Saturday. 8:52am. Ada's vegetable truck, Cannara: I get into a heated argument with a 4ft tall 90 year old man about the best time to eat shell beans....
I've been reading posts lately on the concept of integration (namely from fellow bloggers Rebecca & Elizabeth). Integration is a hot-topic for us expats, and those of us who are (self-proclaimed) integrated definitely have a superiority complex over those who have not yet achieved said status. What defines being integrated in Italy? According to me, you must be fairly fluent in Italian, have physical Italian friends (friends you call and go out with, not just on Facebook), and know and accept that you will spend approximately 45% of your time in Italy in the post office.
All that is fine, but after Saturday morning's incident, I began to wonder if it is possible to cross the line and over-integrate. Lately I have been catching myself doing things that I wouldn't have done even 2 years ago (I've now been here for 7 years):
- Haggling. I am not now, nor ever have been a haggler. But I've haggled twice in the past month, and not with some gypsy selling crap on the side of the road. I haggled in Leroy Merlin (a big box store, like a fancy Home Depot) - you don't haggle in these kind of stores - the price is the price. I did it though - using the "I'll give you €xx for this item - otherwise I walk out the door" technique. I can't believe I did it; I can't believe it worked. I also just haggled with a giant, scary Napoletano selling porcini mushrooms on the side of the road. That was actually kind of fun, because we were both playing the game. I got him down to €60 from €95 for a case of porcini. Now I know, always buy mushrooms at the end of the day.
- I yell out of my window (from across the room) to join in my neighbors' conversations (which I have been obviously listening in on). And they, of course, respond - willingly yelling back. This is something that really only occurs when you live in the center of a town, and definitely a sign of over-integration.
- I sit down on any chair, anywhere. If you have ever walked around an Italian village in the warmer months, you will notice that there are groups of chairs around in front of people's homes. This is for the residents and their friends - because Italians don't really do a full passeggiata, walking around town after dinner - they walk to the first chairs they can find - be they at a neighbor's house or a bar, as long as they can sit down again fairly quickly. I now sit down on people's chairs whether they are there or not, whether I know them or not, any time of day. A sign either of over-integration or that I am turning into an 80 yr old Italian woman.
- Responding when spoken to in 2nd person plural. This is advanced, people. This goes beyond fluency. Italians have a formal tense (3rd person, singular) which is used when speaking to people you don't know, doctors, officials, etc. BUT! There is an older version of the formal tense which went out of fashion with black & white movies (where I learned it, by the way) and it is the 2nd person, plural. Confused? It is confusing. I didn't realize that my elderly neighbor had been speaking to me in this tense until one day she caught me by myself - I was looking over my shoulder to see if someone was behind me because I couldn't understand who else she was talking to! aaahhh, old school formal - I get it!
- And of course, as mentioned in the beginning, arguing with old people about things like cooking beans. Just for the record, I had some 70 year old peeps on my side! Definite Over-integration.