of mine: 'What's wrong with your skin? It looks ruined'. Now that, my friends, is not acceptable! ;)
Happy truth telling! :D