Wednesday, October 19, 2011

You don't put cheese on your fish...

And a few other cultural oddities for Americans:

1. It's not THAT strange to drink coffee with milk after breakfast. Italians don't make a habit of cappuccino in the evening, but thats what a caffe macchiato is for - coffee "stained" with a little spot of hot milk. Just make sure you're saying it right.

2. Marinara sauce is not used to dip your calamari in here. Nor is it a tomato sauce in Liguria. For example, muscoli marinara is mussels in white wine, garlic and oil. Calamari with tomato sauce is, A) strange and B) calamari with salsa pomodori

3. At the beach, Italian children are not allowed to hang out in wet bathing suits. Same goes for some adults. They change suits several times. And naked kids on the beach is not at all weird.

4. The following foods are considered "heavy": Eggplant, tomatoes, red peppers. Who knew?

5. Modifying your dish is considered rude and a little odd. That penne pasta with tomato sauce and clams? Oh, you want it with no clams, octopus instead with no tentacles and no garlic in the tomato sauce and with linguini instead of penne? No problem. But unlike in the U.S., where diners frequently feel they can order imaginary dishes at restaurants, it's not so polite here.

6. Eggs don't need to be put in the fridge. Neither does juice, water, or fruits and vegetables. Or leftovers from lunch. They can hang out in pots on the stove til dinner.

7. Italians DO eat leftovers. Some things are even better the next day.

8. "Salve" (Sal-Vay) is more appropriate then "Ciao".

9. Yes, they like their luxury goods and high end designers here, but it's more important that you look presentable. All the time. A trip to the market and the butcher means no "half stages" of dress here, and no pajamas at all. Your whole outfit can be from Target, but just put it together well. They love accessories and scarves here.

10. Italian people yell. It doesn't necessarily mean a fist fight is about to break out. It could be over something as simple as haggling over the price of chestnuts (exhibit A, the market yesterday in Chiavari)

11. When someone lifts their hand up and wiggles their index finger in your face, it simply means "No". It isn't a chastising, "you did this wrong" hand gesture like in the U.S. It's just a "no". This one is super hard for me to adjust to. I constantly feel like a 3 year old being scolded.

12. The bidet is not for sock washing, vegetable cleaning or any other non-bidet like activity.

13. Italians are just as passionate about beer and cocktails as you think they are about wine. A bar isn't "touristy" cause it offers mojitos - they're not catering to a tourist crowd. Italians love mojitos. Especially on the beach in the summer.

14. Breakfast here is coffee and maybe a pastry of some sort. And that's it. Eggs are for lunch or dinner, preferably in a frittata or for a picky eater.

15. Pasta with just oil and cheese ("white" pasta) is for eating when your stomach hurts. It's considered "lighter".

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