10 Things I Hate About Italy

Anyone who knows me, knows how much I love Italy. But admiration alone doesn’t guarantee life as an expat will be an endless smorgasbord of pleasure and delight (well, literally it might, but not figuratively).  Oh no, you’ve gotta earn every drop of that mouth-watering gastronomic goodness; you pay for it with your blood, sweat, and tears, amico mio.  No matter how well I’ve assimilated to life here , there are certainly still times I view this country from a foreigner’s perspective – and if I concentrate on it too long, I realize there are a whole lot of things that can really girarmi i coglioni.

I’m typically someone who refrains from making conclusive statements before evaluating all sides of a situation (unlike those ignoramuses I detest who come back from a brief vacation abroad and are suddenly cultural experts on a place, making sweeping observations and statements like, “In Italy, everyone…”).  Generalizations are exactly that – but I’ll allow myself to indulge for a moment.  After five years here I think I’ve earned the right to make a few generic, open-ended, (dare I say) judgmental statements.

Hate is a strong word – but hey, life can’t always be a love fest, no matter where you are.  So, here they are, 10 things I hate about Italy:

1. Daily driving, which is absolute anarchy (in Rome, at least).  Imagine the chaos that would ensue if  traffic laws were virtually non-existent, and those which did exist were barely enforced.  Wait a sec, you don’t have to imagine it – just come to Rome.  The concept of getting pulled over essentially doesn’t exist here because of a lack of police presence on the streets, which makes the roadways a complete free-for-all.  You are literally at the mercy of your fellow motorists, which is not at all a good thing, since most of them are either in a hurry, in a tizzy, or just straight up stronzi (jerks, to put it lightly).

2. The post office. I’m pretty sure it was the tenth circle of hell in Dante ‘s “Inferno” – and if he didn’t include it, he should have.  I detest the place so much in fact that I haven’t physically mailed anything in at least four years.  People take a half-day off from work to accomplish something at the Italian post office.  In true useless bureaucratic style, a simple task is made difficult.  It’s probable you’ll leave with an acute hypertension problem.  Thank God I happen to live here in the age of online purchases and gifts sent directly through Amazon, otherwise I’d be a wreck.

3. Those stupid, tiny napkins at every bar that don’t absorb anything.  They seem to be coated in plastic, which makes no sense.  It’s like they’re having an existential crisis: if a napkin doesn’t properly absorb liquid, then what purpose does it exactly have?

4. The privately-owned shops and boutiques.  Ever suffered an anxiety attack while shoe shopping?  You will if you dare to enter one of these stress centers.  From the moment you open the door, the sales woman pounces and tension grows.  She immediately either: a.) wants to know exactly what you’re looking for; b.) insists on showing you things you’re entirely uninterested in; or c.) stalks you around the store in silence, just close enough to freak you out.  If you do show slight interest in something by merely grazing it with your hand, she feels the immediate need to inform you the item also comes in blah-blah colors and blah-blah sizes, and follows up with a brisk, “Can I wrap it up for you?”  Ten minutes in, and you’re ready to throw money at her and beg for mercy as you run for the door.

5. General obsession with health issues.  Everyone is always ready to self-diagnose or diagnose your symptoms (and most Italians are annoyingly proficient in anatomy).  Only in this country could you hear someone say in normal conversation, “Mi fa male il fegato” (my liver hurts).  In the States, most people couldn’t even begin to tell you where their liver is, let alone whether it hurts; we tend to lump our entire torso and its contents into the all-encompassing “stomachache.”  Then, there are the all-too-frequent discussions about digestion.  TMI, italiani! (not that TMI exists here).  Even young people habitually say things normally reserved for 80-year-old women, like: ”Mi piacciono i pepperoni, ma non li posso proprio mangiare – non li digerisco” (I like peppers, but I just can’t eat them – I can’t digest them).  I always thought it was just my immigrant grandmother who was freakishly in tune with her body (she would complain of  joint pain when it was about to rain), then I found out the whole damn country is one big pseudo-clinic of hypochondriacs.

6. Total wimpiness when it comes to the weather.  As soon as the temperature drops below 60 degrees in the fall, everyone begins to fret about the cambio di stagione they have to do at home (switching of summer/winter clothes), and they start dressing as if they lived in the Arctic Circle.  Please, people, I grew up in Ohio – your light rain and chilly temps are our Spring Break.  Then there’s the simultaneous widespread fear of the menacing colpo d’aria (cold blast of air), which, if caught without a scarf, can send you al letto (to bed) for days.  And the worst part?  I have also succumbed to this fainthearted fate, and never ever forget my scarf.  Disastro!

7. Complete lack of political correctness.  I once saw a job announcement posted in a store window advertising a position for girls with a “bella presenza, età massima di 28,” (good-looking, maximum age of 28). Seriously, they can actually get away with that?  Yes, for some reason they can – and it’s ridiculous and infuriating.

8. You always have to worry about having change on you everywhere you go.  Whenever you buy anything, every cashier, merchant, and place of business asks if you have exact change.  For example, if your bill comes to €15.62, they ask if you have thirty-eight cents.  Seriously, who has thirty-eight cents on them, all the time?  I don’t, and I certainly don’t want to have to worry about having it.  But yet I have to; it’s another thought I’m forced to squeeze into my limited brain space before going anywhere.  Otherwise, I will undoubtedly be haunted by the panicked, “Do I have any coins?” thought whenever I’m lucky enough to actually find a parking spot, or need a tip for the nice Indian guy who pumps my gas after hours.

9. The fact that the employment situation is so dire that people actually have to invent jobs that don’t exist.  No job to be found?  No problem!  Just park yourself at the nearest traffic light, parking lot, or gas station and become an honorary employee.  No, I don’t need a lighter that doubles as a laser pointer, or yet another pack of cheap tissues, grazie.  It’s a sad reflection on the state of the Italian economy when you feel obligated to pay someone for a service you really didn’t need or ask for in the first place.

10. Overly predictable people, and an awkwardly regimented society in general.  In Italy, there aren’t many people with complex identities: you are what you eat, wear, and do. Usually, what you see is what you get, without many surprises or exceptions to the rule.  From the perspective of an American used to a diverse society, that’s a strange concept.  It’s almost too easy to pinpoint a person’s social status, political beliefs, or even profession by appearance alone.  Also, much of the overall structure of society is based on the Italian eating schedule (which incidentally I’ve fully adopted, since I think it’s one of the few structural things they get right).  But I must admit it’s strange that in a country of more than 60 million people, you can actually plan your day around this schedule to avoid traffic.  For example, grocery shopping on a Sunday is a nightmare just around noon, but you can bet it’ll be a breeze from 1-3pm when everyone (and I mean everyone) is at home eating lunch. Honestly, it’s almost creepy.

That makes ten, but I think I feel a series coming on…

Check out the opposing viewpoint written on a happier day: 15 Reasons to Love Italy

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42 thoughts on “10 Things I Hate About Italy

  1. Right on! This is so funny but, true. I can totally relate. I’m not an expat but, visit Sicily often since my husband is a native. Hate shopping there (for wardrobe), love eating there! Looking forward to your next blog.

  2. sadly i agree with most of this… but, errr…. about poin 7…. at last we dont have hooters lol
    is sad but everywere you go how you look make a big deal

  3. You’re dead on with all of them! I have family in Palombara Sabina, and Monterotondo who I visit every summer and they are exactly the way you describe the Italians there especially the Romans (I married one too!)

  4. Haha, usually stuff like this upset me because they’re full of stereotypes, but I can’t argue with this! It’s too entirely true. But in my case, I don’t go around with small coins. If they ask me “do you have 66 cents?” I’d just say no and that’s it.
    But on the last point…yes, it’s true that you can tell status and maybe also job by a person’s appearance, but in my opinion we’re not dull as a brick because of that. I agree that the italian people are somewhat dumb as a group (otherwise we wouldn’t have had Berlusconi in the government for such a long fucking time), but there are very deep people. Well, I don’t think that’s what you meant in the first place haha. Ok, I’m done with my too long comment. Comunque brava!

    • Ciao Sara, I also usually say no to the coins question too, but mi fanno innervosire comunque! Believe me, these critiques all stem from a very deep love and understanding of Italy and its culture. I also happen to wholeheartedly believe Italians are the best group of people on Earth (although I’m a bit biased!) – I just have the unique ability to reason from both sides, and it makes for some interesting observations. If you enjoy my point of view, I invite you to read my first post on the “New Readers” page to get a sense of why I write this blog. Grazie mille!

  5. I’ve been living in Italy (though in the northern part) for eight years now and I’ve actually enjoyed reading this because I realized that these are the things I’ve been thinking for so long but haven’t had the courage to say out loud. Thumbs up!

  6. Well, I’m Italian and I have to admit that I really liked this post. Yes, we’re a strange nation, but I can say that we hate a lot of the thing you say too. It’s not good for us that the police it isn’t arund when you need it, and I’d like to kill some sales woman sometimes.
    I think that there’s not an itlaian who would like to fire every post employee. And “mi fa male il fegato” 95% times means that’s there’s something in the air that makes you angry, but I think that you already know this… I hate that we are a nation where you can see what we are simply looking at us, but that’s true, and job announcement are weird, but tied to weirder job-laws … and yes, we try to write in english when we can’t do it… 🙂

  7. This is great, I make every point pretty much spot on, especially those little plastic-coated napkins! And the health thing… where to begin. The trouble is, I’ve already started to notice there are some things I just can’t digest and the change of seasons has an affect on me, and we’ve only been here a year or so. It’s contagious!!

  8. Pingback: 15 Reasons to Love Italy | Sex, Lies, & Nutella

  9. very funny analysis!!! 🙂 p.s. the napkins at the bar don’t absorb liquids because they are not meant for that. They are just there to quickly clean your mouth after you eat or drink something, or to grab your cornetto without touching it with you hands.

  10. Hahha, a lot of these work for France too. Especially the obsession with health — all about the pharmacy culture here. Great post!

  11. Love this list! And…while I’ve always thought about those darned napkins…I never thought about it in that sense — hysterical.
    As for the change, It’s my No. 02 Rule for Life in Italy – make sure you have lots of change.
    Don’t believe me at your own risk.
    FMaggi, Author
    Burnt by the Tuscan Sun
    @IrreverentItaly

  12. Pingback: Italy blogs that help you go from Tourist to Traveler. | Married to Italy

  13. hahahahahaha Totally agree, but #3 is extremely hilarious that’s TRUEEEEE!! Oh my god my first approach with those napkins immediately I hate them. To good your list I used to live in Italy and there are so many good things that I adore, but so many others that are not too good, even Italians hate them. I love that list. Congratulations, I found your blog trough Italian Magazine.
    http://www.cintiasoto.com

  14. LOVED your blog! We are coming from Ohio (ha!) to celebrate my brother’s wedding to an Italian woman (he has lived in Venice 3 years and Berlin, Germany 3 years). My husband and I are traveling before the wedding which is in Friuli. Our intinerary is nuts…any words of advice would be fantastico! 😉
    Rome, Almalfi, Florence, Tuscany, Chinque Terre, Venice, Friuli/Codroipo. Regarding “shopping”…I would like to find a new bag…where to shop where I don’t get accosted! Thanks and Ciao!

  15. Re: napkins, the reason that these are useless is so you won’t be tempted to take too many. The same reasoning applies in the toilets: except that there, no paper or towels of any sort are provided – or a loo seat for that matter. Definitely the sorry state of Italian toilets is a top moan, and there are no public toilets so those of us with limited endurance are forced to purchase another strong diuretic in order to get the key…

  16. The correct change thing has always seemed weird to me too. I think it is linked to the post office thing. The second worst thing to do in Italy, after the post office, is going to the bank. If I were a shopkeeper, I would do everything in my power NOT to have to rush over to the bank to get rolls of centesimi in order to make change.

  17. As a change-friendly native with digestive problems I have to say that you nailed every one of the ten points, and you made me laugh really loud!! 😀

    .4 is so true, I hate entering a small boutique and hearing that “can I help you?”… cause I know that if I ask for some help I’ll end up buying something I don’t like. Usually I just say that “I’m just taking a look” and they desist.

    About .2 I have to say that I really like going to the post office because (and it’s linked to .10) I know that if I go around 1-3 pm, or Saturday morning, I won’t find anybody there and it’ll take me just 10 minutes.

  18. Here we go,Italians are the Roman Empire in modern times!!They take over everything and that’s it period!!If you don’t like it then f off!! Sad but true ,aggressive to the tilt ,over bearing in your face ,like it or not ,who cares mentality.Bottom line I love it ,real people living the way they have always lived for thousands of years and by god change is OUT OF THE QUESTION!!

  19. THIS >>> ‘ In Italy, there aren’t many people with complex identities: you are what you eat, wear, and do’. <<< Thanks for putting into words for me. I married an Italian and his children are like him and his family. His Italian genes killed mine stone dead. All I am is a nanny for someone else's Italian kids. Hypochondria — check. Sulkiness — check. Egos the size of barns — check. Want their own way — check. Fantasy-prone — check. Narcissism — check. No other country matters to him, no tragedy touches him, world problems don't exist for him. But the slightest mention of ITALY on the tv and he sprints across the room and almost swallows the screen whole ! ITALEEEEE !! Self absorbed, oh yes. His family has lived here in Australia for over 60 years. Quick to grab citizenship and the perks it brings. But they behave as if they were dragged to Australia by force. They behave as if they're imprisoned here. Because nothing matches ITALEEE. Italy has the best fashion, best foods, best every thing. So why are they still here in Australia ? Don't ask or you'll risk tripping over their huge outthrust bottom lips. How *dare* you speak the truth. Italians apparently are allergic to truth. Everything's a show, a performance, a fantasy, a whine, a sulk. They are the most ignorant, boring, shallow, superficial, self-centred, jealous, envious, malicious creatures I've ever had the misfortune to encounter. They've destroyed my life. I'm just managing to cling to some remnants of sanity. If I could, I'd ensure all Italian migrants were returned to Italy asap and I'd prevent any Italians from leaving their self-absorbed nation. I'd kill myself before I'd go to a country filled with them. Italy will never see a cent of my holiday money.

    • I don’t even remember how I ended up on this thread but I’d like to say how sad that you feel that way. I’m sorry that this has happened to you but I assure you that we are not all cast from the same mould, or “non si puo’ fare di tutta l’erba un fascio”.

      I was born and raised in Australia to Italian parents and I think it’s fair to say that if you lived in China, for example, you would still want to know what was going on in your birthplace. Needless to say, my parents, especially my mother, are extraordinarily well assimilated in Australia and my dad sounds pretty “Ocker”. They realise too that they left in the late ‘60’s for lack of employment and better opportunities and alas, almost 50 years later in a whole new millennium, the employment situation does not seem to have improved.

      Despite the assimilation into Australian life, we have also maintained strong ties to our Italian heritage. We love both cultures and nations. Nothing wrong with that.

      I hope things turn out for the best in your world but please, don’t hate all of us because of your personal experience. Again, I am sorry for what you endure. I’m sure there were happy times once and for that reason alone, I’m sure you realise that where there is bad, there is also good, in every culture, in every nation, in every person.

      Lastly, I do see your point and I have met people who struggle with assimilation, be it migrants from last millennium or new-age ones – my own relatives included. I also agree with the points above, but as I said in the beginning, not all Italians are the same.

      Best wishes.

      • Thanks for your feedback, however you are clearly not familiar with my blog and background. This post was meant to be a tongue in cheek, humorous critique of real life in the Italy of today.

        I, too, come from a family that immigrated to the U.S. after the war in the 1950’s, so no one understands your point of view better than I do. The difference is I took my admiration to another level and made the country my actual home for six years.

        I invite you to read the “New Readers” page and the rest of my blog – although I try to paint a very realistic picture, I believe the love I have for my country (I am also a dual citizen) shines through.

      • I think Minat2012 was responding to GetOverYourselfItaly who apparently married the wrong person and it has ruined her life. Wow – she doesn’t even sound like she loves her children!! Very sad!!

  20. Hypochondriacs yes, but I do take issue with your comments re joint pain in wet weather….. Ask any sufferer of Arthritis!! I can always tell if it is going to rain unfortunately… not pleasant & extremely painful!

    I can never understand why they pile on the clothes, seemingly from one day to another as if there is a special date when the winter/summer wardrobe must be worn! On my last visit towards the end of September, I laughed at a young man who was dressed for an evening event in his winter woollies, scarf, hat and all… He said it was cold, admittedly it had dropped from 30 degrees to twenty, but….. Heck!!

    We Brits can list all sorts that we ‘hate’ about your American habits & vice versa of course… But I recently chose to leave a Facebook group made up of mainly American ex-pats living in Italy. I just couldn’t read any more of their constant moans and criticisms….. apart from their Italian in-laws, they were mostly missing so badly all the crap sweet and starchy food that they could not get in Italy!! When Lidl had an American food week, I could not believe what they were buying and stocking up on! Check out the statistics guys… Italians as a nation, live longer than most and have less cancer than most countries, including the UK. We also have poor statistics re obesity, but not to the extent the US does, so surely, health-wise, far better to eat an Italian diet….. without the ritualistic set times for each meal of course!

    Luckily, my Italian bolt hole is in a very small village in Umbria where dress and other strange codes are not so important. My immediate Italian neighbour always drinks her coffee with milk, whatever time of day… I do not get glared at for my very casual attire or my penchant for cappuccino… whenever! I well remember when I lived near Milan many years ago, my neighbours horror when having asked me to accompany her to the shops, that I didn’t bother to change into something other than shorts and flip flops! I suspect I would still suffer ‘the look’ today, if I lived in or near one of the larger cities.

    One thing I am learning very rapidly living in this small community, which saddens me as I had not come across it before, certainly not in northern Italy, is to never say anything to anyone about anybody else, nor to believe what anybody says, even those who purport to be your greatest friend! I have never come across such a two-faced bunch of people in my life!

  21. Oh My! #2,6 & 8!!! Dying! hahaha I moved to Italy almost a year ago and this is my second autumn here in Trento, Italy and boy do they looove their jackets and scarfs, and extra layers of fake fur over their sporty puffy jackets The temperatures are still in HI 60’s during the day! \ And the whole plastic napkins situation here is just ridiculous… When I just moved I loved all the cute metal cans that these napkins come in, and they are always on every table, and you fee like “awww so thoughtful”. But no, it’s not, because if you spill your cafe macchiato or have greasy coneto hands, you are screwed. This napkin will do nothing, it will just laugh at your efforts. \ Going to a grocery shop was a bit of a nerve-racking experience for me for many months due to lack of Italian. That moment in the check-out lane, when it’s your turn and you are trying to pack your groceries and sweating because you are hoping they won’t ask you anything, and of course they do ask you for freaking thirty-eight cents! They probably thought I was such a grumpy bitch because I said “no” every time. Anywaaay, thank you for an awesome post and blog in general 🙂 Boosted my mood tremendously 🙂

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