Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Coffee Date? The Italian way of saying "We're Cool, Right?"

When I first moved to Trieste I thought that having coffee was an excuse for not working. You can hardly blame me. Be a fly on the wall of any office in Trieste, and here is what it looks like.

8:30 Empty.
8:45 Empty.
8:58 Empty.
8:59 First employees trickle in.
9:05 The rest of the team arrives. Coats stay on.
9:06 Turn on computer. Wait for the straggler to arrive.
9:07  Entire office leaves and walks to the nearest coffee outlet (machine, or, if lucky, a bar)
9:08-9:30 Empty.
9:31 The actual workday begins.

For an American, this seems strange. After all, we have our coffee at home. It is cheaper, and we can have more of it. That, and, We Know that you are supposed to WORK AT LEAST TWO HOURS to EARN another cup of coffee.

In Trieste, however, that is not how things roll.

You want to try something crazy and see two cultures collide?

I have a fun experiment for you then. Here is what you do:

Tell your Italian colleagues that you already had your coffee and that you will be skipping the morning trip to the coffee machine and see what happens.

Don't have the courage? No problem, because here is what will go down:

Someone will ask you if everything is OK and look at you with concern.
Another person will actually COME BACK and see if you have changed your mind.
Yet another will wonder what he or she did to deserve this snub.
Your office detractor will do a self-confirmation that you think you are better than everyone else.
If you wait a few minutes more, then, like clockwork, YOUR BOSS will stomp into your office and say:


And you will reluctantly get up and follow the other ducks. But, you will summon up your internal rebel to SHOW THEM and NOT ORDER COFFEE! Hmmph! So THAT is what you do.

And  guess what. NO ONE EVEN NOTICES. Because your Italian colleagues do not really care about what you drink at the coffee break. They just want you to be there.

Culture lesson!
You see, for Italians, this is a very important time where colleagues make sure that everyone is OKAY. It is the moment we find out who slept last night, who has a kid with a fever, who is not feeling well, who won the lottery. All of this information will help us understand how the workday will proceed.

To be sure, when we talk about the importance of coffee in Italy, we are really talking about the importance of RELATIONSHIP MAINTENANCE.

Less of a commitment than, say, Lunch, coffee is a cheap and quick way (always on your feet, by the way, only sit down for a coffee if you are contemplating marriage or reuniting with an old friend after a twenty-year absence) to reconnect and let the other person know that you are STILL COOL.

You can also use that 5-minute coffee time together to: strategize, thank, get to know, welcome, say goodbye, seal an important deal, or plan a boardroom coup.

The sky is the limit.

Never underestimate the power of coffee in Trieste.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Two Triestine Sounds I Forgot

Sound 1 

Mah. Definition: Well is that so?! I would have to disagree there.


"The candidate for Mayor of Trieste declared that he was an honest guy."


Sound 2 

Meh. Definition. Nothing Special. It was just ok.


"How was the new Star Wars movie?"


Monday, May 2, 2016

Speaking Using Triestine Sounds

Communicating in Trieste is not just about language. It is about attitude. It is also about SOUNDS. I have never found a dictionary of Triestine sounds, so I thought I would build an ad hoc one for you.

I hope this helps!

Sound 1.

"Eh" (like the E in BED) = definition 1. Yes, I told you so. You should have listened to me, but you didn't and now look at you!


"You were right, Mother-in-Law. Again. I guess I should have listened to you!"


Definition 2. As an answer to How Are you?


"Come xe?"

"Eh..." (shake head and look down at the same time to indicate that life is too terrible for words)

Sound 2.

BOH! (pronounced just like it says) = definition. I do not know. But like a teenager would say it, without words. (mm MMM mmm!)

"How did you do on your Math test?"


Sound 3

Tongue Click at the front of your mouth= definition: no.


"Did the cilantro come in this week at Curry Mix in Via Torri Bianca?"

Tongue Click (no).

Sound 4

"Madonna!" This is a word but it is used like a SOUND. Definition: Yes!

"Were there a lot of people walking at Barcola last weekend?"


There you go. Your Triestine sound guide. Remember, you can get away without using them, but you should be able to recognize them when you hear them. Ustia!!!

Italian Birthday Parties

Here is what you need to know if your kid is in Pre-School (I will update you next year for the rules on Elementary).

1. Once your kid enters Scuola Materna, it is all over for you you have officially entered the "Party Circuit."
2. You are expected to go to your kid's birthday parties and stay the entire time.
3. There are a lot of parties.
4. Normally the entire class is invited.
5. Yes, your time will come!

Survival Guide

If you are new in town or at the school, we suggest you go to the parties your kid is invited to. This will help your kid integrate and you can meet other parents, who may actually be nice people. The first year this is especially important. Making friends with other parents means you can occasionally help each other out (you are on a business trip, need a playdate until daddy gets there, that kind of thing). These can be very valuable relationships, particularly if you do not speak the language, or need some help navigating "The System."

Italians are social animals, and they are a high-context culture, which means they read into EVERYTHING and actually find MEANING in things that we can't even begin to understand. Imagine a whole country that sees the world and interprets it like (I was as) a teenage girl. Not going to parties can send a message that you are too good for them or snobby. (The same goes for that morning coffee at work with your colleagues. Don't skip it!!).

Every class has a handful of people who love organizing a group gift. This is great for you! Let someone else buy the present. You can pay them at the party.

The Best Part about Italian Birthday Parties:

You may luck out like we did! Since we put my daughter in a Slovenian school (in Italy), many of the birthday parties we go to are at Osmizzas (woo hoo! The Parents make wine!!) and there is a party within the party-- the kids run around like wild hellions in the courtyard, and the parents sip on terrano wine and chow down on homemade cold cuts and cheese while looking the other way. This is great for those of us whose party wings have been clipped since entering into parenthood!

Last week we went to a party in Repen and there were HORSES for the kids to ride. Not only that, at some point an elderly couple walked by with a couple of the biggest cows I had ever seen. The kids acted as if it were planned by the birthday girl's parents and followed the cows down the street until they realized they were just neighbors walking home after letting their cows hang out on some pasture in the area. Where were the parents, you ask? What kind of traffic can there be with two cows in the street anyway? Back to the wine!

When it is YOUR turn to host:

You may want to find a kid with a birthday around the same time and double up. Other parents will thank you and you can share the expenses. The more the merrier. Hopefully the person you are sharing with has already thought of everything.

Here is what is on the menu, just so you know.

Potato Chips
Cocktail weenies wrapped in some kind of puffed pastry
Baked Ham or cured prosciutto, Cheese, bread
Pizza that someone's mom made or mini round pizzas from the bakery
Open-faced Nutella sandwiches

Wine & Beer for the parents
Coke (which all kids will take and then complain that it is too spicy and parents will add water to it)
Orange soda
Juice (that no one will drink)

The Cake
No simple sheet cakes here, no Siree! The cake here is a creamy affair with pudding and whipped something or other, a shot of rum, and a small layer of actual cake. And it is SHOCKINGLY EXPENSIVE and sold by weight. The bakery will recommend you feed each kid a minimum of 5 kilos each and make you feel like the worst parent in the world if you don't (the kids will take one half bite and give the other 4.9999999999 kilos to you and you will finish it because you know how much it cost).

There is one cake per (birthday) kid (you are responsible for ordering the one for your kid and getting it to the venue responsibly). The insulated styrofoam box you transport it in is going to set you back 50 euros as a deposit that you will get back as soon as you return it back to the bakery.

Your party should be after lunch and will last until about dinner time. So put the start time.
3pm, but no need to put the end time, because everyone knows the party is over when the cake comes out...

...unless the party is in an osmizza, in which case the party is over when the Red wine is all gone and the pitcher stops getting filled up.

Then it is time to go.

Saturday, April 30, 2016

Countdown to the Bavisela!

Have you signed up for the Bavisela yet? There is still time! It is only a week away, though, which puts me in a crazy panic since I am not at all in shape. But, then again, I will just walk it if I have to. And I can always dust off the line I NEVER get tired of using, which is:

"Well, after running the Venice MARATHON in October, I am still a little TIRED, so I may just walk this half." Which is code for "I HAVE NOT DONE DOOKY SINCE OCTOBER EXCEPT FOR SIT ON MY TUCKUS AND EAT BON BONS".

And that is no excuse. The truth is that lately I sign up for races just to at least get OFF my butt once in a while (Venice was the same, if you want the truth, even if I sort of trained for it like a slug).

So if you are worried you are not in shape or too slow, or some other such nonsense. Remember, I will be there too bringing up the back and making you look like a running goddess!

You are welcome!

Monday, April 25, 2016

Go to Dutovlje and Bring your Damigiana!

If you are looking for a nice place to go in Slovenia just over the border to get WINE, try this.

Go to a little village called DUTOVLJE. It is just over the border from Repen in Trieste.

You can ask the tourist place if you want other suggestions. 

But my favorite is a place called


I suggest you go red. There is an 8-year old mix of Terran, Merlot and Cabernet (I think) Sauvignon they are just getting ready to bottle and IT IS ROCKIN!!! Bring your 10-liter bottle, otherwise they will sell you some in water bottles (1.5 liters).

You can tell them Karoline sent you, but they won't know who the hell I am.

The important thing that WE know THEM, don't you think?


The Best Chinese Restaurant in Mestre is Right by the Train Station

Discovery of last week. If you time it right, in 10 minutes you can order yourself dinner and eat it on the train on the way back to Trieste. This will save you from having to eat cookies and floppy sandwiches you buy in the station, especially if you are on the train during dinner time, which I usually am once a week on my way back from these 2-day workshops I have been teaching.

I can't believe my luck. Yeah.

You can tell I have been living here a Looong time and am having serious ethnic food withdrawal. I would shoot up a burrito if I could, smoke a springroll...

So this discovery is kind of a big deal for me. Just wanted to share with my ex-pat friends who may find themselves at the Mestre station (this is the stop before Venice Santa Lucia, by the way, so it's not such a crazy idea, it could happen to any of you, it would be where you change trains to go anywhere else basically after visiting Venice).

Enjoy, people!