“Cruising at 40,000+ feet above the Atlantic Ocean, I feel strangely at peace. Halfway between the two places I call home, I want to hover here for a while. It’s the place where I don’t feel torn, neither heading towards, nor leaving behind, the places and people I love. I can no longer say which one is home, and where it is that I am visiting”- (by Lisa Condie)
Italy vs England: After reading one of Lisa Condie’s article about differences she found between the US and Italy, just for fun I started thinking of the main differences between the two places I call home: Italy and England. Countries I love equally, each one maybe for their unique characteristics.
The most frequent question people used to ask (and still do) to my daughter, who has an Italian passport but has lived all her life in England is: “Do you feel more Italian or English”? As a child she never had the answer. As an adult now, she still doesn’t have one .
Maybe we should talk about homes, as we may feel “at home” in more than one place even though, among countries, there are undoubtedly fundamental
ALL’ ULTIMO MINUTO (Last minute): 1 Point for Italy (according to me – secondo me)
Italians are able to act spontaneously without making plans. At the end of a work day, colleagues can simply decide to meet for aperitif and maybe stay for pizza afterwards without the need of planning ahead as English do. Friends may call you in the morning to invite you over for dinner on the same day, while this would never happen in England. When over the Channel, I always need to plan ahead, making appointments well in advance to make sure that we can be all together. To me this is a point for Italy, but really it depends on how you look at things and maybe for someone else the planning part feels more comfortable. On the contrary for me, too much planning makes me anxious: will I remember ? will everything go according to plan until then?
A TAVOLA – Food …1 Point for Italy( but with some notes)
It’s not just restaurants or chefs, it’s the Italian food culture, the quality of fresh, organic products, the love and pride that Italians put into cooking, which doesn’t have too much to do with “nutrition”. It’s more a love-thing, a daily event to enjoy. Dinners are not a sandwich in front of the TV, rather a “social experience” that can last for hours…On the other hand…there is no equal with the great variety of international restaurants one can find when in London or in England in general.
Not having a strong culinary tradition as Italy has (even with too much emphasis sometimes, we must admit), England embraces all culinary cultures. The result is an amazing offer with food from all over the world available at your doorstep.
CORTESIA– Kindness: Point for England
In shops and offices, there is in general a far better attitude in England than in Italy towards the public. Not only public employees are kinder to people on the other side of the desk, but in general, in shops you will be able to return any item you think is not as expected without the shop assistant blinking an eye at your complaint. The result is an immediate exchange with a new item with no fuss. Try this in Italy! They will start by asking you the SCONTRINO ( receipt) and proof you didn’t damage by yourself the thing and, even if you can prove all they asked for, in the end, I bet you‘ll go back home empty handed.
REGOLE– Rules: Point for England
Whether it’s on a bus, a post office, at the grocery’s, English follow the “unsaid queue-rule” peacefully and gracefully. Italians hate or do not understand the concept, so everything runs a little slower and often with some colourful situations. Pedestrian crossings, traffic lights, airport check-ins are living proof of this…
TE’- Tea: Point for England
There is no comparison here. Even though, recently Italy is under the spell of the English style and tea rooms are appearing as trendy locations to meet friends, you will hardly find a good cup of tea in any bar. Moreover the barman and your Italian friends will surely ask you whether you feel sick or what is wrong with you…Ti senti male? C’è qualcosa che non va?
CAFFE’- Coffee: Draw
I love coffee in both countries. For sure there is a stronger coffee culture in Italy . The creamy and bold taste of an espresso or caffè macchiato in Italy has nothing to do with the weaker flavor of the so called American coffee (as it’s done in Italy) But I am also a fan of the mug of piping hot coffee English style as it is done in the UK, with lots of time to spend with it while reading or chatting in one of the cozy coffee shops all around the country. Two different drinks for two very different occasions indeed.
APERITIVO: Point for Italy
There is no match here, as English people do not have the Aperitif ritual so typical in the Stivale (boot country) due to the very different eating habits of the two countries. English people tend to have dinner much earlier than Italians. Aperitifs with buffets start to appear in Italian cities around 6,30 pm and go on until 8 pm. We could talk about Pubs in England of course, and there would be an additional chapter on differences between the two worlds. Spritz, Bellini, Rossini, Bollicine… the list is long and bubbling
STILE – Look: Point for Italy
I am pretty sure we all agree on this one. Italian women and men “do it better”. However, they may be “eccessivi” at times, with too many brands on display and often following too much the latest fashion. Women, especially, never seem to relax, not letting it go even to take out the garbage, but they know how to match colours or accessorize any outfit (apparently) with no effort . On the other hand, I must say that English tend to let it go a bit too much. Take a look at the two types when at the airport gates. As we say in Italy : non si può fare di tutta l’erba un fascio (meaning we can’t generalize) , but UGGs, flip flops and some sandals speak for themselves.
CRESCERE NEI DUE PAESI– Growing up in the two countries
In the end – Alla fine: What makes Italians or English people what they are? For sure their education, not only intended as school education, more as family upbringing.
It has more to do on how kids grow up in the two countries, how they become Italians or English, since clearly nationality isn’t a genetic thing, but a sort of general conditioning, a group destiny. Italian children grow up with the ritual warnings: Don’t sweat! Do not go in the sea ‘till eleven! Do not walk barefoot or you’ll catch a cold, not to mention the dreadful “correnti d’aria” that appears to scare the entire Nation. On the other hand, British people seem not to be able to distinguish between cold or warm temperatures, children may wear t-shirts in the middle of winter and will catch colds exactly like Italians but not caring too much about it. Family dinners are different in the two countries, summer holidays too. Morever, nursery rhymes, fairy tales, children songs… these are all foundations on which any adult individual will be built.
The author Tim Parks writes: “I realised at once how important language was, and above all, everything that is untranslatable, the little things kids say, or that are said to them, that tilt the mind in a certain direction, perhaps bewildering to a foreigner.”