I’ve recently written on 5 things I miss about Italy, but of course, there is also il rovescio della medaglia. So many things are not working as they should: bureaucracy is a nightmare, the social system is a mess, politicians are corrupted and overpaid. There is a general agreement that being furbo is better than being onesto. Sexism is still a huge issue and it shows on television, in everyday life, sadly in the crime news section as well.
Moreover, some of the things that come as a culture shock for people visiting Italy also feel like reverse culture shock when I go back there.
To be completely honest it feels a bit weird to be writing this post right after coming back to London from a brief holiday in Bologna. I’ve been increasingly missing Italy and the sense of familiarity of being at home, but it doesn’t mean I can forget why I left. So here is a list of 5 things I don’t miss about Italy, some lighthearted and some very serious, and just a small part of what needs improvement.
As a principle, I don’t watch dubbed movies. I don’t like the silly way in which lips movements and sounds don’t match and I find it weird to see Ryan Gosling speak in Italian. When watching a dubbed movie you miss much of the acting, because a big part of it lies in the voice and the way it’s used. Finally, you miss the chance to practice a foreign language in a creative way.
In Italy, every show and movie is dubbed. Some cinemas offer limited shows of original versions, but it’s an exception rather than the rule.
Dubbing is, in my opinion, one of the reasons why Italians don’t excel at English, especially if compared to North Europeans. While in Sweden and other Scandinavian countries most series and movies are shown with subtitles, in Italy the exposure to English while watching TV is non-existent.
Also, in Italy, there are a bunch of famous voice actors that dub the vast majority of movies and series. As a consequence, you’ll hear Meredith Grey speak with the same voice as Lorelei Gilmore, just to name two, and in general only the same voices over and over again.
Italians love their football. Rivalries between two teams from the same city are like family feuds and if someone’s team gets smashed in the derby they might cry. If an Italian asks you what is your favourite team, beware: your answer will shape the idea they have of you forever.
While it’s good to have a passion it’s not so good to be a maniac, even more so if that applies to the whole country. Maybe I’m biased, but I’m going to tell you about an episode that left me puzzled to try and show you what I’m talking about.
Last year I went to a wedding during the European Cup. Lovely restaurant on the hills just outside Bologna, delicious food, joyful atmosphere and all. However, that night Italy was playing against Germany to qualify for semifinals (spoiler: we lost). Turns out for most guests it was inconceivable to miss the match. They expressed their concern to the newly-weds and the party stopped for 2 hours while the game was displayed on a big screen in the middle of the hall.
I’m not sure how the couple felt about it, but I hope no one among my family and friends ever expects me to be as accommodating…
No car no fun
In Italy, we aren’t great at public transport. At best it is late, at worst it’s not working at all, in any case, if you live just outside any city you will need a car to go pretty much anywhere, even a short distance.
I grew up in Castel Maggiore, a town situated about 10 km from the centre of Bologna. Despite the closeness, it’s connected to the city by sporadic trains and only 4 buses per hour, until about 10 pm. After that you can’t get to Bologna by public transport and believe me, nightlife in Castel Maggiore is not very exciting when you’re older than 14.
Since I moved abroad I’ve been enjoying the possibility to move around without necessarily having a car. Sometimes it takes more time and it’s more inconvenient, but you can avoid the stress of being stuck in traffic, looking for parking and paying for gasoline.
To be fair I think television isn’t great in most countries. From the common obsession for cooking shows and the sadomasochistic attraction for trash TV exposing the worst side of humanity, I rarely even find a reason to turn it on.
Italian television has its own peculiar plagues though. We have an overwhelming quantity of political talk shows where people end up insulting each other in a way that doesn’t fit your ideal representatives. Italian series are generally based on family or everyday situations and have mediocre screenplays, dialogues and acting.
Most of all, Italian television is still largely ruled by men. Women are on their side, sometimes they act stupid and they are mocked or receive paternalist reproaches. In the worst case scenario, they are literally part of the furniture: they stand in the background wearing very little clothes. You might as well get some plants to do that. What is worse is that when I was younger I took it for granted and I thought that was happening in every country. One of the most striking examples is the veline from the popular comedy show Striscia la Notizia: two girls, one blonde and one brunette, that dance on the news anchors’ desk and have a merely decorative purpose.
There are some exceptions and some women that host their own shows, but many of them mimic the same kind of sexist language and ignorant behaviour seen elsewhere.
Quite a punk statement, uh? In the last ten years or so, since the start of the great recession, I’ve been having this nagging feeling of hopelessness whenever I think about my country. It’s heartrending to see people my age and younger struggle to find a job, to be paid appropriately or to be paid at all whenever they have one. It’s outrageous to be faced with unacceptable working conditions because if you don’t take the job someone else will, even under those conditions. It’s infuriating to see that even dignity sometimes is too much to ask for and that planning for the future seems like a utopia.
In a world where freelancing is becoming more and more widespread, Italy has a tax regulation that nips every attempt to start working as self-employed in the bud.
As a consequence of years of blind working policies, it’s way too common for people who are 30 and above to live with their parents: they cannot even afford a room in a shared house.
And to add insult to injury in recent years ministers and other public figures defined the millennial generation as “bamboccioni” (mommy’s boys), “choosy” and “sfigati” (losers).
And let’s not even start talking about the fast-spreading racism and atmosphere of intolerance…
Are there things about your country that you don’t miss at all since living abroad? If you live or have lived in Italy what do you think are its negative sides? Let me know in the comments!