If you study Italian (or Spanish, or French), you know that they teach you the difference between informal and formal verb conjugations and that should you just meet someone, to address them in the formal tense. I struggle with this though not in all instances. When I'm talking with people who are clearly older than me or in a formal setting, it's fine. It's only when I meet someone who is clearly around the same age bracket as I am and they start off the conversation in Lei (the formal version of you). Things get awkward fast and I don't know why exactly. I feel really uncomfortable being addressed as Signora and Lei and there's always this inner conflict of whether I should just break the ice and tell the person to address me informally. This need to be explicitly stated by saying diamoci del tu or mi dia del tu. Someone needs to give an etiquette class on what is socially acceptable as there have been other times where I've addressed younger people (that I had just met) using the formal and got very strange looks indeed. You can't win, it's hopeless! This particular struggle is non-existent in English. I was suddenly inspired to write this pseudo-rant because this situation just unfolded fifteen minutes ago when a young fellow (not older than thirty), came to give me an estimate for replacing our overhang and continually addressed me as Signora. That's the Italian equivalent of the English Ma'am! Oh Lord help me.
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Jasmine is a former pharmacist turned freelance writer, foodie, and fashionista from Alberta, Canada living "the sweet life" in Bergamo, Italy.
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