How is the life of an average middle-class family here in Naples?
And that of a pensioner?
I think this is one of the curiosities that arises in people interested in Italian culture and living in other countries.
To realize that the answer cannot be exhaustive, ask yourself the same question, how is an usual family’s life in your country?
As you can see, at this question we can only give a very general answer, because there would be too many cases to be taken into account, varying from family to family and even according to the area they are living in.
Keeping me very general, I will consider two average family, the first consisting of a father and a mother, both workers, with two teenage children, and the second formed by two grandparents already retired.
For us, the “peak hours”, to indicate the hours of the day when there is more traffic and more people in the street, are the ones in the morning from 8.30 to 14, which roughly corresponds to the entry and exit from schools and shops and offices opening hours; then with another rush hour at about 14 (shops re-opening hour), and between 19 to 20, the closing time for factories and shops.
Of course, moving and traveling in urban centers during these hours is more difficult and takes more time giving more stress. No problem, however, for those who have schools and shops close at hand, and that, therefore, can easily move on foot.
Usually, students must leave home in time to be in their high school at 8.10 – 8.20 am, and except in special cases, most adolescents reach the school either by foot (if the school is nearby) or by public transport, and in this case they must be in the street at least one hour before. At that time, the majority of the public transport are crowded with students who move to the city and suburbs for going to school. Therefore, you can well realize the confusion and noise that you will be subjected if traveling on one of these buses.
In contrast, the majority of parents, who are employees or traders, move by car to reach their own workplace. Except in special cases, this means that between 7 and 8 in the morning they already have to leave home.
As I already have mentioned in a previous post, here most of the parents are quite tolerant towards their children. From what I know, compared to American families for example, here there is less worry and anxiety towards teenagers (from 14-15 up), who get enough freedom to go out alone and travel on their own.
With regard to working hours, I cannot generalize because depending of the work, some parents may be back home lunchtime, and then be able to eat together with their children who meantime are got out from school. Anyway, it’s a fact that are dads to be back home in the afternoon and so forced to have lunch for themselves.
During the afternoon, moms do housework and prepare dinner, and if the case go out for shopping. The youths, instead, do their homework, watch TV, spend time near computer/PlayStation alone or with some friends, and go out in case they have to go to a friend’s home, attend some gym or play some sport. Sometimes, it’s a parent to take them by the car.
Of course, in the late evening the whole family gathers for dinner, after which they all watch TV or teenagers can enjoy again computer or some game.
Generally, parents are not so strict about time to go to bed, and youngsters can stay up late evening, unless it is the whole family that goes to bed asking them to do the same. They will pay at their own expense, having then to get up early to go to school, thing which will force them, in the future, not to stay awake up late at night.
On Sunday, if there are no commitments, boys and girls are free to do what they want, so, both in the morning and evening, they may go out to go to church or meet friends, while parents could take them to the cinema or a friend’s home if it is not so near their home.
On Sundays, parents take the opportunity to do some work at home, to engage in some hobby, meet friends or relatives, or relax by spending the whole day at home between a good meal and following football games on TV. Usually, the evening is also devoted to visit friends or relatives.
Undoubtedly, there is still a small-discrimination with regard to sex, with boys who are privileged in having more freedom to go out alone or invite both male and females friends at home. A girl who invites a male friend, would put parents in discomfort who, though agree, wouldn’t allow them to stay alone or with closed door, something that boys usually can do, instead!
Here, we are more concerned for daughters than for sons, in the sense that at the beginning of puberty girls already are thinking about a boyfriend and if they are gorgeous will also have many boys wooing them. In general, for some reason, girls are also more confident and precocious than most boys same age, and while good boys aged 14-15 still like to stay at home to play, others boys who are more rascal and untimely spend more time in the street together friends, often going around just with the intent to find a girl with whom make out.
Once the spark is struck, and the girl is in love with him, is quite certain that in the long run the boy gets its way, and unless you do not control your daughter 24 hours a day, sooner or later they will find the opportunity to be alone and even in 10 minutes do what us parents wouldn’t want our girl did at that age.
Under this point of view, from 14 to 17 is the age most critical and dangerous. A girl who is able to keep the virginity till her 18th birthday, probably will remain so until she’s sure of what is doing. Anyway, it is for this reason that unexpected and untimely pregnancies occur precisely in that age group, not so many here, fortunately. Of course, much depends on girl’s character and social context in which she’s living. Little can be done if she is a “siren” and surrounded by many tomcats or coxcombs. Although through no pregnancy (luckily phew!), I know girls who have had intercourse already at 13-14 years, and it is clear that this type of girl then will have no scruple to go ahead having sex with any guy dating her. On the contrary, at that age, many boys are still home to play with toys, watch cartoon and perhaps masturbating alone.
When children get older, over 18 years, it becomes much more difficult for parents to keep up. They want their freedom and cannot help but partying, go out on Saturday and Sunday evening, coming home very late at night. Sometimes you have to push them to devote more time to study or help them to find a job, where they have finished their studies. Nowadays, a child easily can stay with their parents even after his/her 30 years.
In Italy, every worker who has worked up to 65 years, receives a pension in proportion to the contributions. There are many so-called pensions “integrated to the minimum”, where the law has established that the amount of any pension cannot be less than 500 euro per month. So, if both spouses have a pension, life in retirement may be less difficult. Considering that in old age there are less expenses due to child support, personal expenses, partying or luxury. Here, the lives of pensioners is fairly quiet and monotonous. Grandchildren are often the only diversion that pushes grandparents to move and spend more. With crisis and unemployment are often grandparents, though their meager pensions, to help married son or daughter.
The grandmother is often full-time homemaker, spending free time between relatives, friends, church or some hobby. For him, however, things get a little harsher, because he often does not know how to pass the time and the days become all the same. Breakfast, newspaper, a stroll to meet friends around in the square, in a bar or in a social club. Someone pass the time playing cards, bocce, or doing errands for their married offspring who have little free time. If grandparents get the chance will join some organized trip by coach, and if they also are the lucky owner of a house at the sea or in mountains, bought during the long working life, on every holiday they will be there to spend a few days.
Grandparents are often the ones that invite their progeny to eat home (or vice versa), as well as become a sort of nursery for little grandchildren whose parents do not know where to leave them. Here, parents who have definitively broken any relation with their children or vice versa are very few. This can happen sometimes for economic reasons (inheritance), or because of some disagreement arose between the families. The family connection is never interrupted, unless sons have not been forced to leave their hometown. For this reason, concern and anxiety never end…. we start with babies after our wedding, and end up in sharing any issue that affect the family of our progeny.
Now it’s up to you, who live in another country, find the differences between these lifestyles and those belonging to your different culture.