In the summer of 2015 I moved with the family and all our worldly goods from Oslo to Italy, and what a change it has been! So many aspects of daily life are different, and it has been fascinating to settle into a normal life in a beautiful place. I’ll be sharing some of my observations about how people communicate in different ways, some of the interesting expressions particular to a place and the little things that can sparkle a day.
I have a degree in Italian language and literature (from many years ago) and it’s a real pleasure to be able to speak it on a daily basis – even when facing civil servants, teachers or doctors. It is also helping my kids manage the change, having a mum who can understand their homework and translate to their friends.
The initial switch from Norwegian to Italian was tricky – and still is when we have Norwegian visitors – especially when managing some of the smaller words we use everyday.
O – in Italian “o” means “or”: pizza o pasta? But in Norwegian “o” is how Oslonians pronounce “og” which means “and”. So we’d find ourselves ordering too much food at a restaurant.
(Ah, food… now there’s a subject I could devote a whole blog to, how the issue of food rocks your life when you move from Norway to Italy)
Vi – in Italian “vi” means “you, plural”: vi abbiamo visto sulla spiaggia (we saw you on the beach). This was confusing as in Norwegian it refers to “us”: vi har sett dere pa fjellet (we saw you on the mountain). Hence much confusion as to who was doing what.
Switching from “ja” to “si” took a bit of work to change as have the Scandinavian habits of head-nodding, “umm ummming” and taking in a loud breath instead of using words – all very un-Latin.
Pulling out your hands and using them to help communicate, that’s taken some getting used to. And it goes without saying that people talk more here… much much more.
But in general I find Italian much more approachable, and don’t feel so self-conscious about trying out something and making mistakes. There are so many filler words and expressions you can use (bahs, mas and ehs) that communicating is more flowing and more visual. And just a few more smiles to help things along. You can also shout more (and be shouted at) but hey, I’ve lived in New York and can handle that fine.
Stay tuned for more stories of cultural shift.
About Wash your Language
I’d love to help you polish your English! I offer web copywriting and editing as well as translation from Norwegian to English and Italian to English. Read more.