Sunday, June 1, 2008

I hate you and then I love you

"Italian post offices are no place for an optimist" Claire Millington, 2005.

My love-hate relationship with Italy continued this week.

Love or Amore or whatever you call it, there is undoubtedly a lot to LOVE in this country. The food (just ask my stomach), the warmness of the Italian people, the sights and did I mention the food?

But on Friday I was not in love with my new found home. In fact, I wanted to break up with her and return to my ex-love Australia where the relationship seemed much easier and with a lot less heart ache.

See, this all started when I got a letter in the mail stating that I was required to go to the post office and pay a tax of 6.33 euro's to pick up a parcel that my dear friend Christina had sent me from California. (I say this so easily but in fact it took the apartment staff over ten minutes to read three pages to determine what exactly had to be done).

I walked to the uffico postale with a copy of my passport . I took my number and patiently waited in queue. I was actually having a great day and was enjoying looking at the beauty of the post office in Piazza Republica and silently thinking that Australia Post had nothing on these beautiful ceilings.

Finally my number was called and from there it all went horribly wrong. The woman did not speak English and refused to listen to my broken Italian. She read the letter and said it was 'impossibile' and told me I needed to go to the information desk where someone would speak English with me. Have you ever had that feeling when you know someone is lying to you and just wants you to get out of their way? In Australia, I would have stood my ground and demanded a result but in a country where I don't speak the language, I slinked away and quietly seethed.

An hour later, I was still waiting at the unmanned information desk. And there were four people in front of me with a similar look on their faces to mine. Finally a woman appeared and when it was my turn, she read the letter and told me she doesn't understand this and she can't help. If she, the Italian speaking postal worker, didn't understand post office correspondence I wondered what chance a flabbergasted worn out Aussie had. I gave up. Exhausted, I walked home and felt like a failure.

The next day, undeterred I walked back to what was becoming my least favourite building in Florence. This time I was in there for two hours. I was once again referred to the unmanned information desk and finally some mercy in the way of a man who spoke good English came. He explained that I would have to come back tomorrow with my codice fiscale (fiscal code). While I was filling out some details with him, a young American girl came up behind me and and told him that she had been waiting for two hours to retrieve a package (I snorted under my breath) and that she refused to stand at this information desk any longer. Right in front of me, the man who spoke good English just moments before said in Italian 'non parlo Inglese' (I don't speak English). I couldn't believe it.

When I got home that evening I opened my email and read a note from a friend who had just finished visiting Italy. She ended her email with 'you are SO lucky to live in Italy'. I smiled wryly and sighed deeply but knew that when the morning came, I would be out falling in love all over again.


Romerican said...

Oh, poverina! I know that feeling all too well! Indeed, our relationship with this country is very much like a shaky boyfriend/girlfriend relationship.

I detest the Italian post office immensely, luckily I speak Italian well so I can stand my ground & tell them off... but in all honesty, sometimes that doesn't even help much because when you're dealing with incompetency and laziness, there's very little hope that "reason" will win the battle.

garrick field said...

if I didn't know what country you lived in, I would have said "welcome to Peru"!

Anonymous said...

Ha! Only difference is Peru is not nearly as expensive as Italy.

A World of Wine said...

welcome to real Italy your journey has just begun! If you decide stay youll be part of the 10% of the foreigners who come, and who stay on here after 2 years.

Anonymous said...

Oh ... and what about hospitals or other more bureaucratic situations....quite odd even for Italian people anyway just wait and see or run away.
But I can tell you that my best friend just works for Poste Italiane in Naples and she as well doesn't speak english at all but every foreigners want to talk with her because she is extremely kind and she makes people understand what to do even just maybe because she is very funny but people get out of there smiling, at least until they trip over rubbish...