* This post was originally schedule for Friday, October 24. Due to site issues Thursday-Friday, it has been reposted here today. Thank you for your patience and enjoy!
Imagine this. It is your (insert young age here) birthday and you live in one of the most beautiful countries in the world. (I’m talking about Italy here.)
Life is good. In fact, life is bella.
Your options are endless.
Do you throw a party?
Go out for pizza and ice cream? (Yes, they do this here even after they turn 10.)
Do you enjoy a romantic dinner on the beach with your honey?
Well … it depends.
On your bank account.
Yep. You heard me right. In Italy the birthday girl (or boy) treats her friends to dinner and drinks. Seriously. To help ease the pain of this increasingly expensive habit, most party-goers usually bring a gift. And at home-based parties they always stay until the cake has been served. Isn’t that nice?
This is one of the hardest habits for me to grasp. As an American, I like to be treated like a queen on my birthday. I expect will happily accept flowers, gifts, wine or all of the above. And I don’t want to pay!
I can’t imagine where this tradition stemmed from, but in my quick Google search for answers, I stumbled upon an assessment made by a fellow American expat in Milan. And she was as confused as me.
The same thing goes for lunch and dinner invites.
Americans think nothing of calling up a friend, checking out their plans and asking if they want to meet up for lunch or dinner.
*Note to the wise: Don’t do that in Italy.
In Italy when you invite someone to meet for lunch or dinner, you are offering to BUY THEM lunch or dinner.
This concept was confirmed to me a few months ago when I went to the beach with an Italian pal. We passed a new’ish restaurant and I commented on how cute it was.
“It is good.” She told me.
“Ah, you’ve been?” I asked.
“Yes. I was invited.”
Me, confused … because remember this whole conversation is going down in Italian …
“Oh, I see. You were invited but you couldn’t go?” I ask.
“No. I was invited.”
I’m stumped, but I push through for results.
“You ate there?” Simple enough, right?
“Yes. But I don’t know how much it costs, because I was invited.”
Now I get it. She didn’t pay! She was invited.
Speaking of gals with recent birthdays, check out Michelle’s addition to the La Buona Cucina Americana recipe list. It is homemade apple pie-just like her mom used to make! And if she wants to meet up for a post-birthday lunch celebration, I’ll pay. I promise.
What do you make of this wacky Italian birthday tradition? Have you ever heard of this as the norm in other parts of the world? Have any of you in Italy been surprised when you were expected to pay for a lunch or dinner date? What happened?