June 30, 2012

The Little Differences

At supper tonight I and one of the younger friars got into a funny conversation about our cultural differences.

It started as he was preparing himself to read the provincial necrology at the end of the meal and he asked if we did the same thing in America. I said that we did, but that it didn't take as long because our province was a few hundred years younger.

From there he asked me about the typical times for common prayer in an American friary. He was surprised to hear that Morning Prayer is typically a little later than it is here, while Evening Prayer is a little earlier. In fact, the liturgical day is just longer here in Italy. (Between the beginning of Morning Prayer and the end of Evening Prayer there are thirteen hours here in the Assisi friary; at a typical friary in my province at home there might be only ten.) Or maybe it's not that the liturgical day is longer here but that the night is shorter, what with some of the night being shifted to the little riposo in the afternoon.

After speaking of prayer, of course we turned to meals. My young Italian confrere was surprised to hear--though strict correlations don't quite obtain--that our idea of breakfast was something like their supper, that our lunch was more like their breakfast, and that our supper was the closest thing we had to their midday meal. He was most shocked to hear that we have our supper as early as six o'clock, and often even earlier, especially in a friary serving a parish. "But then when do you go to bed?" he asked with surprised concern. Clearly he thought that the earlier time for supper would mandate an earlier time for bed, and he seemed relieved to hear that we didn't have to go to bed at eight. Not that I haven't done it myself, both here and at home, but I'm odd in certain respects.

Like Vincent Vega said, it's the little differences. They have the same stuff here that we have at home, but it's just, well, a little different.


Tom said...

yes, differences - here in Ireland many friary's only have one common meal a day (at least in this house we do and it's usually at 6.00 pm on a weekday and 1.00 pm at Weekends). At the other hours it's DIY. We get a lot of foreign friars coming to learn English (in Ireland!) and we've gotten used to their shock at how we do things differently. Poor coffee, little pasta, no wine outside of feast days etc. Some of them don't know whether we're really Catholic or not. The language is the big difference. One Sicilian friar was complaining about 'frazzle verbs'. It took me a while to realise he was talking about phrasal verbs (of which English has at least 10,000 apparently) - a big difference they all struggle with. Hope the Italian is coming along. Ciao!

Adoro said...


So similar to conversations I've had with Mexicans when I lived in or later, visited Mexico!

My host mother would always leave a large breakfast for me, and I learned to eat as much of it as I could because I needed the energy to get to school (walking/bus) and back home for Comida at 2:30 pm. Comida was the main meal of the day and La Cena (supper) was usually served either not at all...or just a small sandwich (not even a torta) late at night, around 9 or 10 PM. Often we were all out so we'd have Cena wherever we were...I recall few of them as they just weren't necessary at that point. Far different than here in the US.

The same conversation took place with regard to work. There is a United States stereotype about Mexicans that Mexicans are "lazy". That same stereotype exists in Mexico about Americans!

My friend's father actually chastised me about this, claiming I didn't have to work very hard as an American, saying that they, in Mexico regularly work 16 hour days or longer (he included the 2.5 hours for Comida as part of the work day), while, he said, Americans work only 8 or 9 hours.

I corrected him immediately, and as at the time I was working 3 jobs, often 16 hours per day, he was quite taken aback. He was also shocked that we don't get 2 hours for lunch but only a measly 30 min with maybe 2 fifteen-minute breaks if we're lucky. (yah, never mind the law; the reality is often different than the law. Unless one is a smoker, those 15 min breaks rarely actually happen without a union enforcing it on their time, not the worker's preferred time). Anyway, not to get on the topic of communism in American unions.....

I also explained we get only 2 weeks off from work during the year, plus only the holiday, such as Christmas, Easter, July 4, etc. Not usually the days on either side unless we take those as vacation days. Yes, sometimes sick time is different than vacation time but sometimes it's part of the same time off pool. (Laws vary from state to state and some have changed in the US since this conversation with him).

In any case there are TONS of cultural differences...didn't know that also included prayer hours within the same Order!

Thanks. :-) Good to know!