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Friday, October 28, 2005

My observations on Southern Italians versus Northern Italians

I don't want to sound like a tourist brochure, but, well, I will anyway.
Last month I had a student in my class who is from Naples, Italy. He told me that espresso coffee was invented there and tastes better.
'Sure!' I thought to myself.' Same water as here, same machines as here, coffee beans are grown in Columbia anyway, not Naples. What is this guy trying to prove?'
Then he said 'Pizza was invented there too. It is also better.'
'O.K.' I replied. Then, being the English teacher I am, changed the subject to verb tenses.

Last week I went to visit Naples, and I must say that every word that came from my students mouth are true.
The food in Naples is AWESOME.
The pizza is great, the coffee is great, the sweets are great, fried appetizers. I could go on.
If you haven't been there yet, go. Eat. Oh, you can also visit Mt. Vesuvius or tourist stuff if you want.

OK, I have only been in Southern Italy for 3 days as compared to 3 years in Northern Italy, so I am hardly an expert on Italian social behavior, but I noticed several differences.

One was in a restaurant. We ate dinner and dessert and then paid our bill to leave, and the waiter bought (or just brought) us 2 coffees that we hadn't paid for.
Truthfully we did leave a tip after the meal that would more than cover the price of 2 coffees, but the money we used as a tip was a tip for the service already provided, not future coffees.
In Northern Italy you get what you pay for and nothing more. A tip is a tip for what was, not what will be.
Another difference was inside a bar. I ordered a coffee. Was given a coffee. Then 2 minutes later the barista gave me a glass of what is called 'caffe freddo' and said 'try this.' For free !

Never would happen up north !
I won't go as far to say 'service with a smile' as often happens in the US, but it was a welcome change.
The people in Southern Italy just seem friendlier, from the clerk at the hotel to strangers who we asked for directions.

Was it false friendliness, just for getting a tip ?
Anyway, Buzzurro says, 'Better false friendliness than true rudeness'. The Southern Italians seem to grasp this more so than their Northern counterparts.