I’m back in Paris after 2 months of learning Italian in Genoa, Italy. The cool Paris weather is a shock after the heat of Italy, but I’m excited to be home.
Naturally, I can’t help comparing the (Genovese) Italians to the (Parisian) French with whom I have cohabited for almost 18 years. Little differences and similarities between the daily life in both countries are entertaining, endearing and often surprising.
Things I have noticed: Life in Italy vs France
- You will be scoffed at in both countries for ordering a cappuccino in the afternoon. Mind you, I do it anyway. How gauche is that?
- Both Italians and French cut lines with zeal. Little old Italian ladies are surprisingly cunning. Be alert!
- Taxis in both cities can, and will, try to rip you, the foreigner, off even if you speak the language. Be aware.
- Both Italians and French love their doggies and bring them in trains, restaurants and just about everywhere they can physically go. In both countries you will see many a person out and about deep in conversation with Fido.
- In Italy every respectable home must have a bidet. In France the bidet is mostly a thing of the past.
- Every worthy French kitchen is equipped with a Ginette Mathiot ‘Je Sais Cuisiner’ cookbook and a cocotte minute (pressure cooker). In Italy every respectable home has a fettatrice (cold cut slicer) and a Bimby (an incredible machine that does everything from mixing, steaming and cooking a perfect risotto in 14 minutes… Along with focaccia, ice cream, bread dough, pasta sauce…)
- The train is a source of pride in France. Trains are fast, sleek and modern. In Italy, one cannot quite say the same. In both countries however, to the surprise of many, one can actually take the train just about everywhere.
- In Italy clothes are hung out to dry for all to see. And that means all clothes, no matter how intimate! In Paris, there are strict rules against hanging laundry where it is publicly visible.
- In Italy, it often feels like there are more scooters then people. The French scoot, but to a lesser degree than their pasta-eating counterparts.
- In Italy everyone has a cell phone. It’s the same in France. The Italians yak efficiently on their phone while doing everything from driving, scooting and eating to walking and working. The French appear more disciplined about not using cell phones in moving transit. It could be that it is illegal in France. Then again, it is probably illegal in Italy too.
- In Italy you can use cafe restrooms even if you are not a customer, without sneaking in like a criminal. Ask politely and admission will be granted. In Paris I have had some desperate moments of urgent need and adamant refusal. I have now resorted to the technique of « don’t look, don’t tell » when entering a café in need of a toilet. I have learned to keep my head down and to beeline straight to the bathroom as if it were the most natural thing in the world. And it works!
- Italian couples on the beach, are, well, comfortable with PDA (public displays of affection). I almost never go to the beach in France so I can’t comment on what it is like.
Need I say more – Beach in Italy this July!
- In Italy I have rediscovered how to be chatty and smiley with shop owners and restaurant staff, something I had forgotten in France.
- In Paris I have perfected the art of pretending not to see people I recognize as they are pretending not to see me. In Italy they look at you, smile and say hello! I’m gonna try that in Paris and see how it goes….!
To be continued with my observations on differences between Italians and French themselves! What about you? Tell us your personal experiences on life in France, Italy, Europe and beyond …
Some links you might enjoy:
- How to order coffee in Italy
- David Lebovitz’ favorite coffee spots in Paris
- Parisian doggies
- How to use the bidet