The most important lesson: Friends, Family, and Food
I lived in Italy for 3 months when I was 22. Italians have an amazing culture. Although they are known for their pizza, pasta, and passion, I learned a lot more from them. I think we should all live a little bit more as the Italians do.
1. Friends, Family, and Food
Italians love food. I was surprised by how long and drawn out a meal could be. Often at home in South Africa, we rush through a meal. We sit and eat and then carry on with our day. Italians don’t rush. They eat slowly. They enjoy their meals and take their time. The family I lived with often had cold meats, cheese, and fruit after lunch and dinner. These were brought out and then eaten over conversation and laughter. They were in no rush to eat and get to their cellphones or sit in front of the TV. Instead, they ate sometimes over an hour or two while talking and laughing with friends and family.
2. Grandparents are a very important
The family I Au paired for was unusual. Although I did not realise this when I first arrived. Most Italian families do not have an Au pair or outside help with their kids. The Grandparents play a very important role in the lives of their Grandchildren. They look after their Grandchildren and help while the parents are at work. They play an active role in the family. They are not pushed aside and considered a burden but fully absorbed into the family. Perhaps this is why life expectancy is so high.
3. Preparing food is a process
Italians are not people who eat quick and cheap food. In the whole of Italy, at the time I was there, there was only one KFC. In the whole of Bologna, there was one MacDonald’s. There were no Starbucks, Costa or multiple fast-food chains where you could grab a quick bite to eat. Even at the grocery stores, there was no ‘grab and go’ section. If I wanted a quick lunch or something on the road, I couldn’t go to a grocery store. I would have to sit down and eat at a restaurant or grab a slice of pizza, which was delicious.
Italians put time and effort into every meal. They don’t rush it.
I was amazed at their low alcohol consumption. They consumed alcohol in small quantities and without a doubt the best wine I have ever tasted, and I live in South Africa and visit Cape Town (our famous winemaking region) often. South Africa has great wine, but the wine in Italy was low in alcohol and tasted amazing.
That being said, Italians don’t have a lot of variety. They eat Italian food all the time although it does vary greatly from region to region.
4. They are healthy but still enjoy life
The best ice-cream in the world comes from Italy. Hands down. I think I had one every day. I couldn’t get enough of it.
Despite all the gelato and pizza and pasta, I lost weight while in Italy. I think because I ate a ton of vegetables and delicious fresh fruit every day. I walked and cycled every day too. The family I lived with loaned me a bike which I used all the time. I ate the most delicious food, enjoyed it and lived a healthy lifestyle without “punishing myself.” Which is the way it should be?
5. Italians don’t value materialistic consumerism
Italians are not a consumerist culture. There are hardly any malls in Italy. The houses are not big and flashy. The family I lived with had one car for a family of four. They didn’t care about the best and biggest new thing. They still owned a video machine and watched videos, and this was five years ago when DVDs had already been around for ages. They valued the important things, friends, family, and food. Which I think are pretty good things to value.
I loved living in Italy and immersing myself in the Italian way of life. Its called the good life for a reason.