Let me give you some advice

  • I meet up with my friends outside the bar where we’re going to have a few drinks and one of them asks ” Shouldn’t you be wearing a heavier jacket?”
  • I dunk my french fries in ketchup and a fellow McDonalder says “I don’t think you should use so much of that stuff, it’s not good for you.”
  • I’m at a store looking at some candle holders and shop assistant states “You should look at those silver ones over there. Also, make sure to buy 3 because 2 is bad luck.”

Unwanted and unsolicited advice is one of the things that drives me most bananas about living in Italy. I’m talking a big ol’ bunch of ripe Chiquitas here!

Italians love, lovelove voicing their opinion and giving you advice whether you want it or not. I, being an outgoing-yet-humble guy, have absolutely no problem voicing my opinion (which has a time and a place) or asking for advice (which needs to be left to the individual to decide whether or not to ask). But, Italian people (God love ’em) for some reason think that their opinion/advice is exactly what you have been searching for and longing to hear.

Among themselves the situation goes without a hitch. An Italian will respond to unsolicited advice from another Italian by responding with some of their own. Both parties seem content to have expressed their opinion or shared their advice and then they both continue happily with their day. This is not so with me.

An unsuspecting (and essentially innocent) Italian will gawk at me with an expression of hurt surprise on their face when their unsought advice is met by my gruff “Who the hell asked you?!”

I know my jacket is light, I understand that too much ketchup isn’t good for you, and I am perfectly capable of selecting candle holders all by myself thank you!

I don’t want to seem hostile or non grateful towards my host culture, so, being that today is Thanksgiving (at least back in the USA), I’d like to close with something positive: I am thankful for my life here in Italy and all the wonderful/strange/exciting/frustrating things that come along with it!

Italian bog reader: “You know, Garrett, you really should have started your post with the Thanksgiving thing and I’m not sure that the Chiquita banana reference was pertinent.”

Me: “Shut it!”

(Okay, I just had to get one last zing in there) 😛


31 thoughts on “Let me give you some advice

  1. Ah Garrett, I knew I could count on you to express in words my exact feelings on this most saccharine of holidays. Whenever an Italian begins a conversation with “Se vuoi un consiglio…” I immediately interrupt (another beloved italian trait) with “Ma chi cacchio te l’ha chiesto?”

  2. Another unsolicited advice: please could you change the background on your blog? Because my colleagues start thinking that Im browsing on some porn sites….. 😀

    By the way I think that the core of the problems is The Italian Mamma.
    Mamma has always an advice!
    If you want some, I give you mine!

    • Hey Zitella! You’re right about the current background of the blog being a bit pornographic… I’m actually still playing around with the “look” of my blog. It’s not permanent, don’t worry! 🙂

      Also, American Mom’s have lots of advice too. I think it must be a “Mom thing” all around the world.

    • Ciao! I am doing my back excercises fairly regularly, don’t worry!

      I think I will need to change up the blog background sooner rather than later, as you aren’t the 1st person to say that…

      Thanks for stopping by! 🙂

  3. As an American married to an Italian, I live this post everytime I’m around the mother- and sister-in-law! To compound matters further, they emigrated to Scotland and, trust me on his one, when it comes to unsolicited advice, the Scots are every bit as guilty but with a biting sarcasm added to the mix. I’m often left reeling from their one-two punch thinking, “who asked you?” followed up by, “hey, what did I ever do to you?”!!!

  4. Hmmm. This unsolicited advice thing sounds oddly AMERICAN, too!

    I need both hands to count the number of times in the last few days I’ve heard, “You really should…” or “If I were you…”


    Fun post… 🙂

    • I’ll bet the Americans giving you all this advice have Italian last names!

      Just kidding (sort of!) :-p

      Americans may give advice too, but not with as much gusto as Italians.

      Thanks for stopping by! Un bacio!

  5. I’m partial to the idea that unsolicited advice is also a sign of caring. Once a friend of ours came into the pub all red-faced and flustered. “What’s up dude?” – “My mother…….” Seems he had just stopped by his folk’s house for a visit and got a barrel load of good advice (absolutely free!) from Mom. I told him “Look at it this way, what if your Mom didn’t care what you did, would you prefer that?” – “Uh….no.” Long story short, he called Mom, thanked her for the advice and promised to stop by after work again the next day. Mom was happy, he was happy and we were all able to get on with our beer – which made us happy – shiny happy people all around.

    Umm Garrett, now about those clothespins……;-)

    • Hey! Leave my clothespins alone! I just changed the background last week! 😛

      I agree that advice can be a sign of caring, if it comes from somebody you’re close to and whose opinion actually matters to you, but I can tend to tell the difference between caring advice, and advice just to bust your balls or make the person giving it feel important. That’s the type of advice that drives me so bananas!

  6. Hello,
    I just came across your blog.
    I’m a Belgian living part-time (and as soon as I find a job it will be full-time) in Italy and may I say it…? I am soooooo relieved reading this post!
    I thought it was all me, being overly sensitive or exagerating!

    Thank you


    • Hi Stephanie! I’m glad you found A Change of Underwear and that you found some truth in what I wrote!

      Where are you living in Italy? No matter where it is, I assume that Belgium is more Christmassy/Romantic at this time of year, right?

      Make sure to subscribe to the blog so you stay up to date on all the latest!

      Ciao! 🙂

  7. Oh God, you should try with Germans then. They’re used not only to give you an advice, but also to go on and express the many reasons which support their claim, leading most of the time to a long debate about the pros and cons.

    Ok, in a much more civilized way than Italians would do, but nonetheless… 😉

  8. This is one of my favorite posts of yours, and it’s been rattling around in my head ever since I read it. I was in a long line at the questura to check on my permesso, and an Italian woman had her toddler sitting up on a counter while she was talking to the officer. A foreigner strode over and told her that she needed to take the toddler down, that she might fall, and the Italian woman quickly rebuffed him. I could tell no one else in the room was experiencing my joy at Italians receiving unsolicited advice from another culture, because everyone was then glued to the toddler, wondering if she would indeed fall (thankfully, she didn’t).

    My most shocking experience was when I was single and dating Italian men, every Italian woman I knew would voice their most negative opinion about the guy I happened to be dating at the time. One woman even said, “He’s my cousin, and I know what a jerk he is”. Maybe they felt obligated to speak the “truth”? Maybe to Italians our way of keeping our mouths shut seems dishonest?

    I do think unsolicited advice is not just an Italian thing, but endemic to most traditional cultures. My friends in the US from India, Taiwan and Morocco all struggle to keep their mouths shut on a litany of crimes they see us committing. I think it’s tied our American individualism that we take offense to other people telling us what to do. Thanks for championing our national pride!

    • What a lovely comment to read on this hot and humid Friday in Italy! Thanks so much!

      That is awesome that the Italian woman with the precariously placed toddler got some unsolicited advice of her own! I would have been reveling in it too.

      Happy late 4th!

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