Everything is different in a foreign country. Italy, so it seems, has got a few things backwards. Tasks that are simple at home are significantly more complicated here, and errands that would be completely unfeasible for me in the US are una paccia di torta.
Things that are easy to do in Italy:
–Purchase and consume alcohol
I’m drawing this point less as a “woo-party-party” kind of thing, but more as a demonstration of the stark contrast between Italy and the United States. Alcohol is available everywhere here. There are actual bars and nightclubs – institutions based around alcohol sales and consumption. That’s no surprise. Then there are the bars scattered around Roman streets, which are technically “snack bars.” These establishments primarily serve coffee, but they also serve beer and wine and liquors. If neither type of bar fits the bill, thirsty pedestrians can purchase adult beverages from a multitude of snack carts and stalls in public parks or near piazzas.
In the US, open container laws prevent people from strolling around with…open containers of alcohol, but those laws don’t exist in Italy. Hence, it’s not uncommon to see a group of students socializing and imbibing around a fountain at night or drinking beers (or wine juice boxes—they have those here) on the way to the clubs.
Contrary to popular belief, Italy does have a drinking age of 16. It’s just very loosely enforced. A vending machine outside my apartment building sells cans of beer to parched passers-by. The only thing stopping juveniles from getting their hands on a cold one? A handwritten sign.
–Purchase and consume fresh produce
The food is so good. And it’s good because it’s real and fresh. People are able to buy relatively inexpensive fruits and vegetables at any number of daily outdoor markets, which are sort of like farmer’s markets without all of the baggage. The produce at the market stalls isn’t uniform – it doesn’t have that creepy clone look of American produce. The tomatoes might still be green in a few spots, but they look like tomatoes should look. The clementines have a few stubborn leaves attached, but they look like clementines should look. The artichokes are different sizes, but they look like artichokes should look. You see my point. Food here looks real, not genetically modified or pumped full of pesticides. Without getting too philosophical, I think it’s rather nice that the Italians accept a few flaws on their fruits and veggies.
Things that are not so easy to do in Italy:
–Take a Shower
I have seven roommates. Between the eight of us, we share two and a half bathrooms. The shower that I use is an Italian shower – a bathtub with a showerhead. I have a bath/shower combo at home, but it’s different here. Instead of having a wall-mounted showerhead, the showerhead is attached to the wall near the spigot, kind of like a handicapped shower. This would be handy if I liked to take baths and if I weren’t sharing the space with three other people. Ew. Learning to shower one-handed has been an exercise in coordination and balance. One would think that bathing would be one of the more basic tasks to master, but in Italy, I’m learning all over again.
Again, I’m sharing one washing machine with my seven roommates. I was prepared for a teeny tiny, one-pair-of-jeans-at-a-time type of washer, but it’s really not as small as I had imagined. Washing clothes isn’t the challenge. Because electricity costs are so much higher in Italy than in the US, very few families have clothes dryers. Instead, they hang their garments out on clotheslines between apartment buildings or out on their windowsills to dry. The movies, the pictures, the postcards – it’s all accurate. Every morning, I get to see Mr. and Mrs. Building-Next-Door’s shirts, sheets, and underwear flapping in the breeze.
Luckily, I don’t have to hang my clothing out the window to dry because John Cabot so kindly equipped the apartments with nice IKEA drying racks. It’s probably going to take a few loads of laundry for me to get used to un-shrunken jeans and wrinkly shirts.