Thursday, June 22, 2006

how to be an italian

With music, work goes a little better. And that's where I stop talking about work.

Last night I went out with Matilde and Davide to the two hip hangout spots in Milan for highschool and college students: Le Colonne and Mom (no, this is not a bad your mamma joke, it's a small hill where literally swarms of people assemble). Both spots were full of people chatting, smoking, drinking, playing soccer. Aside from the fact that it was pretty hard for me to follow conversation because I don't hear well on top of the fact that Italian is my third language, le Colonne was a beautiful spot framed on one side by ancient Roman columns and on the other by this beautiful stately old building and Mom was just a wild scene with Milanesi of all kinds passing the night away (Wednesday's night is Mom's night).

Observing the people and being a bit outside of conversation (Matilde ran into some highschool friends and was swept away in a flood of catching-up conversation. I only caught a few jokes, but was content nonetheless), I reflected on my Italian integration experience thus far and wanted to formulate a top ten, with a bit of help from Gaia and my insight into life thus far. So here it is à la Letterman, Stefan's list of top ten ways to be like a Milanese:

10. Watch soccer, whenever it's on, whoever is playing

9. Complain. About the weather, about work, complaining is the key

8. Go shopping, for at least three hours, if not an entire day

7. Wear clothing with brand names on it, or distinguishable patterns. A D&G belt would be a must, a pair of sunglasses (of course), and don't forget the shoes

6. Perfect the quick appraising glance of others, make sure that the outfit matches, don't forget the shoes

5. Come to work at 9, maybe 9.30, don't start working until 10 or 10.30, take cigarette breaks often, a little more than an hour for lunch and leave work early

4. Drink coffee, smoke and drink, as much as possible. You can even start when you're 12 if you like, it's not as if there are any laws against it in Italy

3. Talk with your hands: scratch your neck for I don't give a damn, motion with your palm to split your face in half to indicate stupidity, put your hands in prayer position and motion up and down without moving your wrists to indicate supplication, put all your fingers together on one hand and shake them back and forth for general emphasis (i think) and finally hold the left hand up in a stop motion and slice it in half parallel to the floor (figuratively speaking) with your right hand to say to throw away.

2. If all else fails, just curse and call to the Madonna. I've been told that there are very few Italians who don't swear (some examples: oh la madonna, non mi rompere le palle, che cazzo fai? and the innocent ma dai!)

1. Take the day off work when Italy is playing an afternoon match at the World Cup, because, come on, it only happens a few times once every four years

It's also an important lesson that food should be Italian, it's of a high enough quality. Sushi in Italy, as I learned yesterday, not exactly fantastic. When in Italy, do as the Italians do. Speak Italian, curse Italian, sweat Italian, speak only of and argue loudly about politics Italian (referendum on the constitution this sunday), love Italian, and, most importantly, eat Italian.

I've learned that the secret to learning a language is also to perfect those instinctual responses and little noises. For pause or thought an extended eh is more suitable than an ummmm. To say sorry, I've someimtes defaulted to automatic French because I know they won't understand English, really I should just say scusa. To say please in the sense that you want to let someone pass or allow another to do something you say prego and to say please in response to someone's question to render you a service you can say si grazie. But really, the most valuable lesson is to just swear whenever you can.


Allen said...

Wow, you really hit those Italians right on. (I'm living with an Italian, a Swiss-Italian, and a wannabe). Che cazzo is one of the few phrases I can recognize in Italian!
And, I know Italy won (and US lost :-) ) so ho was the commute home?

Allen said...

that should have been a :-(. oops

naila=) said...

yo stefan. thanks for all the compliments -je t'aime aussi. i loved this particular blog entry -it made me laugh quite a lot. i can't believe you tried to eat sushi in Italy -oh stefan... but now, at least we've both posted swears in foreign languages on our blogs ;)