I think the fact that there is no real word for “hangover” in Italian serves to best prove my point. Italians have a way to express feeling hungover – avere i postumi di una sbronza (feel the aftereffects of having previously been drunk). However, this is a long-winded description which is necessary only because the word “hangover” itself does not exist.
It’s not that Italians forgot to invent a word for hangover back when they were drafting up ones like “spaghetti”, “bella”, and “Ferrari”, it’s just that there was never any real need for it because, well, Italians drink a heck of a lot less than Americans do!
There are definitely the times when an Italian person will have a bit too much fun at the festa and come home drunk, but:
- it happens much less rarely than it does in America
- they most likely were considerably less drunk than their American counterpart would have been
- they probably didn’t set out the night with the intention of getting hammered
Italians place a lot of importance on keeping up one’s good public image and singing loudly on the street at 3:00 am, stumbling out of a taxi, or ruining your designer jeans while sitting on the floor of some public bathroom as you barf up your linguine doesn’t seem to go hand-in-hand with that ideal, for some odd reason! 😉
When I first came to Italy, I arrived with the mentality of a good ol’ Irish-American from Boston who had graduated college not too long before, and just recently lived for 10 months in Ireland. Let’s just say that I knew how to party with the best of ’em! My idea of going out to a bar or club meant going out with the intention of coming back home drunk as a skunk.
I would get frustrated with my Italian friends when we went out for the night and got just one drink at a bar before walking to the next bar, and then maybe not even getting anything to drink at all when we got there. I felt like “hey, you guys, are we out drinking or what?” I couldn’t understand why they weren’t up for doing double shots of whiskey and talking the bartender into making us the strongest drink humanly possible.
For Italians, a night out means being social, spending time with people, relaxing and talking, and not necessarily getting absolutely trashed. Yes, they might have a few beers along the way, yes they may have a few glasses of wine too many, but the whole idea of having a good night out doesn’t necessarily revolve around alcohol as much as it does in America.
Anybody that currently goes out with me either here in Italy or in the USA when I am back there, will testify that I can still drink a lot and get boozey, but believe me when I say that I have calmed down a good deal from what I used to drink. I think part of it is age, I mean, I’m 30 now, not 21 (or… 19), but part of it is also definitely the fact that the Italian approach towards going out and just getting one drink is starting to have its influence…. and that’s not necessarily a bad thing!