Fellow Ravennati, this post is about “asking for help”. How do you “ask” something in this foreign land? What is considered being rude? Why did I turn into a child?
To give a short background, I can share this short video, where the speaker briefly describes how sometimes depending on the context; “no” might mean “yes” or “no” or “may be” due to the style of communication. And yes, I come from a culture where traditionally saying “no” to the food offerings in the first instance is considered polite and the real answer is discovered after re-asking the offer many times (come le nonne italiane). Which would be really annoying in a more direct communication context. So being aware of and enjoying all these differences; asking friends and colleagues the simplest stuff is sometimes challenging. Of course this had a lot to do with personality as well, but when you see patterns you understand that culture is a very powerful indicator.
Sometimes it is really FRUSTRATING to ask for help for the simplest tasks, so you turn into a 5-year-old again: “Mom! Can you make an appointment at the dentist? Mom! Where is the bike shop? Mom! What is considered “polite” when being offered food?! Mom! At what time exactly does “pomeriggio” start?! For me it starts after 13.00” and whenever I guess an hour of the mysterious pomeriggio the answer is usually “oh no that’s too early, let’s meet later”, it is just embarrassing.
In the last month I was lucky to be on the other side! During the Public History Convention, I was privileged to support the amazing staff team in terms of organization and communication. I found my inner balance when I had the chance to say obvious and simple things like “Yes Palazzo dei Congressi is this building. Yes we are in it right now. No no it is not a street, it is a building.” (And getting to know the staff and seeing more of the Emilia-Romagna region and appreciating the beautiful dialetto romagnolo was another perk.)
Later in June, we had a really sweet gathering at the Punto Ristoro about “What is SVE?” so I had the chance to introduce some cool facts and some personal experiences about EVS. For the first time for a long time I was the person with all the info! I am not perfect but I know my EVS facts ladies and gentlemen.
The help is always there when you look for it. But just like life, not everything is perfect 🙂 Sometimes misunderstanding in cultures and communication also shows itself. A frustrating example (and many vegetarians will surely recognize this type of “help”):
Me: Salve, c’è della carne in questo piatto? Non posso mangiare carne.
The very helpful person, very sure: No no, è vegetariano.
Me: Ottimo! Grazie!
2 minutes later…
Me: Ciao, mi scusi. Questa mi sembra carne?!
The very helpful person, not caring: AAaaahh… Boh… Hanno preparato con un po’ di pancetta…
Me. (It is also really entertainingly familiar to see how some Italians don’t consider pancetta or ragù a “meat” like my grandmother.)
Finding balance in receiving and offering help is important, I am really lucky to keep running into lovely people both in Ravenna and in all over Italy whenever I visit a place. Thank you for reading, now I gotta go and learn how does the tailors work in Ravenna and where to find una sartoria.