being early

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Map Room at the Vatican Museum – a long, long line.

 

We were in Santorini and needed to be up in Northern Italy in a week to meet our dear friend Kathy. While being truly stunning, Santorini is like an amazing desert and you can’t really eat dessert for very long so we had some time to make our way.

Doing all the usual research, we decided to take a ferry to Athens and from there fly to Rome. We’d stay in Rome for 5 days then continue our journey north to Stresa to meet Kathy. The first part of this trek was the ferry to Athens. It left Santorini at a shocking 3am. Ugh.

We arranged for a cab to take us down the mountainside to the port at about 2am, an hour early. Lots of people asked us why, or tried to talk us out of it. “Too early,” they’d say. “Why? You’ll just be sitting around?”

On this trip, something we’ve learned – it seems given very deeply into our culture that an “optimal” experience is to spend as little time as possible in line, as close to your desired time to do the thing you’re in line for. A distant second seems to be waiting line for a long period, but getting to choose the time of day you do your thing; it’s great if you can do the thing at 2pm,even if you have to stand in line for 4 hours before. It will suck, but you’ll get to do this thing at exactly the time you want to.

We’ve also learned something even better – if you’re willing to change your preconceptions about time and you’ve got a little leeway here, you can be much happier, get screwed by bad happenstance a lot less, and avoid a lot of crowding. Just be early.

For the Santorini ferry, nothing went wrong and we wound up chilling on the dock for an hour. A rough hour, 2-3am, but a lot could have gone wrong if we’d waited. The way to the dock is a crazy switchback road. We weren’t knowledgeable about taxis in Greece an had to rely on others for help. If we missed this connection, it would have been about an $800 mistake, as it would cascade into many other things that had to be timed right. So, we went early,and things were fine.

In Florence, the line for the amazingly popular and picturesque climb to the top of the Duomo is usually about 3-4 hours long. The Duomo opens at 8am, an as it turns out if you’re there at 7am ( early ) none of the tourists are there yet. You get in line, and wait no-time-at all. Time in line is 1 hour, not 4. In the cool morning, another serious bonus. Without all the hawkers in your business; another bonus.

At the Vatican, the line to see the museum is about a quarter mile long, hours in the hot sun. Unless you go early – there by 730, in by 915.

It doesn’t work all the time, but being early in the day or earlier than others for some connection has never, ever hurt us an has saved us a number of times. The hardest part ( after you reframe your timeline ) is keeping yourself occupied during the wait. Talking, reading, verbal games, Facebook, and a little patience seem to work just fine for this.

Interesting research on digital nomadism

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Kayleigh Franks of NHTV University of Applied Sciences in the Netherlands has published a thesis on digital nomadism as part of her BS requirements. “Digital Nomads: the drivers and effects of becoming location independent” is posted up on Scribd. I discovered this through my weekly subscription to the always-interesting Digital Nomad Weekly newsletter.

From the Executive Summary:

The aim of this study is to explore the drivers and effects of becoming a digital nomad focusing on: contingency structure, lifestyle preference and social and psychological attitude. Firstly, a literature was composed in order to gain knowledge and insight on the aforementioned topic. Furthermore, three initial research questions were formulated to guide the research: 1. How digital nomadism differentiates from other forms of long-term travel? 2.What are the push/pull factors of becoming location independent? 3. What are the effects of becoming a digital nomad?

Naxos vs. Kauai – a throwdown

We just moved into our new place here on Naxos, our home for the next month. As I sit in this little beach bar doing a couple hours of work, I thought I’d SQUIRREL! take a few moments to inventory and see how this place compares to my home back on Kauai.

How Naxos and Kauai are similar

  • much sun, much water
  • warm and welcoming to visitors
  • lots of casual beach culture
  • mountains, all over the place
  • It’s Five ‘o’clock somewhere. All. The. Time. Mai Tais, anyone?
  • great local food – poke, organic rum, and poi on Kauai; tzatziki, uzo, and honey-yogurt on Naxos
  • public wifi is very common; widespread access to the laptop lifestyle if you look
  • amazing, profound local culture with roots going back a long way
  • traffic rules are pretty chill
  • most evertywhere feels very safe
  • lesbian-gay-friendly
  • both have an off-season, where it’s still beautiful but ( even ) more affordable and ( even ) less crowded
  • kinda diverse visitor base
  • there’s always a chance you’ll see someone famous

great things about Naxos

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The Naxos sunset
  • most places open late, including car rentals and street grocers
  • most everything is very inexpensive
  • soooooo many  beach bars/cafes, right on the beach
  • no American points of stress – guns, politics, religion – are nonexistent here
  • quads are street-legal
  • freakishly clear water
  • very self-sustaining; serious food production and export happening here
  • way cheap inter-island transport
  • ruins. Who doesn’t like ancient culture?
  • freebie after dinner
  • more arid – less humidity, less allergies, and less rain
  • traffic rules are more like guidelines
  • many mom & pop hotel/stay options, as well as independent food options
  • stray animal kindness – cats are fed leftovers, given special dishes outside people’s homes, and mingle freely in the outdoor spaces. Dogs are treated well, but are much less common
  • [edit] no centipedes or roaches!
  • also, if it’s your thing…
    • european beer – lots of variety, and inexpensive
    • less conservative – more bare skin on the beach
    • smoking in bars, cafes, and restaurants
    • more dudes in Speedos

great things about Kauai

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The Kauai sunset.
  • it’s tropical – lush – wet and green all the time
  • there’s English everywhere, all the time
  • for Americans, it’s easy to get to, relatively speaking
  • there’s surfing, in many varieties
  • everything is kept up – very little graffiti or crumbling infrastructure, no abandoned structures ( except for CoCo Palms, of course! )
  • more choices for American beer ( and other products )
  • spirit of aloha prevelent
  • no smoking in bars, cafes, or restaurants
  • it’s all in dollars – not cheap, but you already have them in your wallet ( if you’re American, that is )
  • shipping things to the mainland US is a sure thing, and not a roll of the dice
  • everything closes down early – a pretty sleepy place
  • you can flush the toilet paper. You don’t know how great this is until you can’t do it.
  • a very organized rescue and response infrastructure, just in case
  • traffic – the streets, signs, traffic laws and enforcement you’re used to
  • because it’s in the US – language, military, border restrictions, symbols – although different, Kauai is probably tucked more snugly inside American visitors’ comfort zones
  • easier to stay connected to American sportzing via sports bars
  • intentional culture – very little littering, premium on organic goods and processes
  • less speedos

 

Is there a winner to this throwdown?

Kauai is home, so I won’t be moving there too soon. But so far there doesn’t seem to be a clear “winner” for me.

“local” movies

So far, we’ve been here:

  • Ireland
  • France
  • Great Britain
  • Italy
  • The Vatican
  • Greece

We’ve watched mostly-ridiculous movies set in these places while we were in each. Can you guess them from the pictures below? ( their order is shuffled – no help there. )

amelie

tuscany

jimmy

mammamia

bjones

ad

 

Do you know the movies? Post below. Also, what are the movies we -should- have watched, to get in the spirit of these places?

(^_^

Seven ( yes seven! ) remote jobs for you

A great little article  from FastCompany was included in the current Digital Nomad Weekly newsletter and details seven different jobs that are very well suited to remote work. The jobs all require a bit of learning on your part, but none of them require a specific ( or any ) degree, or a set number of years of experience. You can self-learn any of the disciplines ( with some self-discipline ) and start up in your spare time before you make any big leaps.

I’m familiar with all of the seven options they discuss; if you’d like any addition information, feel free to reach out in the comments or by direct message.

Also, I couldn’t help but notice that UX architect ” was not listed, so we’ll just call that job #8.

 

Note – at this moment, I am sitting at a coffeeshop in London, writing this post and doing some work as a Content Entrepreneur, as well as a UX Architect.

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Today’s office – Maison d’etre, Canonbury, North London

 

mind the gap

You may have noticed, there’s been a gap of about two weeks since we’ve posted. Kim’s been facilitating at a meditative retreat outside Florence where they take a vow of silence ( and no net access-shivers ) while I spent two weeks back in the US. We’re both back in London now, for the next 3 weeks or so.

Kim will likely write about her retreat, but during the time we’ve spent apart she’s developed an even deeper appreciation for from-scratch foods, and is much more mindful. In general, and about how she’d like to see her day go.

For my part, I spent time with friends and family. In sad news, our family dog Marius had to be put to sleep. I was there for a time very close to the end and it was painful to watch that decline, but I’m taking some comfort from the fact that now ( I believe ) he’s in a better place. Certainly my life is better for him having been with me. In happier news, I also spent time at GenCon, “The Best Four Days in Gaming.” I haven’t missed one in the last 18 years and it felt like a special sort of nerd homecoming, being back in Indy. 

I need to get back in the walking habit, and the not-eating-garbage habit. I know Kim will help me with this.

(^_^

I also need to get back into the blogging habit.

Florence – how we visited

cathedral
The facade of the Florence Cathedral

If you ever visit, you may not have a month to explore the city like we did, but maybe some of the things we did can help you make decisions about how to spend your time. We have visited more places then we described below, but these have been the high points so far.

Of course during our stay in Florence we wanted to see all “the big things.” We had the luxury of not feeling rushed, and we managed to check everything off our list.

First, let’s talk about the stuff downtown

Six of the most renown sites are collectively referred to as “The Florence Duomo Complex.” These sites consist of:

  • Giotto’s Bell Tower – affording an amazing view of the Florentine city and countryside
  • The Cathedral Santa Maria del Fiore – amazing and immense gothic basilica
  • Brunelleschi’s Duomo – an amazing rotunda atop the cathedral
  • The underground archeological site below the Cathedral, Santa Reparata
  • The Baptistry, a large domed building across from the Cathedral
  • the Opera del Duomo Museum

We bought a combo ticket for all of these sites for 15 Euros, a great deal for what you see. You can buy the ticket online here, but we bought ours in person at the base of the Bell Tower, in an office that opened at 8am.

A note about the combo ticket – it’s good for 7 days after you purchase it, but once you validate it at the first site on the list above, you have 48 hours to see all the sites before the ticket expires. Plan accordingly.

The ticket allows you to stand in the general admittance line for each of these sites. For the Cathedral and the Duomo ( the Dome ) we recommend you show up early, on different days. These lines get crazy-long very quickly. These two sites open at 830am, and we were in line for our visit to the Duomo by 745am with a very comfortable position, almost first. We splurged and spent 15 ( additional ) Euros apiece to see the Cathedral with a guided tour that enabled up to bypass the huge line.

A note about the Bell Tower and the Duomo: if you’re a little claustrophobic like I am, I can’t recommend strongly enough the importance of arriving early for the ascents of the Duomo and the Bell Tower. Both of these sites involve walking up serious stairs in very cramped passageways. If you are near the front of the line in the morning for these sites, this insures that after you ascend to the top and look around you can descend back to street level without pushing up against a mass of sweaty people in a cramped passage.

amzing view
Up high view of the Duomo

As I walked past the seriously long line at 2pm in the sweltering sun this afternoon, I hope these poor people -love- what they are going to see, for they are surely suffering for the opportunity. Baking in the hot sun for 3 hours, then squeezing past their sweaty neighbors for a dizzying climb is not my idea of a good time on vacation.

That being said, the views are amazing, inside ( the Duomo ) and out. But the tight spaces…  ugh. Rough for me. The Duomo in particular.

Also, there’s this – the Duomo and the Bell Tower afford amazing views, but if you’re at all afraid of heights, these attractions probably aren’t for you.

The Bell Tower also has a line at times, but this seemed to vacillate during the day. We went early the first day, buying our tickets and seeing the Bell Tower with no line, then as I’ve mentioned spent the additional 15 Euros to jump the line for the Cathedral ( and the crypt Santa Reparata ), and then the next day got in line early for the climb up to the top of the Duomo.

bell tower-looking
atop the Bell Tower

The Baptistry has no line to speak of, nor does the Opera del Duomo Museum, which are both really a neat experiences. At the Museum you see up close many pieces that were made for and once a part of the Cathedral.

Other sites

We purchased tickets separately to see Michelangelo’s David in the Academia Gallery. We recommend spending a little extra and getting the time stamped version of these tickets. Also, if you buy tickets online make sure you get printed out versions from the little kiosk across the street from the entry. Ugh.

Getting here early probably helps, but our stamped time was for 545pm. We stood in line for about half hour and made it in almost exactly at our scheduled time.

david
David’s ass.

Our favorite spot for gelato was “La Milkeria” with their homemade masterpieces, perfect on a hot day.

babtistry
the dome of The Baptistry

We didn’t have a favorite spot for wine or cappuccino; there were too many perfect places everywhere we looked.

Our favorite place to laptop and do a little work was The Cafeteria delle Oblate, near The Duomo. It’s not like any cafeteria you’ve ever been to – it’s an amazing multi-level open air space with great food, wine and other drinks and free wifi. It’s frequented by students and tech workers, and really is a pretty sweet spot, with a view of the Duomo.

We took a day tour to Pisa to see the leaning tower and the local cathedral. The same tour brought us to the amazing Tuscana World Heritage site of San Gimignano, and the city of Siena. If we had to do it all over again, for the timing of this tour… It would have been perfect to spend a few hours in Pisa and a few hours in Siena, and another tour to spend all day at San Gimignano. But we got amazing pictures.

us
Pisa.

For our place – we stayed at an AirBnB right near the Talenti tram stop, about a 40 minute walk from the Florence city center and it seemed like a perfectly fine option. neighborhood markets and lovely people, as we’ve detailed elsewhere. This put us close to the amazing park just north of the Arno river and west of downtown Florence.

park
A great park along the Arno River

We rented bikes at the SMN train station ( the main one in Florence city center ) for a day for 10 Euros apiece. The bikes were nothing special, but we had an amazing day going through this park in the morning and through Florence itself later on. There is also a bike route that circumscribes old Florence, but there’s really very little to see along this route. We recommend taking your bike into Old Florence despite the crowds, and possibly across the river at Ponte Vecchio.

Those are the highlights that we haven’t discussed elsewhere on the blog. We have a week left and we will try and see a jousting, a concerto, and a few other things before we wrap our stay up. If you have any must-sees, let us know.

isidecathedral
Inside the cathedral in Florence

standing in line – a nerd’s analysis and international relations

 

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Paris, not The Happiest Place on Earth

 

A buddy of mine is visiting the Happiest Place on Earth at the moment. On FB, he mentioned that there at Disneyworld there were some parents pushing their way forward in line, and how it was mostly people from other countries. 

I don’t know about you, but I see this, and it makes me crazy.

Maybe it’s me getting older, but it feels like I am more aware of these little rules all around us that just make things “go better.” Minute assumptions or agreements we all kind of make so society doesn’t run off the rails.

Using turn signals, letting people off the elevator before you try to get on, and standing in an organized line. Putting your luggage inn the overhead so that others can fit theirs, too. Eating your meal and then leaving the restaurant, so they can fill the table after you. 

You know, “normal.” When we don’t just do these simple things, chaos ensues, and it bothers me at a level so deep it’s embarrassing, sometimes. 


But here’s the thing

These assumptions of normal are different all over the world. Of course I know this in an academic way, from my schooling. I know this in a rational way, like any educated person does – disparate cultures are different, and have “different ways.” All of this knowledge goes out the window, or really never entered my mind, when I see someone jumping line. 

What? 

Fuuuuuuuuuuckyyyouuuuuuuuuuuu, buddy. I don’t care where you grew up. Get back to the end of the line and wait your goddamn turn to buy the new Harry Potter and the Chamber of Gandalf book, before I make a Gladiator-level spectacle here. Or have an aneurysm while I quietly fume.  

It happens when I’m traveling, too. Where the hell is my waiter? All these people drive like madmen! Why can’t we even all just stand in a simple line?

This is of course, ridiculous of me. Let’s talk about standing in line, in America.


In America…

If you grew up there when I did, when you were in Kindergarten or 1st grade some teacher yelled at you or whooped your ass until you learned to stand in a straight line.

Standing in line was never fun; you had to keep quiet, not be disruptive or poke people. you were to not make fart noises, and just be patient until you got to the head of the line. Where you quietly did your business then GTFO thank you, so the next kid could pay for their Salisbury steak. Or check out their copy of Green Eggs and Ham. Or whatever. 

So – no fun, keep quiet, no pushing, be patient, it’ll be over sooner if we all just cooperate, don’t be an asshole; it’s more efficient this way. And again: no fun.

That sums up how we feel about lines in American, drummed into us from childhood. A few things we can extract from this: long lines immediately cause stress, even if there’s no other “bad” stimulus laying about. Also, standing in line is kind of a chore; you put in your time, you get your reward. No one would ever choose to stand in line or look forward to it, it’s kind of a necessary evil that will be over soon if we all just settle down. It’s an equalizer – we all stand in line. Mostly. If someone goes to the head of the line, there better be a -serious- fucking reason. Like, they happen to be Ryan Reynolds. Or they spent, like, 10x more on their ticket. 

In the US, this is pretty deeply driven into us. So much so that, at the airport, even if someone had a cowbell around their neck and a standard bearer next to them with a big flag that signified they paid more than 10x what I may have for my ticket, I’d still be pissed if they moved to the front of my line.

So the airport people just make special lines, to avoid this social angst. This goes down much easier, to an American. I may resent the guy in that line for a moment, as I look at my cattle-herd of a line with forlorn despair. But that’s momentary. And maybe this is also American, but a few seconds later I think about how to work the system. “How do I get into that line?” And I start scheming. Live a better life? See up my pennies? Beat up Ryan Reynolds and take his ticket?

All viable options. But that idea of social mobility ( through smarts, money, or violence. #whatever ) is there – a very American thing. 


Lines in other parts of the world – a quick survey

Russia – standing in line is an art form, honed by great experience. The Russians have forgotten more about line-standing than the americans will ever know. They also make serious use of the Different Lines for Different people idea.

Great Britain – same as the US, except maybe a little more accepting of the social strata. “Ho hum, this is my lot in life. I’ll piss down my leg and smile, rather than complain about this line and how I need to use the loo.”

US Hawaiian islands – the “Quantum Line,” where there is a cloud of potential, people in quantum super-position around the area of the register. When you observe the line by asking “who’s in line?” All the people collapse into a recognizable line. If only for a moment. 

Italy – no recognizable queuing up, but maybe there’s one of those little number thingys. But the use of space is a free for all. Nudging up to the front or glass is perfectly fine, because they like to rub bodies here. Buonasera!

India – there are male lines and female lines. This is important because you slink up and spoon the guy immediately ahead of you, and the guy behind you does the same thing to you from behind. There is apparently a perfectly sane reason for this intimacy – to deter line-cutters, who have a refined art to edging in near the front of a line, and pretending they never saw the line to begin with, shocked they’re being called out on it. Hmmmm.

Kenya – a no-line free-for-all, from an American point of view. Let’s talk about this, as a counter to American Line Philosophy. 


Meanwhile, in Kenya

In Kenya, standing in line is at least as much about chatting with your neighbor as it is about getting a particular thing done. No one sweats waiting, because it’s like social time. And at the end there’s this bonus, and you get to order poultry. Or a train ticket, or whatever. If someone is in a hurry, they just move up to the front. This may involve body contact, but eh. We’re all friends here, right? If someone needs to go ahead, they need to go ahead. No problem for me. Why are they so busy? It must suck to be them. 


So what does it all mean?

How we feel about standing in lines is a great insight into our own culture, but also the idea of what you think is normal and rude might be different in other places. 

Do you think they have it “wrong?” That your culture is “right?” I’ll tell you this – regardless of how you feel about wrong and right, you can save yourself a ton of stress if you read up about a culture before you visit a place. “place cultural norms” and “place driving norms” and “place social norms” and “place gestures” are all great google searches. Be prepared for what everyone around you feels is right and wrong, regardless of what you might think. In your back yard, do things your way. In someone else’s garden… when in Rome, do as the Romans do.

Beyond lines or traffic or hand gestures… what else is culturally relative? Guns? Social mobility? Freedom of the press? Organized crime?


Big questions to ponder, while standing in line. 

Italy in a snapshot: a neighborhood market in Florence

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market
A street market in Florence – dog friendly, chair friendly.

I grew up in the suburbs of Chicago. We drove everywhere, especially to the store. When we shopped for food we bought in bulk. We also ate out quite a bit, even if it was just McDonalds, and I never really picked up the cooking thing. Later, even when I lived in the heart of Chicago on my own, I mostly ate out. I very rarely made anything at home, or shopped for anything other than what I thought friends might want if they stopped by.

I’m now living in Florence for a month, and my time in Italy so far is wonderful for lots of reasons. One of those reasons is trying a different lifestyle when it comes to food.

I’ve done some out-there things before when it comes to my meals: I’ve lived for long stretches almost entirely by eating out. I’ve also done the “Master Cleanse,” where the only thing you take in for close to 12 days is lemon-flavored water with a little maple syrup and cayenne pepper. I’ve spent half a year eating Vegan. What I haven’t done is lead that neighborhood lifestyle, where you go to the market every day or so, buy fresh food, and prep it for all your meals.

That is, until Italy.

Italy in a nutshell, and How to Live the market lifestyle

This will not seem strange to a few of you perhaps, but for me it’s hands-down the best part of this experience so far. Basically the pattern of the market lifestyle is this:

  • wake up early before it gets mind-bogglingly hot
  • stroll to the local market a block or so away
  • buy a few fresh things you need for meals today, and maybe part of tomorrow
  • tomorrow, repeat

Maybe all the people of Italy aren’t doing this, but from what I can see, many of them are. And I have to tell you, it’s every bit as cool as it sounds, or people say it is.

I eat much better, hands down. I have a bit of exercise built into the day, and I feel like I’m getting things done. The quality of food I’m taking into my body every day is hugely improved. I feel more self-sufficient, and also there’s built-in quality time  as you’re going about hunting-gathering-preparing. Also, it’s so much cheaper to live this way than the way I’ve been doing things for pretty much…  ever.

I’m talking about markets here, the kind that set  up in a lot or along a street somewhere, not individual street vendors.There are slightly different rules and expectations when dealing with a lone street vendor, as opposed to people in the neighborhood market.

I’ll focus on the market in this post. Here are some pointers and observations about shopping in the neighborhood markets here in Florence, that seem to inform well on the good people of Italy and life here in general.

The markets are daily events, walkable from where most people live. This isn’t a special “last Friday of the month” kind of thing; it’s every day. And though I’m not sure if markets are this prevalent everywhere, but it certainly seems and sounds that way. Within walking distance of where we’re staying there are 2 markets, every day, and this is nowhere near the city center. Traveling to the city center, you can see and read about other markets.

You can buy food, but also more. A wide variety of food including meats, cheeses, breads, fruits and veggies can be had at the markets. It’d be very hard to find something processed; it’s all fresh. Milk, wine, and other drinks are a little less common. In addition, you can also buy housewares and clothing at these markets, many of the little items that would be handy to have during the day like a spatula, a new shirt, or a wallet, things you might not need to replace often but wouldn’t want to drive to a big box store for can be found here.

You greet the proprietor, or wait for them to greet you, before you start shopping. This is traditional, and while they might in fact take your money if you don’t do things this way, you’ll be treated very coldly if you skip this step and just start shopping. In general, everyone from proprietors to customers are very friendly.

Prego, almost no one will speak English. You’ll learn very quickly to get by with pointing, sign language, speaking slowly ( as if this helps someone who doesn’t speak your language understand you ), and learning a small bit of Italian.

You don’t grab something, you point to it. It’s considered very poor form to just grab some fruit, or some item you’re looking to buy from the market. Much better is to catch the attention of the proprietor and point, smiling. They will pick it up and hand it to you. The American way of squeezing all the veggies until you find the right one is not acceptable at the Italian market. The idea is that all the veggies and fruit is fresh, and that no one wants stuff that’s been handled by every potential customer. Also,when they ask you how much you want of something, they are expecting you to tell them how many people what you’re buying is supposed to feed… not an amount like “a dozen” or “half a kilo.” Learning the phrases for “just one person” or “a few people” is very helpful. And yes, this is a little arbitrary, but it’s how things are done.

There are no lines. Maybe you take a number. Queuing in Italy is much different than it is in Britain or France, for example. And by “different,” I mean “no one ever stands in a line.” People either gather towards the front in a mass so they can point, or they take a number ( many stands/businesses have that little number dispenser thingy ) and wait to be called. There is very little conception ( or love for ) standing in line.

There’s really no concept of personal space. People will step right in front of you, or butt up right against you. In the US this is seen as the height of rudeness but in Italy there’s just no sphere of “your space” around you. If people get close to you, they are being friendly, accepting you. Also, another consequence of the no-space/no-line thing is that people will just move to stand right in front of you. If there was space there, clearly you didn’t want to stand in that space. Knowing this ahead of time will save you some stress,and maybe some arguments. This was is tough for me to get along with, but it’s much easier learning to accept it and be cool than to fight against.

Samples, yes please. if you’re shopping for food, most proprietors will offer you a sample, and will provide one if you ask. This is considered normal, if you’re making a decision.

Haggling – maybe. Haggling for price is usually perfectly acceptable if there aren’t others waiting, but if you attempt to haggle and gain no ground at all, like your attempt isn’t even entertained or considered, best not to push. At the markets, there is no expectation of haggling; you’re perfectly fine paying the listed price. This is different between the markets and buying from street vendors.

No-one is in a hurry. And you shouldn’t be, either. There is little or no sense of urgency anywhere to be found in the Italian street market, or as far as I’ve seen in Italy in general. And you should not expect any or bring any sense of urgency with you. The pace is slow and enjoyable, and deliberating about buying this thing or that thing is never rushed. If you’re in a hurry, maybe best not to go to a proprietor or stand with others who will be served ahead of you.

Coins are always better than notes, for payment. Things will be much cheaper than you ( as an American who grew up in the US, I’m supposing ) might think. Also, oddly, there is a shortage of Euro coins in Italy and great preference is shown at the street market for people who spend in coins. If you attempt to buy anything with a note more valuable than 10 Euros ( provided your thingy costs less than that ) you could very well be refused. Additionally, there is no sales tax in Italy; if something is listed at 1.20 Euros, that’s what you’ll pay. No little add-on.

They’ll chase you down to give you 10 cents in change. It’s pretty important to people, apparently. I’m not sure if this is the appearance of honesty, the appearance of not needing the extra 10 cents, or what. But someone will come running after you with your change.

You say goodbye on the way out, like your mom taught you. This goes along with greeting the proprietor, a common ritual and part of the expected courtesy. When you’re done, say thank you and good bye… don’t just walk away. This would be classless, and reflect poorly on your mother. Bless her.

The neighborhood market is open early, done by hot. Especially in the summer, the heat is intense in much of Italy. The neighborhood market is open early to serve people before they go to work, and usually shuts down before noon, to avoid the intense heat. And by “shuts down” I mean they’re done taking everything down by noon, so the proprietors don’t need to be out in the heat; not just so that the customer doesn’t have to be out there.

All in all this conveys a sense of casual, friendly, community-mindedness that seems much more common in Europe, and especially pronounced here in Italy. I’ve bene to several small towns in the US of course, and while I thought people were “friendly,” this is definitely saying something very different than describing them as “open” and “warm” to me as a clear stranger, passing through. Italy goes in for the embrace, and isn’t afraid of a little body contact.

a note on taking time off in the UK vs the USA

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I grew up in the US, and until fairly recently in my work life, if I wanted a day off to head out to play, I had to ask.

And I also had to hope that it was cool with my supervisor that I’d take time off, and that my request got approved. I always felt a little guilty about even asking.

This is my own hang up, but my guess is this came from early childhood, where you needed some serious reason ( in my house ) to call off from school and there was ( Catholic? ) guilt involved whenever it happened.

And lastly, if you wanted to take a day or a week and there was something serious going on – a deadline, some big project, forget it. Your time off was not happening.

This is not how it happens, by and large, in the UK.

 

What?

Over here, your time off is seen as part of your compensation, something you’re entitled to without reservation. You might say this about your US by-law-mandated time off, but let’s look at that.

In the UK there’s no “asking” for time off; you inform your supervisor, and that’s that.

No reason necessary, no justification. No silly “Doctor’s Note.” Is it smack in the middle of a serious thing? No problem. Your benefit of a paid day off isn’t just for easy days, it’s for any time you’re supposed to work. So it’s cool. Whenever.

That’s the thing. Your time off is considered part of your compensation in a very real way, and just like ( almost ) no one would think to mess with your pay for hours worked or your health benefits as prescribed by the employer, no one thinks of interfering with this other benefit of taking time off, either.

As I’ve said, I’ve been very fortunate on this point since I moved over to the tech field. I’ve had more freedom to do what and when I want, but even with my seniority, luck, great managers, and comparatively laid back field, the difference overall is still pretty striking. It is definitely truth that for a long time I’ve always been able to ( mostly ) inform about days off, instead of request. But either because of my background, my previous experience, or whatnot…  even when I knew this was cool, part of me tried to argue that it wasn’t cool.

Before I switched to tech, I worked for a long time for the casinos in the Midwest. And believe me, getting time off was true to every US stereotype there is. Even as adults, you were mostly you were treated like school children, and I think it was this kind of attitude that eventually led me to do an serious career reset in the late 90s.

Seeing this difference here in the UK makes me smile, like the kid who sees how other kids are allowed to misbehave.  (^_^