Weird things always continue, a bit like that movie "The Mummy" that pretends to be finished but then another sequel and still another spin off appear every month, so... this is Vol. 2 of Italian peculiarities: When your digestive system apparently can't cope with a piece of raw pepper, when you have to overcome a trial of courage every time you cross the street, when Italians win every argument by using the bidet against you.
Crossing the street
Ever had the courage to do this most dangerous of activities while in Rome? It’s one thing to get used to the Italian driving style while you are actually driving, and quite another when you are a pedestrian and need to cross the street to get to the supermarket. Show the slightest sign of insecurity and you will stand on that sidewalk for another hour, ignored and intimidated, while one car after the other passes and not even in their dreams would someone think of stopping to let you pass.
The trick is to just go. If you can, establish eye contact with the madman coming at you with 80 km per hour. Then go as if your life depended on it. Go as if you’ve never been more sure about anything else in your life. The car might stop centimetres away from you, but it will stop.
If this hasn’t caused you to anxiously break down, you can move up to the master level and try crossing Piazza Venezia.
Obviously it’s the bidet!
A few people got a bit offended by my post about Speedos and little foot pedals underneath sinks and decided that I was attacking the Italian nation’s sense of hygiene when really I was just amused by that tiny pedal underneath the sink. Maybe like me, they just had a hard time understanding foreign humour or maybe being a member of Casapound has sucked out that last spark of humour or maybe because they are members of Casapound they do not possess any humour to start with, who can ever tell.
Anyways, in favour of Italian hygiene, the bidet is a magnificent invention and everyone in Italy will think you are a caveman if you’ve grown up in a country that hasn’t discovered this wondrous facility. And really, it won’t take long and you will come to love it and maybe understand that whenever Italians feel cornered (“your public transport doesn’t work”, “your government is a joke”, “the holes on your roads are deadly”) they have this one brilliant card they can play and win the argument by making you realize what a primitive being you are for not having grown up with a bidet.
Yeah, the fact that I love eating raw peppers makes me appear like a magical creature performing a particularly difficult spectacle in this country. Apparently, your digestive system just can’t cope with the rawness of this devilish legume. No, I don't feel pesante after eating a piece of pepper while cutting up the whole thing to use for my Fajitas, continue to ignore this Italian take on the best vegetable in the world and eat it whenever I get the occasion, and for an even better taste, dip it into my home made Swiss herb sauce, which brings me to my next point.
Sauces and salad dressings
Oil and salt is not a proper dressing. I know, I’m not a fan of the American salad dressings that drench your salad in 5000 calories either, but Italians, there is nothing better than a light mustard vinaigrette with fresh chives sprinkled on these green leaves. Try using some sour cream or yoghurt sauce for your meats and veggies too, every once in a while. Or any sauce. Just use sauces.
Once, I made the horrible mistake of letting my sister and her boyfriend leave their shoes outside the entrance door to my house. “My house” at the time was a room in a basement next to the the gas meter room and if we would have taken the shoes inside, there simply wouldn’t have been any space for us to stand or do anything anywhere. It’s quite normal to leave your shoes out front in Switzerland and I didn’t expect the outrage this would provoke in my neighbour, who spotted the shoes on her way to the gas meter room and thought they visually disturb whoever else decides to spontaneously wander down to the cellar, you know, to check on their gas meter.
Of course a good old passive-aggressive note is not enough in a country where you get yelled at by the lady at the post office for asking to post a letter abroad. No, she showed up at my door and reminded me that we are not in Laurentino 38, a particularly rough neighbourhood in Rome, and also we are no dirty extracomunitari (non-EU citizens) who apparently do wicked things like leaving shoes outside front doors. So I made a brutta figura by leaving the shoes out front, whereas when you wear your outdoor shoes inside the house (which is quite a habit here) and walk all over the place leaving whatever you dragged in from the Roman streets on your shoe soles all over your living room carpet, that’s completely ok.
Personal space in public transport
Like sauces and salad dressings, it doesn’t exist. When the bus finally does arrive, not only do you have to get into position as if you were about to run the 100 metre race at the Olympics, you have to fight yourself into the tiny remaining space within the bus as if it was a question of life or death because otherwise you will never see home again, or at least not until rush hour is over.
This behaviour quickly becomes a means of survival that will stick with you even when you decide to visit your quiet home town for the weekend and you only realize that you are behaving like a maniac when the old granny gently pushing her walking frame into the bus stares at you while you charge past her into the completely empty bus.
Back in Rome, there is always someone who hasn’t discovered the use of deodorant and thinks it’s a good idea to raise his arm to get a hold, and while the sweaty smell starts drifting in your direction and you feel like a sardine in a tin, the only way to survive is an outer body experience where your mind rises up to the bus ceiling and looks down on your miserable self, and every now and then cries out in warning when some creep uses this absence of spatial boundaries and tries to touch your butt.
We talked about the „boh“, here’s the „beh“. Another favourite from the broad Italian sound spectrum, this expression - not to be confused with how one would probably try to imitate a sheep - could be translated as well or uhm and is often accompanied by raised eyebrows and sometimes a movement of the hand turning its palm slightly upwards. Use it. It's great.