We’ve been here long enough to notice some obvious Italian cultural things.
For starters, my initial view of the Italian women ALL looking good and ALL dressing fashionably, is only true over weekends. The not so good looking (or the very few of them anyway) come out during the week, and the designer boots are replaced during the week with flat boots or sneakers. Don’t get me wrong, this doesn’t make them any less attractive, but obviously the glamour takes over on weekends. Another observation is that their voices sound a lot older than what they are.
Morning coffee/breakfast is a short and small endeavour. We sat in a coffee bar, as they call it, and ordered cappuccino while planning our next two days on Leon’s iPad (we needed the Internet). People come in, with their bags etc. in hand, stand at the counter, order a coffee (which is closer to our espresso), downs it quickly while standing, pays and leaves. One or two will also order a pastry type food, similar to a croissant but apparently less buttery. This is also quickly eaten while standing at the counter. No leisurely large breakfast with cappuccinos as we know it, in and out, quite literally.
Lunch and dinner we cannot really comment on, since we have not yet dared sitting in a restaurant for fear of the price we’ll pay, but I’ve read in many many places, including an informational booklet in our flat that they are not hurried.
Funny in the same vein though, they are very quick to blow their car’s horn at someone who stops unnecessarily or doesn’t drive off fast enough in traffic.
Clothes shopping – they have many, many expensive boutiques, but here and there you do find the odd one that is less than the third of the price. We bought me a dress and another top for R350 both. Same thing with shoes, but we bought me two pairs of shoes, of which one is a full length boot, at a stand on the street corner for R350 as well. What is noticeable though is that the number of cheaper stores is a lot less than the expensive ones and you have to know exactly where to find them or walk many, many, many steps if you don’t!
Italians not only live on top of each other, but there shops are also on top of each other. We have found two stores to date that are like an Edgars/Foschinis, which covers a bigger ground area. All the other shops are small. If you would compare it to one of the boutiques in Sandton City, it is probably half to a third the size. Their fresh vegetable stores are so small that it can only hold a third of the vegetable area in PnP, and then you can’t fit more than two people next to each other. All the shops are this small and smaller.
Types of shops we have found, lots of Food Bars – which is like a Deli, think Bread Basket, where you can buy delicatessen and sweet stuff and/or sit there and eat as well. Lots of Pizza shops – you don’t look at a menu and order a pizza though, you look at the pizza they have available already made in the counter and then choose a size of one of them, which they weigh to give you a price. Lots of Coffee Bars, although some of the Food Bars double up as both. A couple of Gellato shops – we have stopped once now to “do as the Romans do”. The Gellato is delicious, but I wouldn’t say it is something I would get addicted to, unless I just haven’t found the right flavour yet. Many, many small boutiques, and expensive boutiques. You can look at R500 for a simple top, R1200 for a pair of ankle high boots. One or two bottle stores, a couple of bars. Don’t confuse it with our type of pubs though, it is just as small as the shops, and you could probably not fit more than 30 people in the bar. They are also not that packed, people tend to have a drink or two and then move on. Some jewellery stores and some perfume shops. One or two hair dressers, they look very similar to ours. I itch to go into one of them to experience the Italian male hair dresser.
We have been to their Spar/PnP type shop as well. It is very much the same to what we have, products are similar. Biggest difference was that you have to weigh and print the sticker for you fruit yourself, we watched another lady do it and then figured it out. I thought it was quite a cool experience, as usual, Leon thought I was just being childlike and amused by small things _. One thing I need to constantly remind myself of, and have forgotten once or twice and had to endure a nasty look because of it, is that you must place the money you want to pay with on the tray close to the till, and you will receive your change here as well. Apparently it is disrespectful if you do it any different!
One thing is for sure though; the Italians can be just as rude and has no idea what it means to wait your turn. While waiting in line to get our Metro tickets, they just pushed in and if we didn’t LITERALLY fight to get in front, we would probably wait there forever.