When you accidentally kiss strangers on the mouth and get struck down by the Italian’s enemy, the wind.
Public transport eating
Bless you, Italy, for frowning on people who eat kebabs while travelling on public transport. Right, the smell in certain Roman busses is not necessarily better than the distinct odour of onions and whatever the hell the meat in kebabs is made of. But have you ever travelled on a Swiss train during rush hour where everyone pulls out their Tupperware with boiled bean salad and Bami Goreng and starts devouring said food as if they were deprived of an own home with dining table?
But not in Italy. Italy takes food serious enough to know that it should be eaten at a table. Taking as many hours and glasses of wine as the heart pleases.
Stunning Italian women
One morning I forgot that I live on a busy street in Rome and went out in my pyjamas to buy pesto for my lunch. I was crossing the street in my Wolverine T-Shirt and sweatpants from back when The Prince of Bel Air was on TV instead of Netflix and found myself surrounded by middle-aged, perfect looking Italian women.
If ever the mountains and cows and banks are not enough to tell you that you are in Switzerland, note people’s clothing: Trousers with side-pockets and zip-off legs, wind parkas, breathable fabrics and Birkenstock sandals as far as the eye can see. We are a practical people. And where we go for functionality, Italians go for style.
Blue doesn’t go with black? I never knew, but Italians do. I have never seen more beautiful 50-year-old women than in this country. It’s not just their clothes: Their hair cascades down their shoulders in elegant waves as if every time they go to the bathroom a private hairdresser pops out of their Gucci bag and gives them a touch up, you know, to look presentable when buying the bread at the supermarket.
Whenever I and my Swiss work mentality are surrounded by the Italian business environment, it’s like solving one of these puzzle box riddles. In the end you get so agitated that you throw the still closed box on the floor, much like a child does with its toy right before starting a tantrum. There is one thing that provokes this state of mind more than any other: the meeting.
It makes me feel things and act in ways atypical to my usually calm character. I start to play with the pen and let it fall to the floor multiple times. I sigh in an exaggeratedly loud manner. I roll my eyes, throw my neighbour a what-are-they-talking-about-look and forget that he is my superior. I was never a rude person, but sitting in that black chair knowing that I’m attending a meeting where we’ll decide to have a meeting to discuss another meeting just ... gaaaaah.
The Italian language is beautiful and I like to believe that I’ve mastered it after six years. But there are these days that feel like I'm being catapulted straight back to when I was on my first Italy trip to Apulia and they had to repeat a joke about a camel and its balls 12 times because all I understood was babedibu-on-repeat.
Now the Apulian dialect is like a language of its own. But even in Rome, during lunch break in the office, the babedibu-phenomenon often strikes at any moment. And when then you go awfully quiet people ask concerned: Is everything ok? And of course it isn't because there you were thinking you know this language but all you understand is the damned babedibu.
Enemies of the nation
The fact that Italians blame their enemy, the wind, for being the cause of many an illness is well known. They are so good at doing this, they even convinced me of the existence of the wind’s trusted helper and servant, the Colpo d’aria (a literal hit of air), which struck me down one day as I was typing away on my computer. The fan - this devilish child of the wind - was hurling cold air at my back and caused me to not being able to move the next day without experiencing a stabbing pain.
But the wind recently got a new rival: the shower. I’ve been hearing stories about people showering too many times a day and then, brace yourselves, falling fatally ill (no, not really fatally. But they did fall ill.)
So… are you feeling ill my friend? Must have been all those hot showers.
I keep moving for the wrong cheek when saying hello and end up accidentally kissing complete strangers on the mouth, even after six years here. And I still haven’t come up with a good way to counter the awkward after-kiss moment and instead start laughing hysterically while slowly fading off into the background.
It has gotten so bad that when I go back to Switzerland, where we kiss three times starting from … see I don’t even remember if left or right. I’m so confused that I just remain motionless until my counterpart makes a move and must assume that I have issues with my motor skills.
Uffa – this little noise I though only comes out of a speech bubble in a cartoon is used by Italians when something unpleasant crosses their mind, like when they notice that the last bit of Nutella is gone.
It’s cute. To the point that when you hear it, you want to give back that last bit of Nutella you just selfishly devoured yourself.
That Italian guy you haven’t been sure about? Hear him “uffa” you when he discovers a hole in his sock and you might just experience immediate, eternal love.