This is a disclaimer before I launch into my slightly judgmental blog post. For all of these hilarious anecdotes, I feel the need to clarify that I adore the Italians and their culture and I only make fun of them because I love them. And because I’m American and we get made fun of non-stop. Just sharing the love.
I didn’t realize that Italy was the most dangerous place on earth. It took me a while to recognize it, but it is without a doubt terrifying to live here. At least according to all of the things I have apparently been doing wrong my entire life. You see, there is a list of things one should not do or one should avoid at all costs. I’m surprised considering I’ve done or taken part in most of these things and am still here to tell the tale.
The first one is big. I used to shower and go to school in below freezing temperatures with wet hair that would turn into crunchy ice atop my head and promptly thaw after walking into class. I have been…berated for walking out of my house with damp hair. Literally by everyone. My Italian friends, my boyfriend, my boyfriend’s mother, my teachers, my American friends who have been converted after living here for years, the guy at the bakery, “What are you DOING?!” they would ask horrified (and with many hand gestures). I thought my hair was on fire the first time this happened and stopped dead in my tracks praying for death. There is truly nothing worse in this world than having my hair catch on fire. Believe me, it’s happened. And yet, I think people here would consider that a better fate than “wet hair death”.
Men take longer to get ready then I ever have because they blow dry their hair claiming if they don’t they will get a headache or a stiff neck. Right.
While we are on the topic of artic death, not covering up completely will also lead to an untimely demise. If I so much as think to leave my apartment with non-ankle reaching yoga pants and flats before May, I will be shunned from society. I did this a few months ago as I was running a very quick errand and the LOOKS I received…I’ll be in therapy for most of my adult life. No doubt.
I was surprised people were even outside considering it was drizzling. I have had people on more than one occasion cancel plans with me at the last minute because it was raining. “Why don’t you bring an umbrella?” I would ask incredulously. And the answer was simply, “but it’s wet out!”
Being wet out is nothing compared to the insurmountable fear, however, to that of air-conditioning. Even in the stifling, humid heat that characterizes July and August, it is very difficult to find somewhere with AC and once you do, if you are with your Italian friends they won’t go inside for fear of getting sick. What if I had wet hair and then went into an air-conditioned restaurant?? The fear…
This next one is golden. This is something that rings true in the United States also though to be fair. The famous, “Don’t go swimming for an hour after you eat” is alive and well here. I understand this one to a point. If you eat too much and then are frolicking in the ocean you can get a cramp and be in serious trouble. In pools as well, I’m sure it’s not the best idea, but I myself and no one else I know has ever had a bad experience from this. And then I heard the following story that changed my outlook and my life. My dear dear Italian friend, Fede, who has a flair for the dramatic and also a fantastic pool overlooking a Tuscan valley, invited our English friend Frances and I over one afternoon for a swim. We swam a bit and then toweled off and made a nice big lunch that consisted of antipasto and pasta with pesto. Afterwards, we chatted for 20 minutes or so and headed back out into the sun. Within minutes, Frances and I jumped into the pool and upon surfacing were greeted with shouts of disapproval and (you guessed it) hand gestures galore. Fede tried to get us out of the pool fearing we would get ill or pass out from a cramp. As we casually laughed this off, he tried even more frantically to get us out of the pool telling us how dangerous it was. First of all, the pool is MAYBE 12 feet long and 5 feet deep and there were three of us there so if anything happened I would sincerely hope one of the three of us could be bothered enough to save the other. His final attempt to help us to safety was first-class. He sat down on his pool lounger, sighed, looked to the heavens, and said, “Now, I tell you a story.” We gathered around our dear amico as he bared his soul. He said, “One time, when I was very young, I eat a kinder bueno chocolate,” he paused to collect himself. “And I get into shower and open the water and after two minutes I faint”. I will tell you all right now, that I was NOT the first person to burst out laughing. Surprising, I know, but Frances absolutely lost it. I followed in suit and poor Fede was left yelling, “But is true!! Is true!” Long story short: we stayed in the pool and escaped with nothing more severe than pruney fingers.
The most feared condition I leave for last. It is so notorious that is has its own name: colpo d’aria. No one disease can do more harm in so many ways than this which translates to “a hit of air”. A hit of air can happen if you sleep with the windows open at night, if you roll the car windows down, or if you’re outside and not properly covered on a blustery day. Essentially, the air “hits” you in a way that can give you a sore neck, a cold, a headache, influenza, fever, soreness, and a myriad of other things. Even in August people wear scarves on windy days because when you sweat and the air hits you…mamma mia say goodbye. You aren’t safe when it’s hot and you certainly aren’t safe when it’s cold. Basically what this all sums up to is, if you have any form of illness ranging from a headache to influenza, it is something you have done wrong outside.
The list is endless, my friends, but I must point out that these rules are absurd juxtaposed with the happenings I see out on the street. You’ll see little kids running around bars until about 2 am on the regular. Eating raw meat is encouraged. And oh yeah, leaving the house with wet hair is a big to do, but 10 “ragazzi” piled onto one bike flying down a crowded street is rrreeeeaaallly safe. Not to mention the dangerous amount of cologne the average Italian male wears.
I must say, however, it’s scary because now I’ve either become paranoid or am actually succumbing to these sicknesses. I’ve found myself either waiting until my hair has air dried or even blow drying it for five minutes before leaving my house. I HATE going out in the rain and wrap myself from head to toe if I need to. When I leave Lucca and go to Pisa, Pontederra, or anywhere with a different pressure I end of getting a migraine.
Maybe our dear Italians know what they are doing after all. I was recently in London and noticed that the change from being outside in the frigid cold to being inside the heated Tube left me really woozy and nauseous. The rapid change of temperature is not good for your body. I guess I can understand why all of the houses are kept freezing bloody cold in the winter and no one uses air conditioning in the summer. I guess…
Have any funny facts or stories about health beliefs around the world? Share them!