Last week I listed customs I observed in Italy that we should adopt here in the United States. Some of these items include the metric system, 24-hour military time, and seven-course meals. But there are other European habits and traditions we definitely should NOT adopt.
First and foremost on the list is the “shot glass” coffee cup. In Italy, if you order a coffee (caffè) they give you a tiny coffee cup with about one ounce of liquid in it. (Granted, that one ounce contains enough caffeine to keep you awake for three days, but that’s beside the point.) The first time I was handed one of these cups, I said, “No, I didn’t order a souvenir trinket that can be used with a 6-year-old girl’s tea party play set. I ordered a coffee, you know, a big Styrofoam cup with least 20 ounces of steaming hot mud.” (Many people in Italy speak excellent English, but their language classes never covered the phrase “steaming hot mud”.)
Italians now grudgingly offer what they call “Caffè Americano,” which is the same one ounce of super strong coffee with an additional two ounces of hot water, served in a slightly larger cup. When I was handed this, I said, “Really? That’s it? You’re still about 17 ounces short.”
The next Italian custom we never should adopt here is one of their key traffic laws. Apparently, in Italy you will get a ticket if you leave any room between your car and the car in front of you. Tailgating must be their national sport. When Italian motorists get behind the wheel, they all line up six inches away from the car in front, and then everyone careens down narrow cobblestone streets at 50 MPH. It’s like you’re filming a James Bond movie.
The first day we were in the country, while being driven from the airport to our hotel, I said to my wife matter-of-factly, “We’re gonna die. Or at least, we’re gonna witness a horrible crash where someone else dies.” I was convinced that it’s mathematically impossible for cars to drive that fast and that close to each other without a collision occurring every ten minutes or so. And since the vehicles in Italy are all about the size of a regulation golf cart, serious injuries or death were inevitable. Remarkably, however, we were there for eight full days and I did not see one single accident. I didn’t even see many scrapes or dings on the cars parked along the streets. So I think one Italian custom we should adopt here in the U.S. is having drivers actually pay attention while the car is moving.
The next Italian custom we should not adopt here in the States is tight-fitting clothing — on everybody. If you’re young and healthy, skin-tight clothes are fine. Here in America young people have popularized “skinny jeans” and “yoga pants” and other form-fitting apparel. But if you happen to be, for example, a middle-aged guy who’s been sitting behind a desk for the past 35 years, you do not want to put form-fitting pants on an unfit form. It will be uncomfortable for the wearer, and even more uncomfortable for anyone in the vicinity with decent vision. Just sayin’.
In Italy the men wore form-fitting, tailor made business suits. The young guys looked pretty good, but the middle-aged guys looked so uncomfortably squeezed by the suit, if they had to bend over or reach up for something, there was sure to be a loud ripping sound. I prefer my baggy suit, where no one can notice if I hide a toaster oven inside the jacket.
I hope these tips have been helpful. Grazie.