One thing that is important to know about Italians is that they hate al resto, or making change. If you have exact change, they love you. They smile and greet you pleasantly and send you on your way. But if you deign to give them €5 for a €1.50 purchase, they scowl and ask if you can do better. God help you if you only have €50 from the bancomat.
Yesterday I bought some lunch from a great little alimentari near one of my school buildings. They make fresh panini, have prepared foods like grilled or stuffed verdure and roasted pollo, and there’s a decent sized grocery store in the back. I come here fairly often because the food is delicious, healthy, and cheap and it is so dang convenient. In fact, I come here enough that a few days ago one of the very sweet employees singled me out to tell me that her co-worker (and possibly husband) will be traveling to New York in the near future. “I live in New York for 6 weeks,” I managed to mumble in my only present-tense Italian. “Bella! Molta bella!” she replied eagerly.
So yesterday, when I bought some food and only had €10 to pay for it, I cringed outwardly in shame that I could treat these kind folks so rudely. Daniella (the man who would travel to New York) waved away my bashfulness and handed me more change than he owed me. “Domani,” he told me kindly, “Tomorrow.”
I felt so proud that I had earned the trust of these kind Italians, enough that they considered me a regular in their little store. Of course, today I marched back into the store and handed over the €0.50 I now owed stating confidently, “Per ieri. Al resto.” Even though other customers have sometimes mocked me for my mispronunciations (“Spi-nak-ee?!?”) and even though I can’t yet speak in the past tense, I am a part of this community, and that makes me feel great.
*Sorry if you had to use a dictionary on this one. The important part is that I didn’t and I’m the one who needs the practice!
**The food pictures are from Florence and are completely unrelated to the story, I just felt that they were appropriate since it is, yet again, a story related to food.