A little foot pedal underneath the sink to make water come out of the tap in restrooms, you ask? After living in Rome for a while, a whole bunch of strange things (like EVERYONE wearing white speedos at the beach) have become my daily routine. Here are some other Italian peculiarities worth noting:
Before Italy, pasta was pasta, regardless of form, length, thickness. Who would even notice a difference if I served tomato sauce with spaghetti or linguine? The Italians. I have made a "brutta figura" with incorrect pasta choices so many times that these days, I carefully chose which pasta goes with my Amatriciana sauce and whenever I don’t know the answer, I call up an Italian friend for help. It’s a serious issue. Seriously.
I drink it, during the day, during the week. Before I know it I’ve already ordered a glass of house wine with my lunch (for an amazing three Euro), regardless if I have a meeting afterwards, because wine. No one thinks this is strange, no one looks at me as if I’m an alcoholic.
There is no way of avoiding it. The time I was a shy Swiss person who would not make a sound when the waiter brings me a side of salad instead of broccoli has ended abruptly. In Rome, speaking up before your order has even arrived at the table and harass the waiter for no reason is part of the eating-out culture.
Once my absolute favourite of all meals, Italy has reduced my breakfast to two cookies and a sip of extra strong black espresso while standing up and leaning against a bar, surrounded by 50 loud Italians shouting for their coffee. Goodbye lovely bread with butter and honey, goodbye beautiful cereal. Goodbye quiet breakfast table with comfortable chairs.
Everything that happens in Italy is a product of feelings, while reason takes a casual stroll and only eventually enters the scene. Whether you catch the bus in the morning, whether your coffee tastes good, whether you will get your permit to stay, whether you can send off a letter: It depends on how the person in charge is feeling this day. Unprofessional, you say? Italy makes you surrender to your impulses and consequently you behave in completely lunatic ways that are beyond your control, and it is scary and wonderful at the same time.
Personal administration days
Because the post office in Italy is a parallel universe where the rules of time don't apply and nothing ever is as it seems, you get multiple of these “personal administration”-days off work in order to open a bank account, send off a birthday card or pay your bills.
A noise that means “I have no idea”, mostly accompanied by shrugging shoulders, raising eyebrows and making crazy gestures with both hands. It is in use so much here that it has implemented itself into my vocabulary even when I speak English or German, and non-Italians constantly ask why I am making this strange sound.