Friday, May 26, 2006


... says Linda C., meaning that the Sicilians have an even more "relaxed" attitude to time than Italians in general. She had to remind me of that many times last year, when I was waiting for various contracts to be signed, etc.

Back in the 1990s, when we brought two lots of school exchange students over, my colleague from the economics department, becoming more exasperated by the minute, enquired, "British time or Italian time?" every time we made an arrangement with someone.

If you agree to meet someone socially here at, say, 9.30 am., you have to bear in mind that that is probably the time they will leave their home, not the time they will actually turn up. Indeed, I remember all those years ago, in Northern Italy, panicking because my Italian boyfriend, who was driving me to the airport [a 2-hour journey] for my flight home, left the house at the time I was supposed to check in! Of course when we got to Milan no member of staff was yet at the check-in desk for my flight! "Te l'ho detto" - "I told you so", sighed Mario.

If a concert or lecture is billed to start at, say, 8pm., you can bet that nothing will happen till at least 8.45. There is endless standing around to be endured in these cases. Of course, some outdoor events in the summer have to start late because of the heat and I have no problem with that, except why can't they say it will start at 10 pm if they know that that is what will happen?!

Often if you have a group restaurant booking the same is true and the staff don't, as in the UK, make everyone comfortable with a drink while they are waiting. No one but me seems to mind the aimless hanging around.
The converse is the case with regard to Sicilian workmen and delivery staff, however, or so I have found: workmen will continue through the siesta hours and toil late into the evening until the job is done. [I suspect this is because Italians still take pride in manual work.] When I had to have a new kitchen installed in the apartment [when people move house here they rip out their kitchen and even the light fittings, which is illegal in Britain] I ordered it on a Monday and it was in and functioning by the end of Wednesday of the same week! Delivery men will give you an approximate time and then ring you when they are on the way - a refreshing change from the UK where, if you're lucky, you will be grudgingly told whether they intend to materialise in the morning or afternoon; then you wait all day and no one appears or has the courtesy to call you to explain the delay.
So "Time stops at Messina" but it doesn't always do so in Modica!

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