Any Green in Sight?

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Reading: The Constant Gardener

Happy St. Patrick’s Day! Yet another holiday that we Americans have assimilated into our culture, i.e., another reason to drink and party. I tried to see if anyone at work would be wearing green or any crazy buttons like, “Kiss me, your sister already has” or “Luck o’ the Mafia” or “I’m not Irish, but that’s not a problem, right? RIGHT?” etc.

But no dice. Seems to be largely overlooked here. Which is fine, but sadly, I miss another large friend get-together back home. No green scrambled eggs (this kind, not this kind), no cupcakes with green frosting, no green beer!

For those of you keeping track, no green on today. Send me a long-distance pinch!

Since I’ve been working so much, I think mostly about work, so I thought I would give some insights on working in my Italian office. Of course this won’t work for every office. Some of my past “insights” about working in a government office are even stranger.

1) A phone conference never starts on time. And by starting, I mean, calling the other party. in the call. At 5 minutes to the meeting time, someone will walk around and remind everyone that we have a phone conference in five minutes. Everyone will nod, and go back to working furiously. At the time of the phone conference, someone else will walk around and gather everyone, and go to the room or desk where the call will take place. This may take a few minutes. Then, with the time already running, the local group will sit and de-brief about the problem, the strategy or what they should say. This can sometimes take up to 15 minutes into the scheduled call time.

Then, the call is placed.

I’ve never taken part in a call that hasn’t happened like this.

2) Many Italian women will keep a toothbrush at work and brush their teeth after lunch or in late afternoon. I guess that’s one way to get around the missing dental care plan.

3) They love to party, but not plan. The last two informal department “parties” were planned by me. I suggested using “Evite” for an aperitivo we were planning. Evite is the bible of event planning back home for me and my friends, but one Italian colleague remarked, “Oh no, that’s making it too institutionalized! Too formal!” I was thinking, no, it means people have a date, a time, and a map, and they can invite other friends. But I guess I’ll use it for the next thing I plan out of the office.

4) They love to eat, they hate to eat. One time someone brought some pastries and I heard so many, “Oh, I don’t eat sweets,” “I’m on a diet,” or “half of a half of a bite only,” or those that didn’t even glance at the tray. Another time, I arrived at 10am, and my colleagues told me there was something to eat in the other room. I arrived to see a big, huge, empty tray. I guess it was good.

5) The first four months, I was coming into work early, at 8.40. The first one in our office. When I left at 6pm, I felt like I was sneaking out leaving so “early.” Now that I’m coming in later and leaving later, I am noticing that everyone starts leaving around 6.20, just a mere 20 minutes after I was leaving. (I’m stuck until 7 because of the trains)

6) Some of my colleagues are starting to catch on to my joking….usually consisting of me pretending that I didn’t understand what was said in Italian, and substituting a similar (sometimes inappropriate) word as I try to “clarify” what was said with a perplexed look on my face. This usually makes the speaker say…”No, no, not that,” but it’s too late, the damage has been done. Half the people are laughing, and the other half are concentrating, trying to remember which word he had actually said. I guess the class clown is still alive in me. Ok, alive and well.

What about at your office?

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