Io Non Parlo Italiano

Friday, January 27, 2017

Is it the last Friday in January already?! Not sure how that happened so quickly! Today’s blog post features two funny stories involving the language barrier between English and Italian. Typically it’s not an issue, since most Florentines speak English (kudos to many Europeans who are bilingual)! However, two experiences in the past twenty-four hours have created some challenges for me. Take a look…

Thursday night @ 8:30 PM

Isabel, Olivia, and I landed in Florence from Paris around 7:30 last night. I told them while we were waiting for Isabel’s bag at baggage claim how excited I was to tell the cab driver “Andiamo a (our address) per favore.” We exited the airport and headed to the taxi line. For some reason, there was not a long line of taxis waiting for us like there normally is! So we waited in the long line and anxiously looked towards the entrance for arriving taxis. We finally got to first in line and walked right up to the car. The driver put our bags in the back, and the three of us squished into the backseat. He said, “Dimmi” which means “tell me.” I proudly said my Italian line in an embarrassingly obvious American accent. He nodded his head, repeated the address, and off we went on our scary ride to our apartment (crazy Italian drivers).

About twenty minutes later the car came to a halt. We were on the right street but not at the right number. Instead of the number I said, he was thinking +100 to that number! We corrected him in both Italian and English before he muttered swear words in Italian and slammed on the gas. He was not happy. Olivia and Isabel couldn’t help but make fun of me since I was the one who told him the address. I clearly didn’t say 1– though; I said –. It was stressful and amusing simultaneously. We made it to the right building, and he appeared to have calmed down within the five minutes of his angry phase. We tried to let him keep the 5 euro since we were honestly too scared to wait and get change, but he insisted that we keep it and was polite in our goodbye. And this is why I prefer to not take cabs in Italy (I’m partially kidding, but being on the road really is kinda terrifying).

This morning at 9:30 PM

With only two full days in Florence before classes start, I had several errands to run today. I got off to an early start this morning, and one of my stops included my stationery store on the street where LdM is located. The woman who runs the store is an older and somewhat cranky lady. She doesn’t speak very good English, and she isn’t particularly kind to me whenever I’m there (even though I think I’m one of the few people who provides her with business). This morning she reached a whole new level.

I took my time picking out some cute cards and a nice pen. When she gruffly slapped the receipt down on the table, I realized I didn’t have enough money on me to buy everything. So I put the pen back in its little cup. She said “2 euros.” I didn’t know how to communicate in Italian that I didn’t want the pen because I didn’t have enough money. As a result, she started mumbling and laughing to herself in Italian. She proceeded to throw away the receipt, put my stationery back to where I found it, and open the door before saying “Prego” and shooing me out. Did I seriously just get kicked out of a stationery store? Yes. Yes I did.

The whole situation left me feeling completely baffled. I was bummed that I couldn’t buy my notecards, envelopes, and pen. That’s the place where I can buy the cheapest stationery for my letters back home!! Now I don’t feel very welcomed to return. My mom told me at this rate, she doesn’t deserve my business; my mom is typically right about these kinds of things. But I’m stubborn, and I shouldn’t let one bad experience affect my stationery purchases. Now I’m stuck in the position as to whether I go back in a month (with a friend or two) and pray she doesn’t remember me, or find a new stationery place. Any advice/input would be greatly appreciated.

These two examples demonstrate that even in a place where English is very common, there is a language barrier. This was certainly a learning experience including a good laugh. xo ~ e.


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