After knowing someone six years, being in a long-distance relationship with them for four and uprooting everything-that-is-normal-and good in your life and moving halfway around the world to be with a person, you’d think you’d know them.
Not sure what that means?
I know how you feel.
My now-husband and I met in the romantic City of Lights in the spring of 2000, when we were both working at nearby Disneyland Paris. Lingual limitations prohibited a real relationship, but we were friends and occasionally we’d get together to look through our dictionaries and exchange new words.
A few years later, our relationship, as well as his English language skills, grew and we chose to pursue the path of handwritten letters, thoughtful emails, long-distance phone calls and frequent flyer mile accumulation. That lasted a long time.
During that time, he continued to work on his English, yet we still experienced moments of confusion, misunderstandings and on more than one occasion … flat-out lies.
They were usually preceded by something like this.
Me: “I’m going to make some coffee. Do you want some?”
Him: “Tisk,” Followed by a head nod “up.”
Fast forward five minutes later and I’m cozying down with two nice cups of mud.
Him: “Is that for me?”
Uhm, yes …
Him: “Oh, ok. I guess I’ll drink it.”
Me: “But you said you wanted it.”
Him: “It’s ok. I’ll drink it. Thanks.”
Geez … talk about indecisive!
Or sometimes it would go like this …
We were shopping at the mall-one of our favorite American pastimes, especially at Christmas-and would split up to knock out our last-minute lists. I’d see him finishing off a Chic-Fil-A lemonade.
Me: “Hey cutie! How is it going?”
Him: “Good, just finishing up my list.”
Me: “So, you ate at Chic-Fil-A?”
Him: “Uh uh.”
Now why would he lie about that? I just saw him. Grrr … .
Despite these confusing moments, our relationship flourished and in 2006 I moved to southern Italy to join him. It was only then, after knowing him for more than half a decade, that I got it.
He wasn’t indecisive.
He wasn’t a liar.
He wasn’t a secret shopper checking out Chic-Fil-A’s latest lemonade.
He was Italian … simple as that.
Now that I’m here, I see others from his clan nodding their head “yes” and “tisking” when they mean “no.” I hear others declare a “uh uh,” as an affirmative response and I see that everyone else, all around us, understands these things.
It strikes a nerve in the back of my mind-and to be honest, sends a little fearful chill down my spine-when I think of all of the times I doubted our relationship because of these cultural misunderstandings … all of the moments I wondered if I could be with someone who said “yes” when he meant “no,” … those times I thought he lied about having a chicken sandwich for lunch.
But then I realized I’m in Italy now, so I’ll just do as those south of Rome do and let it go, because all’s well that ends well. At least until next time I need a definitive answer.
Cherrye Moore is a Calabria tour planner and freelance writer living in southern Italy. You can read more about traveling in Calabria on her site, My Bella Vita or visit her in person at her bed and breakfast in Catanzaro.
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