CHAPTER TWO: BASIC ETICHETTE
Why it is that traveling Americans are always so dreadful.” Dodsworth by Sinclair Lewis
MYTHS VS FACT You decide HOW ARE WE PERCEIVED AS AMERICANS?
We cannot dispute the fact that America is known as a force in the world, both economically and for our military. We are loved and despised for our social freedoms, admired for the opportunity given to each and every citizen to have a chance to pursue his/her dream. It is no wonder why so many foreigners want to come and live here. Look at our borders. Daily people risk their life to get here. That position was one I had heard time and again from my well traveled parents in the 50’s and 60’s. And is still applicable today for some cultures. But is it applicable to Italians? Do other Italians still envy the USA so much that they all want to become American? There has been a change in attitude over the past thirty years with regard to our culture. The whole world no longer envies us as they once did. As a conscientious traveler, we must ask ourselves what brought on the change? One reason is that Italy has changed. The quality of life has improved dramatically in western European countries since WWII. Life is much better now for Western Europeans and therefore many are less likely to want to leave.
VIGNETTE: I was sitting in the piazza in Portofino with another Italian guide waiting for our group to gather. Many, many groups entered the piazza in Portofino during a day. “See that group?” I was asked by my colleague, “yes.” “They are American.” “How can you tell?” “Well, all the other groups come to the piazza and view it from the side, but this group came into the very middle of the piazza and claimed the entire center, as if they intended to conquer it.”. Do they still love us? Yes, they do. Do they want to move to the USA? No, they don’t.
HOW DO WE PERCEIVE ITALIANS?
They do not like to work and have a lot of holidays. Great food and bad government. They drink a lot of wine They seem to have a lot of strikes. They live with their mothers. They adore the Madonna. They dress well and pose. They are all in the mafia.
HOW TO RELATE TO PEOPLE-Italian Style In a fast moving world, I believe we have forgotten how to communicate with real people. We email, phone and Skype. It is no longer necessary to look people in the eyes when conducting our daily transactions. Italian Style- is all about how you treat people. It is about maintaining the human element throughout our daily lives. Courtesy. Look directly in the eye, and acknowledge whomever you are speaking with. Take your time and begin with small talk first. The actual reason for your visit is secondary and comes after the social graces have been satisfied. Remember: People first, then business.
VIGNETTE: I had an encounter with an Italian shop keeper. Her comment, “I see you speak some Italian, may I ask why is it that Americans never look us in the eye or acknowledge us when they enter our store? We feel badly that they do not acknowledge us. Is it because you have grande magazzini (big warehouses) and you do not need to speak with anyone? Or is it because you think you are better than everyone else?” When visiting an artisan or food producer, be mindful when you schedule the appointment, to allow enough time. As Americans we are known as “Sempre in Fretta” Always in a hurry. The visit will take as long as it takes. More often than not, the host will offer you something to eat or drink or perhaps even a small gift as a positive memory “Ricordo” of the experience. This happens all over Italy. Try to not rush off.
GREETINGS: Learn a little Italian; it will go a long way. This is not a language book. But you cannot expect to travel around Italy using only English. Americans all to often begin encounters in English. You need a few basic words of Italian to make your experience more rewarding. We want to be better travelers. We want to be respectful and savvy about the country we are going to. Then give it a go, and try to speak the language!
Italian Alphabet: 21 letters No J, K, X, Y, W
Lesson # one. Our culture has lost all formality in our use of English. We say “ Hi, how ya doin’? To everybody without ever stopping to listen to the answer. Romance languages are more formal and will address different people within the society respectfully based on the intimacy or lack thereof in the relationship. Your greeting sets the tone of the interaction.
Don’t use “ciao” unless you know the person well. We all know the word and may even use it in the USA. “Ciao” is a very informal greeting meaning hello or goodbye. It is used when greeting people you know well; family, peers, or to greet small children and dogs. Remember: It is okay to kiss, (both cheeks) men and women.
Please learn and use at least two of the following:
Buon Giorno- Good Day
Buona Sera- Good Afternoon (begins around 16:00 ish)
Buona Notte- Good Night (final salutation when going to bed)
ArriverderLa. – Good bye to you (Formal) Arriverderci. – Good bye to you (Plural/informal)
Buona Giornata- Have a good day! Salve`- Health (Old trail greeting-informal)
Scusi- Excuse Me
Prego You are welcome
Mi dispiace- I am sorry
Lei Parla inglese?- Do you speak English?
Non parlo l’Italiano I do not speak Italian.
Grazie Hear me… Three syllables Grah-ts’-yeh NOT Gra-z!!!
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