That truly is the question. As an American living abroad I often ask myself can we successfully live in both worlds. I am truly blessed to be able to live in these two amazing places and ponder this question.
A 3 hour flight is all it takes……..
Barely enough time to mentally ready yourself for the instant change in……..everything.
Stockholm. Cloudy, cold, quiet, organized, tall, blonde, reserved, clean, complete. A different Warm and loving
Sicily. Sunny, hot, loud, caotic, short, dark, outgoing, gritty, unfinished, Warm and loving
A few more major differences and they somewhat tie into each other.
For better or worse time is a huge difference, they both use the same 24 hour clock but the way they are used could not be more different.
Swedes are up at the crack of dawn, things to do before they have things to do. You can see it in the determined look, the brisk pace, the morning sets the tone for a productive day. Pretty much every minute is accounted for, the routine generally set in stone, anything else is posted on Facebook, lest their friends freak out by the sudden schedule change. Lunch sometime between 11 and 1…….dinner between 18.00 and 20.00, everybody knows what time breakfast is…..duh. Whatever is scheduled you show up at least 5 minutes early and expect the other party to reciprocate. The weekend is your free time, sort of, except for the gym, errands and anything that needs to be done around the house.
Home by 20.00, watch your favorite shows then off to bed, gotta get up early. Sex may be scheduled in, usually wednesday and saturday from what I hear, 1 hour of frivilous activity, filed away under exersize so as to have a reasonable explanation for the lost hour.
Sicilians……. None of the above, really, completely different. It is so hard to explain. The morning in a town like Cianciana, as it is in many small Italian towns, starts slowly. There is a freshness to the morning as well as a comforting quietness with only the ghosts of last night, beer bottles and cigarettes scattered to remind us that only a few hours ago everyone was alive and well The cafe opens early, a place for the laborers of the town to gather for a coffee before heading off to work by bus or with a friend. Next out are the old men, kicked out of the house by the wife so she can begin her routine of cleaning and starting lunch. The men gather to decide where to sit, waiting for all to arrive so they can figure out where the card games are to be played, even though it is almost always in the exact same location. A LOT of loud discussion and hand gestures, a secret Sicilian code, to only be broken through the passage of time. The result, pretty much the same as yesterday. Beautiful in its simplicity and regularity. Meetings and schedules are just a vague suggestion, an inconvienance to be fit into the day IF possible. If you show up for a scheduled meeting within a 30 minute window your good, that goes for both parties.
In Stockholm everybody has a job or pretends to, it is your civic duty to work, pay taxes ( No cheating, we are swedish after all ) and be a good citizen. You are what you do for a living, somewhat.
There is the Italian proverb………The Sweet Art of doing Nothing……..and trust me it is an art, to which many a Sicilian subscribe. Jobs are often hard to come by here in Sicily. You are hopeful that your cousin has a friend who knows somebody who knows somebody who is opening a shop, bar or business in town to find a job.
Being social doesn’t come naturally to Swedes in general, socially awkward would be my best description. Like I mentioned earlier Swedes are organized and social activities are no different and must be scheduled in appropriately. To have a sudden desire to go out and grab a drink or two will have the potential to wreck havoc in a few ways for you and your friends. If you call a friend with the suggestion they are put in the awkward position of having to choose between maintaining the already scheduled in activity or being spontaneous ( not a Swedish strongpoint ). They will also possibly become concerned for your general state of wellbeing, wondering why you “suddenly “ have “free time” on your hands……did he lose his job, does he have a drinking problem…..what does he think he is, a musician or something?
In Sicily socializing is second nature and done on an almost daily basis. I have yet to see any of my Italian friends break out their day planner to see if they are free to hangout. It starts with the routine of the guys meeting at their favorite spot ( in Cianciana it’s the gas station by the park or the benches by the Clock Tower and Trieste ) in the morning and after siesta. In the late evening it’s the passiagiatta, the evening walk that is done by pretty much everyone. It’s groups of friends and family walking up and down Main Street, meeting other friends and family in a dance of social loveliness that is timeless. As you watch the show you can see the groups of older people and guess that that group has been doing the walk as that group plus or minus one or two people since they were kids, the young families with the little ones and the young kids together starting their own tradition. Both young and old are treated with reverence and love and are to be dotted on.
Some other quick observations for ya……a Swede will go out of their way to throw away their trash, in the appropriate recycle bin of course. A Sicilian will toss it almost anywhere, bins be damned.
Swedes follow the rules of the road when driving, often going a bit under the stated speed limit, turn on their turn signal WAY before the turn and seat belts are always used. Your car is properly legal, inspected and maintained.
Sicilian seems to take road rules as mere suggestions. Drive the speed limit or under and you WILL be passed and are a hazard. Seat belts, no thank you. What are turn signals ? We won’t even go into car emissions or broken headlights…….
Sicilians laugh, often. Their smile is warm and honest
Swedes laugh as well, kinda but it often sounds mechanical and somehow seems unnatural. Smiling happens, kinda but almost looks staged or thought out to be appropriate for the situation.
If you want to experience my life in Sicily come stay with us at our home in beautiful Cianciana