Thursday, February 5, 2009

Il tempo è flessibile

I don't know if I've really talked about the concept of "time" in Italy yet. Here is what you need to know: there is no concept of time in Italy. This remains one of the biggest cultural adjustments for Americans abroad, most especially in Italy, because what we consider ineffectiveness, laziness, them is just business as usual.

If a business opens at 8 in the morning, it is perfectly acceptable for them to show up at 8:30, maybe even later. Then, when it is lunchtime, they may close from 12:30 until 2:30 or 3:00. What this actually means is they will close at noon and maybe they will be back by 4:00. And if the store closes at 7:00, you'd better get there at 6:30, which is most likely when they will start closing up for the day.

It is completely strange to all of us Americans and it can get frustrating when you want to run to the store for something only to find it will be closed for the next three hours. But the thing is, it's not just the stores and little shops--the banks, the post office, even restaurants close down for pranzo (lunch).

Today our Italian professor told us that when she went to the bank this morning she saw one of her friends who works there. When the friend saw her, he said (in Italian): "Gina, oh, let's go get some coffee!" (When our professor told us the story she included the ubiquitous Italian hand gestures.) And so they did. The guy just left work, left all of the people in line at the bank, and went for coffee with a friend. What's more important: this story is not unique in Italy. It's fairly normal actually.

It's not uncommon for my professors from Italy to come to class a few minutes late and when they end class depends mostly on if they've covered everything they wanted to--whether that means getting out 15 minutes early or staying in class late, until they finish what they want to say.

The buses are supposed to run on schedules so that every fifteen-twenty minutes a bus will be at each stop, but somehow they end up all bunching together so there are no buses for an hour and then suddenly there are three at one time.

When we called our housing service to let them know our washing machine was not hooked up, our oven did not work, our toilet wasn't flushing right, and that we had a leak in our kitchen, each time they would say they were sending someone over later that day. Two days later, the repairmen showed up. They never brought tools though. They came to check out the problem, and then they would come back again the next day to actually fix it. And we never have any idea when they are coming.

I'm slowly becoming accustomed to this nebulous idea of time, but I am a little worried about the danger of becoming too accustomed to it. I already don't wear a watch. If I'm always late when I get back to America at least you'll know why...


  1. i would go nuts. and dad would positively freak

  2. I should perhaps mention that I did go nuts the first week. Because I AM Dad when our orientation meetings were, once again, starting late, I was pretty peeved.

  3. If you think your father couldn;t adjust to that wellllllll think about gpak. Does church start on time? We are enjoying your daily events and seeing Italy through your eyes. Love gmak