Welcome back to Milan

I’m back in Milan for a few days. Earlier today I had to take the tram, but I didn’t have tickets, so I went to buy them.

Buongiorno, vorrei due biglietti” (Good afternoon, I would like 2 tickets) I said.

The woman at the counter looked at me with little interest and said “Non ho capito” (I didn’t understand).

Due biglietti, per favore” (Two tickets, please).

She gave me the tickets, I paid, and she gave me the change. I put everything in my bag and said, “Grazie! Buona giornata!” (Thank you! Have a nice day!).

Silence. She didn’t say a word.

And I’m kind of speechless too. Seriously, being nice doesn’t kill you! Where have your good manners gone? Is this a good customer service? I don’t think so!

Well, whatever. I got my tickets. I took the tram, and I went shopping. And now I’m enjoying my new shoes! And Semola is enjoying the shoebox!

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In Different Voices

When I worked as a customer service representative, part of my job was to be on the phone and assist people calling from all over Europe.

We would mainly speak English. Now, I think my English is good enough, but I have an accent, of course. The thing is that I still have to figure out what kind of accent I have.

From people’s reactions on the phone, I came to the conclusion that I have some kind of multiple accent disorder. 🙂

“Are you Dutch? You have a Dutch accent” Yeah, right…

“Are you from Sweden? You have a Swedish name?” Do I, really?!

“I thought you were from England. Your English is so good” Ok…maybe this one was being ironic.

“May I ask you something personal? Are you Russian?” Yes, you can ask. And nyet, I’m not Russian.

“I hear a French note in your accent” Oh là, là!

Hardly anyone had a good guess. Sometimes Italian callers would ask if I was Italian. I don’t know if they recognized something in my accent. When answering the phone, we had to say our name, so I think it was that. But hey, I’ve a Swedish name, so I don’t think they got it from my name!

Eventually the curious customer would ask where I was from.

“Oh, you’re Italian. Bongeornow, kome shtai!” Ehm, yes. I’m Italian and I speak Italian. But you don’t!

Espresso, what else?

Italians love coffee. Their coffee. If it’s not done as they want it to be (espresso, ristretto, macchiato…) they start complaining that “it’s not possible to drink this thing”.

Usually this happens abroad, where “they don’t know how to make proper coffee”.

When it comes to coffee, I’m not that picky (I’m not picky at all, if I may say so!). I do drink it, twice a day. At breakfast – after having a bowl of cereal with milk, and a glass of orange juice – and after lunch. But right after lunch. I cannot drink it later in the afternoon, otherwise I won’t sleep at night. I guess I’m too sensitive to caffeine.

When I’m home I make my own, but if I’m outside I’ll just have whatever is available. Without complaining if it’s not perfect. So I’m actually not very Italian regarding coffee. And M. even less than me, since he doesn’t like it and doesn’t drink it.

His parents are exactly the opposite! They were here for the weekend, and after every single meal they had to complain about the coffee. Well, it was mostly his mum the complaining one. 😉

“Should we order coffee? Is it going to taste good? Will they make a good espresso? Why aren’t they able to make a nice coffee? They even have the coffee machine! Ah, but they don’t know how to use it”.

A broken record!

A couple of times we ate at our place, and when it was time to make coffee I was so scared! What if it’s not good enough? Well, there were no complaints, so I guess it was ok.

At least my coffee was not among the things to complain about. And there were many! But it’s quite a long list, maybe I should write another post about it. Or probably it’s better not to complain about someone complaining. It would be complaintception!

Indonesian food and random thoughts about identity

On Friday night, M. and I decided to have dinner at the Indonesian restaurant.

We arrived and asked for een tafel voor twee. The waitress seemed a bit confused, but after a moment she showed us to our table.

Another waiter took our orders, two biertjes and two rijstafels. He then asked us something in Dutch. A moment of panic! Ok, let’s switch to English.

Then the other waitress brought us the food, and said something in Dutch. We didn’t get anything, and we asked her to speak English. She looked like “Hey, you were speaking Dutch earlier!”

After a while, she came again at our table to check if everything was OK. She explained that she tought we were Dutch, and she was surprised when we switched to English.

How she could think that we were Dutch, that’s a mystery to me!

Anyway, she was also non Dutch. And when we asked her where she was from, she said: “Oh, I’m from a lot of places. I’m from Canada, I’m from Hong Kong…”

At first I was tempted to reply: “Ok, but where exactly are you from? Canada or Hong Kong?”. But then, is it really that important? Do we really have to look for an exact definition? Besides, the most precise information is exactly the one she gave us. And more interesting too!

Not only we learned that she is from here and there (and since a few months she is in the Netherlands to study) but her answer made me think about one’s identity, roots and culture.

It also reminded me when, while I was in Canada, I was asked a similar question – where are you from? are you Italian, you don’t look like Italian? – and I answered: “My mom is from the Philippines, my dad is Italian and I am…me!”

Not very precise, but true.

Babel on my mind

I now live in the Netherlands, and my knowledge of Dutch is just enough to answer “een beetje” when asked if I speak Dutch. And that’s about it!

So, I guess I won’t be blogging in Dutch.

What language then?

Italian? It’s my native language, after all. Spanish, French? No, I’d better not use a language I’m not so fluent in.

English? I’ve started writing this post in English, so I guess I’ve already decided which language I want to use.

I might switch to another one along the way though.

You never know. Non si sa mai.

Hopefully, I won’t get lost in translation!