Thursday, November 3, 2022

5 Things Italians are Afraid Of – Two Americans’ Observations

Five things Italians are afraid of

You might ask: who are you to make these observations? Well, we have lived in Italy a couple of years now and almost all of these observations we have experienced watching people close to us, have been questioned about directly, or observed broadly in our community. We are living in the north, so our observations are skewed in that sense. So be it.

These observation should not be taken as criticisms, rather just cultural differences that we find interesting and humorous especially when we are caught in the crosshairs of good-natured ribbing. We wouldn’t live anywhere else but in Italy.

(1) A fear of a blast of air or colpo d’aria.

Italians have a strong fear of wind or drafts. For example, we have Italian friends who grew up with the idea that your belly should always be covered to prevent getting sick. A BBC article does a good job of explaining this idea.

One morning as we leave our apartment, we meet our sweating, elderly neighbor. It’s a scorching hot day and both our apartments are on the top floor – trapping all the heat. We exchange pleasantries and then realize their two-room apartment has no air conditioning or fans that we can tell. We offer her our extra fan. Our neighbor quickly says oh no, the movement of air would cause her to get sick. We puzzled over that response for a while.

On another warm summer day clocking in at 30C (86F), we walk the steep climb up Via Pignolo to reach our house. We are soaked in sweat and decide to make a detour to sit in our local café at Piazza del Delfino. Inside the café, we choose a seat where there is a strong and welcome current of air blowing over us. The barista becomes alarmed saying that we'll get sick. That same barista explained how you can get hit with air on your neck while you sleep and wake up with a crook in your neck or worse yet, sick!

(2) A fear of being pale, not tanned.

We’ve wrote about this extensively years ago in the post Abbronzatissima: Notes on the Allure of the Suntan in Italy. We stand by everything in that post.

To this day, I get called pale a few times a season. I even got called pale by a sweet 80-year-old friend who was paler than me! At the end of August and beginning of September, Italians come back from their seaside vacations. That’s when we see people walking down the street that are so burnt that we want to call an ambulance. It truly looks horrible.

(3) Going out with wet hair.

One day in early spring, we walk into our local café with wet hair. Everyone turns with horrified looks on our face and worried for our health. (It wasn’t that cold out.) When pressed about why they were worried, they told us that it’s a sure-fire way to get sick. (We didn’t get sick.)

(4) Fear of being (slightly) overweight.

We judge this fear based on the number of times people call out our weight, noticing when we have gained or lost weight, even small amounts. (We are not overweight by any means to give you an idea.) Once when jogging our usual 10 mile route, we met a friend who just had to comment on how big my stomach was. Then it happened again later in the day. It’s not that my stomach is big but that it is slightly bigger than normal. Yes, I’m a few pounds over my usual weight, but does it have to be called out at every chance? I laugh it off and celebrate the discerning eyes of Italians and leave it at that.

(5) A fear of clouds in the sky.

We’ve lost count of the number of times that Italians lament if there is nothing less than blue skies. We have always believed the best skies have clouds. But apparently that isn’t the case with Italians. Clouds ruin the day.

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