lifestyle

All posts tagged lifestyle

SATURDAY DINING OUT

Published April 10, 2013 by Tony

SATURDAY NIGHT IN NAPLES and NEW YORK

Standard of living and lifestyle have influenced and still influence the way how people spend their weekend. If we take as a reference two medium families, one from Naples and another from New York, both formed by working parents, with one or more adult children, probably in a month the Neapolitan parents spend one Saturday or Sunday to dine out, while the New Yorker parents spend three. For New Yorkers the Saturday “evening dining out” was, until recently, an obligation, especially for couples with both engaged in work. Due to the popular demand, in order to go to a restaurant or pizzeria in New York, a Saturday evening reservation even was necessary. Where the New Yorker didn’t go out to dinner, as an alternative there always was a dinner party hosted by some friends at their home or in a pub. A lifestyle difficult to eradicate, even in view of the fact that wives were not inclined to spend weekend at home, between cooking and dishes.
Aside from this substantial cultural difference, there was another of economic nature, because an average Neapolitan family certainly did not have the same economic opportunity of the overseas peers.
Although a normal dinner in a normal restaurant in the Neapolitan hinterland costs less than the one in a similar restaurant in New York, the average Neapolitan family culturally is more “conservative” and traditionalist, with wives, who, although involved in work, have not lost their  “housewives” identity, preferring to stay at home during the weekend.  In Naples, there has never been a “dining party” culture, and instead of Saturday dining out, if anything, the custom of a Sunday lunch away from home has always been more in vogue. But occasionally and not as a weekly habit. The Neapolitan wife has always been very attached to the house and the children and  weekend is just a chance to spend more time at home with family, and attend to all those household chores that she has not been able to do during the week.
Our habits have not changed much over the years. The economic situation has led, if anything, to renounce to some Sunday lunch at the restaurant and be thriftier in foodstuffs purchase.

Americans, instead, after a hard week spent at work, look forward to weekends, planning in advance for them.  For many weekend means going out with friends or relatives, outdoor activities or watching a game in a stadium.
In the past, one of the largest changes in American eating habits was the increasing reliance on food eaten away from home (FAFH). FAFH increased from 33% of total food expenditures in 1970 to 47% by 2003. Most of this is at table service and fast food restaurants.
Much of the growth is attributed to the rising value of household time, especially as induced by more female labor force participation, and rising household incomes.
As a 2009 Zagat Survey showed, eating out was a way of life for many Americans, with 50% of all meals prepared outside the home. In short, restaurants became the family kitchen for the busy two-career families. According to Zagat Survey CEO Tim Zagat, “Americans are still eating out in restaurants, they are just making smarter choices.”

Recently, the economic downturn, occasional jobs and financial turmoil in America have made it difficult for people to find enough money to afford their “dining out” habit.
Lately, Americans are making family dinner more often than dine out, a trend that slowly took root before the recession. Mostly, they’re cooking with and eating a narrow range of foods — and relying, to some extent, on prepared, frozen, and canned items to feed their families quickly and economically. “It’s very boring. That’s the sad truth,” says Harry Balzer, chief food industry analyst for the NPD Group, a national market research company. “For the most part, we’re looking for what’s the eaesiest way out of this, what’s the cheapest way out of this.” Balzer said, the number of restaurant meals an American family eats — dine-in or takeout — has been flat, at just under 200 a year, correlating to plateaus of both women in the workforce and household incomes.

Even the New York Times supported the thesis of the “end of the dinner party” because people do not have more money, time and wish to do so.  Someone else says that beyond the crisis there is a lack of good manners and savoir faire, with people no longer able to have a conversation and that’s why lately “finger food” and “standing up” are preferred to dinner party.

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MASS CONSUMPTION

Published April 6, 2013 by Tony

POOR’S CONSUMERISM

Walking down the street an old woman sees a piece of twine on the ground, bends down, picks it up and puts it in his pocket to preserve it.
Scene of other times, times when even a rope could be useful, how to tie an old cardboard suitcase for example.
Today, anyone who needs a piece of rope buy a whole roll, then forgetting it somewhere, as cardboard suitcases do not exist anymore. Today you buy a trolley or the newest Samsonite seen on TV, even if it is for only one trip.

Adaptation? Consumerism? Progress?

Perhaps the European single currency (euro) has made things worse here, then the international crisis, but if we go further back in time, economic difficulty begins with the advertising and worse with the loss of values, in a broad sense, which over the years hit our society.
For values I also mean anything concerning the little things, like that piece of twine collected from the lady. Meantime, commercials push people to wish what they do not have, to replace, to keep up with the times.
Although because of this my relatives criticize me, I do not throw away things easily, and I like to preserve and collect useful things if I find them abandoned, even if it is just a nail or an used flowerpot.
My grandma said: “astipa che truove” (as to say preserve and you will have  at disposal), and we were a family that could not be considered poor or needy. It was our lifestyle to be different, and mainly the value you gave to things…. the shame, if there was, was not for dressing a worn cloth or for not owning a car.
Trouble shared is a trouble halved, some would say. Maybe!

Some time ago, on a sidewalk, next to the trash cans, I saw a large mirror thrown, abandoned because there was no longer useful, probably. It was a beautiful mirror-style eight-shaped and I not deny the instinctive urge to pick it up and take it away before some street urchin on duty had broken it, or that garbage collectors could take it away, but the shame prevailed together inability to carry such a burden alone.
I only can guess what that old woman or any other person lived forty years ago would say…. period when any item was not thrown with such ease, and there was a sort of family and domestic recycling. I guess if one of these people of old times had the opportunity to come back to life today, he even could live off with the use of everything (still good and usable) is thrown away and that we see down the street or in the rubbish bins.
And to think that nowadays someone is addressing a holding company in order to have a dishwasher or a plasma screen, at any cost.

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Average family lifestyle

Published April 2, 2013 by Tony

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.

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Neapolitan existence

Published July 4, 2011 by Tony

I take my cue from some verse of Matilde Serao (March 7, 1856 – 25 July 1927) Neapolitan journalist and novelist, the founder and editor of main Neapolitan newspaper called “ Il Mattino”.
For us, Neapolitan people,  is missing the southerly woodland, the big expanse green lands where Valkyries and Elves appear; is missing the immaculate whiteness of the snow that let’s shudder and isolate; is missing the livid and tempestuous sea or the fog that inspires nightmares and fantasies. It is missing, finally, that Nature, sometimes ideal, that can be melancholic, surreal, obscure and inspiring. For us, it’s a real Nature, dry, open, burning and shining, even if beautiful, that brings to live the reality, done of joy and pain but, always hardly realistic. For this, anything acquire a strong human character, as our legends that by a nature very sensitive, go beyond space and time. Our dreams go far while living, and here it is the dream to become real itself. The existence, overly human, leads to reach that mysticism it needs, as universally through the centuries, and ascend up to a supreme ideality. Mysticism that is faith, thought, love, art. But, this victory of the spirit above the body brings to another drama more human and powerful, the drama of Love, where anything is existence and man kills a part of himself to exalt someone else.