April 28, 2007

Ex-Pat Top 5

In the long tradition of ex-pats posting things they miss about their home country, here's mine:

Top 5 Things I Miss About the U.S.

1. Ethnic food
. Italians are crazy about food. They talk about food while they're eating lunch. (Seriously, every day this happens at work.) Yet they are surprisingly hesitant to eat anything other than Italian food and are quite picky about what constitutes Italian food as well. Try to get an Italian out to an Indian or Chinese or Ethiopian restaurant with you, and she'll complain that the food is too spicy. Invite her to try Mexican food you crafted in the kitchen from black beans imported from America and Uncle Ben's salsa, and she'll look at you like you're a crazy person. (Granted, Uncle Ben's salsa is quite nasty.) But honestly, Rome has about as many ethnic restaurants as Charlottesville did in the 1980s.

2. Driving
. If only I could get in a car and drive to work, I wouldn't have to worry about what time the bus comes... or suffer a nearly 2-hour bus ride home from work, which is only 5km away, because the bus got stuck in traffic and wouldn't let anyone off. It would be nice to drive to get groceries too, rather than worrying about how heavy the items are in my cart. Then again, I'd probably drink 1.5L of aranciata every day if it didn't weigh so damned much.

3. Dryers
. Three loads of laundry are currently swaying in the breeze on my kitchen balcony. In the spring months, line-drying doesn't take very long, owing to the decent winds in Rome. But when it's cold and rainy, it takes days to dry things. You want to wear that pair of jeans tomorrow but you got bone dust all over them at work? Tough. You want a towel that's not stiff after you dry it? No chance.

4. Customer service
. Italians take the opposite perspective that Americans do on customer service. In America, the customer is always right, and customer service is paramount. In Italy, businesses reason that they are the ones providing you with a service, so you have to wait. This goes for grocery clerks, post office employees, and especially hairdressers. You can't cut your own hair, right? Right, you will wait 2 hours for a haircut, you will deal with it, and you will pay 35 euro for the privilege.

5. Considerate pedestrians
. Once you learn to walk out into traffic and trust that cars will stop, you begin to realize that Rome is a very pedestrian-friendly city, much more so than any place in the U.S. short of a college campus. But fellow pedestrians are not as nice, particularly the men. If I'm walking down the sidewalk with two giant grocery bags in tow, no one will yield even my half of the sidewalk to me. They will force me onto the street, around parked cars, or between giant trash bins. Italians walk three-abreast when possible; two Italians will gesticulate wildly to make themselves as wide as three people; and one Italian will walk in the dead center of the sidewalk, swerving side-to-side only to prevent you from passing him whilst simultaneously managing to get you hit by a cafe door being shoved open by someone carrying espresso down the street.

Maybe some other day I'll post some things I like about Italy. I'm sure there's something I like...


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