Don’t be fooled! Italy is as conservative as you can get.

Dino, asleep at the café

Don’t misinterpret the heading. I’m not talking about the fact that the current government here is to the right of right-wing. I’m talking about conservative with a small “c”.

In almost everything, the Italians are conservative. Sure they have great design skills, great food, great wine (sorry but it’s true – I am biased, I admit it). To some people, looking from the outside the Italians would appear to be more free-spirited than most.

However, in actual fact, they are terribly conservative. Forget about the discussion over on Blog from Italy. In almost everything they do, they are “held back” by this need to conform. And, it seems, they won’t be changing their ways any time soon.

The reason for this thought is that, after taking the dogs for a long walk in the park, I stopped for lunch at my favourite café. After I had finished lunch and was on my second beer, given that it’s actually quite a nice day and definitely warm enough to sit outside in shirtsleeves, a couple of women sat close enough that I could overhear their conversation.

One of the women was Italian, or, at least, lived in Italy. The other sounded American but, from the conversation, I got the impression she was living in London.

The London woman was complaining about the fact that there wasn’t much choice for the food – just salad or pannini (sandwiches). Well, they had sat down at about 2.45.

As she rightly pointed out, in London, you can get virtually what you want at any time of day and night. Her complaint was that, normally, she wouldn’t get up until about 1 or 2 in the afternoon (it is intriguing as to what work she does, isn’t it?) and that here, it meant no decent food.

The Italian woman explained that food at cafés was normally served between about 12 and 2 or 2.30 (which is, more or less, true). She went on to explain that, in the south, things are even worse in that, for instance, shops would be open from 9 or 10 until about 12 and then re-open about 5 for a couple of hours.

The London woman was not impressed. Her comment was that the food was really good but that not being able to get it when you want was not good.

And whilst this is all true, her earlier comments about London made me think. He earlier comments being that London was, in general, more rainy and, most certainly, colder.

And I thought “What would I prefer?”. Of course, I already know the answer. In the UK I would not have taken the dogs for a walk and stopped at a nearby café to have lunch outside, with a couple of beers, and a few cigarettes and watched the world go by or earwigged interesting conversations – if I was in the UK. So, what would I prefer? Exactly what I have right now.

Wild horses wouldn’t be dragging me back to the UK (sorry guys). And, although, in many ways, being here is like being in the UK in the 50s, 60s or 70s, the hope I have is that it will progress towards the UK in some ways of thinking, whilst retaining the pragmatism about life that I love about the Italians.

If a country can be defined by it’s people (perhaps excluding the Mafia – using the general term that UK readers will understand), then Italy is a wonderful country with which I am still, very much, in love. Milan is (if you look closely) a beautiful city and life here is really the dolce vita that one expects.

My advice to others, not Italian, who want to come here – come but be prepared to adjust to Italy and don’t expect Italy to adjust to you. It’s like choosing a life-partner. If you’re thinking that you will be able to change the other person – don’t continue. If you can’t accept them for the way they are you shouldn’t be doing it.

p.s. Picture above is Dino, fast asleep, under the table at the café. So sweet.

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9 thoughts on “Don’t be fooled! Italy is as conservative as you can get.

  1. mmmm…..Italians are conservative. Interesting, and I can agree. Only, I didn’t quite understand your point and I’d like to know (especially from an Englishman) what you exactly mean by that. Usually, I tend to think that being conservative can be good or not according to what one is inclined to preserve ;-)

    All the best

  2. Well, I was trying to explain to my English readers that Italians are not such wild, free-thinking a people as they might think and that, here, many things are the way they are because of convention rather than necessarily the best or right way.

    I agree that, in some instances it can be a good thing whilst in others it is not such a good thing.

    But I tried to say, at the end, that my choice, weighing everything up, is that Italy is still wonderful and, if you choose to come here, be prepared to accept the conservatism – good or bad.

  3. Maybe we are touching an interesting point here of non comprehension between our two cultures (for example, you English see us passionate so you expect us to be wild, while we often tend to moderation between two extremes (the so called right measure, who knows); or maybe it is only a question of a few individuals, like you and me, so not interesting from a general point of view; or maybe it is too late, I drank some good wine and I feel too stupid now…. :-(

  4. I hope you enjoyed your wine, lol.

    You could say conformism and, to some extent, that would be true. But, actually I do mean conservatism. I get the feeling that there is no real desire for change or, if there must be some, then it should be taken in very small steps. Not that the UK is any better but many people from the UK will not know that here, it is at least as bad as in the UK.

    And, although not everyone is to the right, politically, and you have had a thriving (?) communist party (at least, until recently), your brand of communism also does not really want radical change, in spite of what they may say. Words are not deeds. And, whatever the political leanings of the Italians I know, there is more ‘right-wing’ thinking than they would be comfortable for me to point out.

    Or maybe it is just the Italians I know? Or maybe it is just the resignation of people who know that it cannot change?

    There are exceptions, of course, I admit.

  5. I did enjoyed my wine a lot, thanks. I do not know why I find this whole discussion hard to focus….. mmmm…..I can say resignation is something that happens here vis-à-vis who is governing us, since we seldom had good rulers (while maybe you had many), and our fortunes (if we ever had any lol) mostly came out of the people more that those ruling them. Can this engender conservatism also? Hard to say. I think we are now at a point where we are like two pilgrims who just met and who speak a different language.
    Sitting down at a locanda and drinking some good wine (or beer) might surely help. Why then don’t you join me at this discussion in my blog about UK versus Italy? It might be so interesting and fun.

    http://manofroma.wordpress.com/2008/02/17/isn%e2%80%99t-british-trojan-horse-a-short-sighted-animal/

    All the best
    From Southern West

  6. Wow, what a long comment you sent me there!
    >you asked me to contribute although your post is not the same, in any way, to mine
    I know, but this ‘conservatism’ we are talking about here could have been inserted as an element of discussion (and differrence?).

    >A little heavy I suspect and …probably less comprehensible than I would like.
    No, not at all, what you say is very clear. Thanks a lot then. I’ll try to reply as soon as I can. Ciao

    MoR

  7. Sorry, MoR. I completely forgot to answer this reply – being so involved with your post! :-).

    I don’t think we had many good rulers – we just won a lot of things and, as you know, history is written by the winners!

    I like the idea of sitting at a locanda with either wine or beer (as long as it is good) and am sure it would help.

    There is an amount of resignation here, in Italy, that I find quite shocking. A shrug of the shoulders is a common response when faced with a hurdle. This could lead people to think that the Italians don’t desire change. I think that is wrong. I think they would like change but, maybe, everytime they try to change something it still ends up the same as before. That’s because, in my opinion, there is no real collective desire for real change. We all want to be comfortable – and what is familiar is comfortable, even if it’s not the best thing. Look at people who stay in abusive relationships!
    Ciao
    From North Central

  8. Hi, fellow pilgrim …

    >I like the idea of sitting at a locanda with either wine or beer (as long as it is good)

    Maybe it could be the only way to really talk and understand each other, coming from such different places (this being the fun of the whole thing, after all). Well, did you ever try Menabrea? It is a Italian beer that is served only in pubs (do not know why) and that won many world prizes – this without diminishing the clear superiority of English beers ah ah ah.

    >There is an amount of resignation here, in Italy, that I find quite shocking

    I agree, it is a bit depressing. Italy is not living a positive moment, I believe (also because of the emerging economies). Well, this thing that you keep repeating, that Italians have this resignation…. said by an Englishman, it is nonetheless interesting, considering also that you live in Milan, which is an innovative place – compared to other parts of this country – and one of the richest areas in Europe … I am thinking of it.

    Well, you are from a more dynamic part of the world – the Channel area etc. – , this is for sure. The Mediterranean is more static, since the economy shifted to North long ago. In the central and southern parts of this country, which I know better, resignation comes from ages of immobility and from power relationships which were fixed and immutable, this causing a lot of Italian migrations all over the world. Still, Northern Italy …..too long and complex topic to be discussed here, plus maybe I am too old to have a real feel of what is happening in the new Italy emerging….

    Ciao

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