Getting Used to “Italian Time”

I’m a firstborn, which I think means certain things to certain people. I know it does to me. I’m never surprised when I find myself being described as Type A or over-prepared, and the husband has come to accept that if we’re supposed to be somewhere at 8:00 I’m going to want to arrive a few minutes early – just in case. In case of what? Who knows. That’s just the way I am.


So I couldn’t help but cringe a little on the inside when I read Elizabeth’s recent post on time – the way she wants things to be done (as an American-born woman living in Italy) and the way her husband and children expect things to be done (as Italians who are just used to it).

My oldest just finished his first day of the written portion of his maturità exam. Tomorrow is the second day and Monday the third and last. Then there is the oral exam, but he could not know the date that this will take place until today when the class order was chosen out of a hat (first will come section C, then section B) and a letter of the alphabet (S). So, now he knows that he will be the second student of his graduating class of four sections to be grilled to a crispy crust, on the first day of the oral exams, Thursday the 28th. Then he will be free, but we couldn’t know that earlier and he could have possibly finished as late as July 15 had the letter “T” been extracted and the section “B”, so he (and we) couldn’t make plans any earlier than that date. Would that make you crazy?




Umm, in a word – yes. I’ve learned to deal with all sorts of things in my life that, at the time, seemed overwhelmingly challenging and/or impossible. (I also have a flair for the melodramatic, although I don’t really think that’s a firstborn trait. I think that’s just me.) And with most of them, I’ve managed to get through them without more than a scratch. So I’m confident that, were we to move to Italy anytime soon, I’d be stressed about this kind of stuff – and I’d get through it.

We’ve already kind of experienced the phenomenon of what I’ve taken to calling “Italian Time” here, nearly 5500 miles away from il Bel Paese, in that when the husband has sent emails to or left voicemail messages at the outplacement agency he’s been working with in Milan, it can take them up to a month to respond. Clearly there isn’t the same sense of urgency for them that there is for us (with his job ending here at the end of July), but still. For awhile it was annoying, now it’s become a bit of a household joke. In reality, we know it’s something we’d have to get used to, so there’s no point in getting too steamed about it.

Oddly, the first thing I thought when reading Elizabeth’s post was, “Wow, do Italians just pay way more for plane tickets than the rest of us because everything is done last minute?” So I’m not sure what that says, other than the fact that my priorities are clearly in a travel-oriented place.

Photo by: Alex The Shutter

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