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The Perception of Time in Italy vs. United States

One thing I've noticed that is vastly different in Italy vs. the U.S. is the perception of time.

In the U.S., we're always in a hurry...

...we have no time...

...we believe time is money...

...and we hate wasting time.

In Italy, we have all the time in the world. And despite the long lines you often find yourself in, you will rarely see an Italian get upset about the wait.

At the Doctor's Office

Today I went to the doctor for the first time. I wasn't sick but needed a referral for other services. I entered the tiny waiting room and there were five other people already waiting for the same doctor as me.

Knowing that things often take longer than they would in the U.S., I settled in with my driving school app to pass the time taking quizzes.

One woman was pacing the waiting room, clearly frustrated about the wait, given that she obviously didn't feel well. The other women were yammering on about how stupid it is that some people treat their dogs like their children (Italians love connecting on just about any subject!).

American me would have thrown a fit after 20 minutes and walked out because making people wait isn't good customer service! Italian Su has a different perspective.

To my surprise, the doctor called me after (just) 30 minutes, but the remaining two women looked ready to duke it out because they'd been waiting without appointments. Given that I wasn't sick and they seemed to be, I graciously let them go ahead of me.

Because...I had all the time in the world!

I do appreciate the fact that the doctor, unlike those in America, didn't rush through anyone's appointment because she was overbooked. She took her time to help each of us. Americans often get just 5-10 minutes to talk to their doctors!

With Friends

Something I think is so sweet is that everyone, when they see someone they know, stops to greet them.

"Tutto a posto?" (Everything good with you? They ask this even if they saw each other yesterday.)

They'll offer you a coffee even if you stop by to drop something off. At the grocery store, the checker will chat with her friend in line, oblivious to the waiting customers. And those customers don't get mad! They know that being human comes first.

Time is a Gift

I have never met an Italian who was too busy to help me. Because helping someone, giving them your time, is a gift you give to people you care about.

It's really made me think about my own relation to time. Sometimes I feel too busy to call or check in on someone, but I know that for Italians, there's always enough time to show someone that you care.

If you're planning to move to Italy, here's a suggestion: accept that things are going to take longer than you want them to. Bring a book or something to do while you wait, and if you reach the front of the line sooner than you expect, so much the better!

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