Cultural differences – pitfalls in unexpected places


A quiet Sunday afternoon after a long walk on the beach, I was on the roof terrace of the flat we rented in Sicily, enjoying a refreshing footbath. I had poured water in the tub first and added some liquid soap afterwards, so it wasn’t foaming up. I was happy as a lark.
The terrace looked a bit dusty, so I decided I might as well use the water to clean the floor afterwards, instead of taking it down to the bathroom. The floor seemed to have a perfect slope to a hole in the corner. How practical!

Ten seconds after I had emptied the tub, my travel companion shouted from below: “What are you doing? People are stopping in the street, and they are pointing at our flat!” Another ten seconds later, the doorbell rang. A policeman. And he wasn’t smiling.

I thought the water would vanish into the ground, to the same mysterious place where water from the kitchen sink and the shower would go.
It didn’t. It went straight onto the street. Falling three floors, the foam had kicked in – big time.
I could understand why the policeman was cross. It was a complete mess. The foam trail crept down the road, all the way to the next drain, some 50-60 metres away.
I was told I would get a juicy fine unless I’d clean up. Now.

So we did. Heads down, slightly blushing, we brushed away all the foam. The conscientious policeman supervised the proceedings, hands on hips, helpfully pointing out small spots we had missed. It took us the best part of half an hour. And people were staring – on the street and from behind curtains.

The moral of this story: Cultural differences are lurking everywhere, even in the gutter.

Pictures: the Sicilian gutter + detail, compared to a typical Norwegian gutter + detail.
No pictures of last year’s spectacle, I’m afraid. For obvious reasons.

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march, 2023

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