Daily Failtales: Week 4

The awkwardness of running out of things to say in Italian

I’m getting better at holding conversations in Italian–or at least in a mix of broken English and broken Italian. However, my speaking abilities and vocabulary is still very limited. And most of what I know how to say is meant for an introductory conversation–my name, my university, what I study, how old I am, how long I’m in Florence, how I like Florence, what I like to do, etc. Likewise, I only know how to ask a limited number of introductory questions, too–your name, how you are, what you do, how old you are, etc.

A classic Scott Pilgrim & Ramona moment of awkward smalltalk and then abrupt silence.

So, once I burn through everything I know how to say, there is always this awkward, silent ending to the conversation. Even worse is running into the same predominantly-Italian-speaking people who have already had this conversation with me. It’s like an exchange of “hi,” “how are you?” “bene, grazie.” And then that’s it. I literally don’t know how to say or ask anything more that wouldn’t be either repetitive or ridiculously random and frivolous. So the conversation just dies, and we’re left awkwardly staring at each other kind of nodding our heads. Then I just casually turn around to my friends, or shrug a weak little “Allora, ciao” and walk away. Real good socializing.

LESSON LEARNED: Prepare some new, interesting conversation-makers in Italian before going out to places you frequent.

That time I [un]successfully bargained for heels.

I had been on the hunt for a pair of black heels–black heels that could go casual or fancy, weren’t too high, were 60 Euro max, and had thick enough heels to rough the cobblestone streets. I found them. They were 80 Euro. After clearly stating that they were beyond my price range, trying them on at the shopkeeper’s insistence anyway, and spending a long time pretending I didn’t like them that much, I got offered a special deal of 60 Euro: BAM, in my budget.

I was so proud. My friends thought I had gotten pressured into the purchase, until I told them I was just bargaining him. Then they were proud too. I felt awesome, in awesome heels, with an awesome talent for bargaining Italian shopkeepers.

Then I wore them out for a second time, on a longer journey than the first night I wore them. And what the hell!? My heels felt like they were going to break off at any second. They were sticking to the street and then jarring in random directions, and I felt and probably looked so awkward. Now I’m determined for them to feel right, just for the sake of my dignity 😥

LESSON LEARNED: Succeeding at bargaining yields no success if the product sucks in the first place.


So, the manager/bartender of the pub down the street who I’ve befriended decorated the pub with a bunch of random masks for Fat Tuesday. One of them was this absolutely horrifying clown mask of a creepy looking joker with a terrifying smile and popping eyes. I couldn’t stop looking at it. It was GLARING at me. I kept telling my friend that it was going to give me nightmares. So he covered it with a paper towel, and then from his perspective behind the bar, the joker’s eyes seemed to be creeping on HIM now.

So, the next day I made this sign for him. The words say “No strisciante” which means “no creeping” …except he told me that I apparently translated “creeping ” as in a worm creeping along on the ground. He laughed at my mistake, but still hung up the sign by the creepy mask nonetheless 🙂

LESSON LEARNED: Google Translate can be wonderful, but will not always yield the translation you’re really seeking.

Italian Haircut

I didn’t intend to get bangs, but I got them. This experience I blogged about yesterday: “Pulled an Audrey Hepburn: My New Italian Haircut

LESSON LEARNED: When getting a haircut from someone who speaks a limited amount of your language, either bring a picture, or truly go in with the attitude to let the hairdresser do whatever he/she is envisioning. And remember, it’s only hair 🙂

Pulled an Audrey Hepburn: My New Italian Haircut

My hair was getting out of control. The side bangs were drooping too long, the shape was completely lost, and my split ends were frizzing out: the time had come for a haircut.

So on my way back from class, I passed by this hair salon on my street and decided to step in to see if anyone speaks English. The hairdressers were these three gorgeous Italian men wearing tight, black V-neck shirts. The guy with the giant muscles and Goo Goo Dolls-style long hair welcomed me. He spoke a little bit of English…enough that I could make an appointment for 6pm this evening, but little enough that it took us about 3 minutes to make that exchange.

My Audrey Hepburn Roman Holiday haircut experience was on its way.

So at 6pm, I walked into the salon and was immediately attacked with butterflies in my stomach as it suddenly hit me: “Shit, how the hell am I going to describe to him what I want?” Through broken Italian, I tried to explain that I only wanted it a little shorter, with improved layers for a better shape, and a new face frame with the side-swipe right along my cheek bone. There was lots of crazy gesturing and facial expressions involved, and he understood most of it…but he had some ideas too.

At the time, I didn’t quite understand everything he meant. His English was by no means bad, but it still was somewhat limited. We especially struggled with the concepts of “layers,” “gradual,” “dramatic,” and “face frame.” As he played with my hair and expressed his ideas, he seemed to know what he was talking about, and I really did want a look that is sexy-standard in Italy. So I told him to go ahead and do what he thinks will look good.

Mamma mia! One moment, hair was blocking my eyes; a moment later, my view was opened up and I could watch my side-swipe fall down to my lap slow motion-style. I didn’t realize he’d be giving me bangs! And bangs with a strange piece that comes out further than the rest–very choppy and odd to me. It was too late to stop him from starting that short, so I just let him go with it, in hopes that his final vision would not look horrendous on my face. Ciao, hair.

At one point–I kid you not–this dramatic violin song played on the radio station. I couldn’t help smirking at the perfect soundtrack to my comprehensive feelings. When I thought he was done, he told me he wanted to [insert something I couldn’t quite understand here]. So I said ok, and he cut the bangs even a little shorter. “Ah, bigger window for your beautiful eyes!” he said. That I did understand. It was around this time when he remarked, “I am dangerous with the scissors.” SI.

Maybe the haircut is bad. Maybe it’s just different and not what I intended. I guess tonight out on my group date con un bello ragazzo italiano will be the true test 🙂 (Yup, just casually sliding that in there :D)