Monday, August 7

party experience

In England, when a child has a birthday party, the children invited get dropped off by their parents at the birthday childs house in the afternoon. They play organised games, pass the parcel, musical chairs etc. They all sit down together at a big table and eat a birthday tea at about 5.00pm, then the presents are opened, the givers are thanked and at the latest 7pm, the children are picked up and taken home.

In Italy it is different. The mothers are expected to go to the party too and look after their own kids. There are no games, not often entertainers, just loud, loud childrens music (theme tunes from various japanese cartoons) blasting from the stereo. The kids do what they want, or rather, what they can get away with, seeing as their mothers are breathing down their necks. The food is set out on tables, from the beginning of the party, and the cake is brought out right at the very end, which can often be 10pm, by which time there are lots of very tired irritable kids.

I recently received a phonecall inviting Skye and me to a childs birthday party. The mother of the child told me that she had also invited another 'foreign' mother, so that I would have someone to talk to, and wouldn't feel left out.

Gee, thanks.

Now, I have been living here for over 8 years, and visiting often since 1986. Yet, I am still considered a foreigner who will never be accepted by certain locals. This small town attitude annoys me, but I have learnt to live with it. But for her to tell me that she had invited someone, on purpose for me to talk to, led me to understand that she knew that the other mothers would not be making small talk with me.

In fact, I went to the party, and was completely ignored by the little cliques of mothers standing around. The only really friendly 'local' mother that was there left after 10 minutes. I spent some time with the 'other foreigner', but wanted to try and break the barrier with the locals.

I watched Skye playing happily with the others, thankful that at least she was accepted as one of them. I stood by the balcony railing for a while, wondering who I could try to talk to. Three women walked over and I started to smile at them, but at the last second, they turned away. They had stopped inches away from me, and turned their backs to me, as if I wasn't there. They were so close that I found myself leaning back into the railing to gain some personal space.

It was hopeless, I felt stupid and awkward, so I decided to leave early (it was nearly 9pm). There is an unwritten law here, that you must not leave a party before the cake has been brought out. It is probably considered very rude, but I wasn't going to hang around on my own any more. I scooped up Skye into my arms, made my excuses, agreed with the ,”oh, you can't go yet, the cake hasn't been brought out!” I apologised, and left. A feeling of relief washed over me as soon as I turned the corner. I took us to the nearest bar for an icecream, instead of a slice of birthday cake.


  1. wow that sucks!
    when i was younger, my party was sort of what u had in England & in Italy...when i was younger the parents were invited but as i got older it just became parents dropping off the kids.

    8yrs is a long time there and too bad u are still recieved as an outsider. Atleast ur daughter isnt having such a hard time.

  2. argh, I'm sorry to hear that. I've been to a few parties in Italy where half the people are very interested in who I am, and the other half won't come near me and just stare, and you can hear the word "straniera" in between their mutterings... bleh!! Even better when you start to get included in the conversation and at that point they decide to switch to dialect.
    I don't blame you for leaving at all.
    I'm glad Poppy is able to make friends though! :-)

  3. is this the whole reverse intimidation thing? where you are intimidated by the mothers that ignore you and THEY are intimidated by the foreign lady from the fabulous overseas that might judge them and find them provincial and laugh at them to her friends on the phone from england??? the hostess however should have introduced you better to others!

  4. Nicki, don't let it bother you. You will run into people like that no matter where you are. Seriously. It's their loss for not getting to know you and the special person that you are. :)

  5. That is just ridiculous! But it's their loss for missing out on talking to you and perhaps making a new friend.

  6. Perhaps they were jealous or maybe just don't know what to make of you yet. Don't most Italian moms stay at home? (I have no idea..) Anyhow, you appear to be very independent, business minded, young and attractive. Chalk it up to their insecurities. I'll take ice cream over cake anyday - lucky Poppy!! (& Carlo too)

  7. I've been living in Sweden for 15 years, and people still act like I just fell down from Mars - they explain the most basic, trivial things to me and always, always say "Oh, but you see, this is how we do it here" (as in opposed to 'there', ergo where I come from).

    You'll never be Italian, just as little as I'll ever be considered a Swede. Not that that's an aim for me, it's just anoter pet peeve I have to deal with on a daily basis...

  8. I'm sorry, that's too bad. I don't know what it takes for people (or a culture) to accept you? It's really frustrating when people act that way within your own country! In the U.S., if you're from another state, people always refer to you as "the person from that state." I've been in NYC since 1999, and individuals still comment on my "west coast" mentality. Absurd.

    Try not to let it upset you. It really is their loss! :)

  9. Niki it was nice of the host to invite you but she should have introduced you to the other women. Don't let it get you down. I was born and raised in the U.S. and I feel like a "straniera" sometimes in my own country :)

  10. yep nicky, i don't think the walls ever come down! i've been here 3 years and still don't have any girlfriends...

  11. That's why I have way more Italian guy friends than gal friends, they're so much easier to get along with and talk to! They all agree with me too that in general Italian girls are really hard to get to know, that they're really closed and dont let anyone into their circles. I did find though that it just takes one strong connection to get in. If you can become good friends with one girl, all the sudden all the girls in her circle will act like they've known you forever.

  12. hey don' despair- were all in the same boat! I'm a brit living in Italy now for 1 year- italian female friends - ZERO! they are superficial, judegemental, jealous and very very provincial. Its their loss - they can't deal with us strong, independent ' foreign ' women ... I know who I'd rather be !!

  13. Sorry Nicky, but I have to express some of my feelings to someone's comments....

    I'm Italian-American and I DO NOT agree with you ANONYMOUS. We are not all like that. You have no right to say that about Italian women. Why are you living in Italy? The women in my family are warm, friendly, beautiful, strong, independent, kind, loving and highly intelligent, not to mention damn-good cooks! Ok. And so are all my Italian female friends.

    Nicky and have an Italian girlfriend... me! :)

  14. I've been in rome for 8 years and have ALWAYS had less-than-pleasant experiences with italian females, they just don't seem to enjoying mingling with foreign females. i'm sure i'm not the only one who's noticed this, i have very few italian female friends, but plenty of italian male friends and foreign female friends... odd, isn't that?

  15. Ai yi yi. Ale and Ragazza were right. It's the host's responsibility to make sure that everyone mingles and meets everyone else. That was just rude behavior. I spent 99% of my life in New York City and there the best ice breaker at a party was if you came from a foreign country.

  16. Good for you, I'm sure the ice cream was tastier anyway! ;)

  17. Just thought I should stick up for Italian women! I have been in Italy for 10 years (I'm English) and I've made some really great Italian female friends BUT I made them all through work where we've shared a lot together and they know that we'll be able to understand each other (I think a lot of people are scared that you won't understand them) and that we basically have a lot in common.

  18. That's the key, as the last poster said. She worked with them. You gotta have an "In" somehow. Until you have that "In" it's not that they're b*tches it's just that they dont really talk to you. But I myself do the same thing - I wouldnt talk to a random person I dont know! Everytime I've met an Italian female through either school or someone else though, they've been really pleasent (well, except when it's a guy friends girlfriend. Then they eye me the whole time with a look that says "if you try anything I'll destroy you! - but I think that's all woment, not just Italians)

    Franca, I'm not dissagreeing with you, but I think probably the reason you've had such a different expereince is because you are half Italian, and have family there and friends of your family there. I'm not sure if you grew up in Italy or not, but in either case I'm guessing this is the reason you havent had the same expereince as some of the rest of us. It's just that Italian women, for non Italians, can be harder to get to know than what we're used to!

  19. Well, I AM a local, born and raised here.
    All I shall tell you is that my only friends are:
    Does this ring any bell to you????
    If I couldn't fit in this circle...I can't see how anyone coming from abroad could...
    It's all a matter of education, culture, interests and character.
    I absolutely don't mean to diminish or offend anybody, I simply feel not to belong to this way of living. Never did and never will.
    In fact, my son is hardly ever invited to aforementioned birthday parties...we're not part of "the circle"
    So, keep it up Nicki. ANda thank you for the lovely Mirabella story, I enjoy very much all the yachts coming and going and THAT is a BEAUTY!

  20. I think Italian women tend to be close-knit. I'm Canadian and in Canada -- but I worked in an office that happened to have several Italian women. They hung out together at lunch and breaks, but not with anybody else. I think it's cultural.

  21. In MY experience after 10 years in italy as a female foreigner, the few Italian women who actually do seem to welcome and embrace foreign female friends (as opposed to glaring at them as if they were the enemy) usually either:
    1) come from a family that has one foreign parent
    2) grew up in many different cities/countries
    3) went to foreign schools in Italy
    4) studied abroad
    5) traveled a lot
    the rest seem to have their guard up all the time and don't want to let us into their "in" circles. it's not our imagination, it's something 95% of foreign women have felt in italy from milan down to palermo, it's always the same sad situation.


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