One of the precious gifts that God has given us on the field is the opportunity to learn new ways to “do life” here in Italy. This by no means suggests that we’ve gone Italian in every sense, but it has opened our eyes to see the merits of how Italians have adapted to the conditions of their environment and how we’d be wise to follow their example in a cornucopia of situations. However, we likewise stubbornly resist and do things our way in some situations as well…
We aren’t tree-huggers by definition, but we believe in being wise stewards of God’s creation. Folks here in Italy have to “go green” as a matter of survival. We’ve purchased all florescent light bulbs, bought super energy-efficient appliances, and sought to use gas instead of electricity to cook and heat because the power costs in Italy are about 4 times that of the US (more than $0.40 per kWh) because of taxes and transmission from France and Switzerland. Likewise, everyone where we live must meticulously separate trash for recycling of plastic, glass, paper, and organic matter. The refuse is placed in color-coded transparent bags so that if the trash collectors observe anything improperly sorted, they will either leave the entire bag or in some places issue a fine.
One area that we haven’t submitted to the “Italian way” is in the area of dress. While we seek to not stick out as foreigners, we simply don’t have the budget nor the desire to try to match the Italian bravado in wearing pricey name-brands and/or wearing heavy clothes when it’s hot outside. Often folks will wear clothes according to season with no regards for the actual weather outside. It is not unusual to see people wearing jackets and long sleeves between seasons even when it is miserably hot. There is also an inherent Italian fear of drafts of air–especially on the neck. Many believe that these air drafts cause every measure of sickness, so they bundle themselves and their children to the hilt even when it isn’t warranted 🙂
I’ve had to sacrifice some of my so-called manliness on the throne of cross-cultural relevancy as well. There was a time when I was in high school that I had a summer lawn-mowing business. I had learned the tricks-of-the-trade to edge and mow like the pros! I used powerful gas-powered equipment, charged an honest price, and picked up quite a few customers along the way. I can also remember giggling at the occasional elderly gentleman I’d see out in his yard wearing shorts, a wife-beater undershirt, and dark dress socks; and, as if that wasn’t enough, he was also lugging around an extension cord, mowing with a dinky electric mower, and edging with a scrawny electric weed-eater. Likewise, at about the same time and (im)maturity level in my life, I can remember poking fun at people who drove tiny sub-compact cars with one-liter engines…
Sweet irony would have it that in Italy I care for our little yard with a dinky electric mower and a scrawny electric weed-eater and I drive a sub-compact car with a one-liter engine. By God’s grace, however, I still don’t ever go out in public wearing shorts, wife-beater undershirts, and dark dress socks!
Truth be told, the old man you described in short and dark dress socks with an electric weedeater is in fact…my father. (Everything except the compact car of course)
Love the cultural insight! Keep it coming.
We loved stumbling upon your blog today! Love to hear how life is going for you in Italy, we bet the lawn mower story is just one of the many funny experiences you’ve had! God bless!!
didn’t even remember you had a blog till I read your magnet today…love this! 🙂