One of the most challenging aspects of Italian culture that I have had to get used to is the lack of personal space. If the door is closed it doesn’t mean a thing to Italians. You must LOCK IT! Recently, while at a family gathering I ventured into the bathroom (or as the British would say “toilet”). I couldn’t have been in there 5 minutes total and yet not once but twice someone opened the door on me.
Last night I offered to cook dinner. We have a very small kitchen and yet for some reason everyone (3 adults plus myself) decided it would be a good idea to hang out in the kitchen while I busied myself chopping meat and cooking with very hot oil in an enormous WOK (thank you IKEA).
On a crowded bus someone stole my mobile phone right out of my pocket! No stranger to overstuffed buses in Toronto, I never thought twice when someone pushed up against me as we rattled down the street. Only after I jumped off the bus and put my hand in my pocket did I realize my phone was gone! This of course was compounded by the fact that very same afternoon my friend was to arrive at the Genova airport from Los Angeles and had instructions to call me if there were any unforeseen problems.
To complicate matters even more, my phone was registered in my sister-in-law’s name because at the time I didn’t have my legal documents to get one on my own. I recruited one of my students to call Vodafone and assist me with cancelling the SIM card immediately. Luckily I was able to keep my phone number and get my 25 Euro credit re-instated. But I still had to shell out another 150 Euro for a new phone!
At the supermarket you can always tell someone who drives a scooter because they still have that mentality that it’s okay to narrowly squeeze past everyone to the front of the check out line. Double-parking, I am pretty sure, was also invented by the Italian’s.
So, if it’s personal space you’re after stay in North America. But if you don’t mind rubbing elbows, knees and other unmentionable body parts on buses and are not shy about literally being caught with your pants down, then go ahead, move to Italy and enjoy the experience.