Tale of a Tempest in a Teapot


Yesterday morning I was sitting in my doctor’s waiting room when I started receiving an unusual number of blog comment notifications. I barely had the time to read a few lines when a reader tells me that she found this blog through the Corriere della Sera, the main Italian newspaper. I am intrigued as I have no idea of what she might be referring to.

It turns out a journalist has bumped into a post I wrote 6 weeks ago, has poorly translated it into Italian and put it on the newspaper’s website with a catchy title. So my “Myths about Italy: 1. Italians love children” becomes “Italian mothers: eternal teenagers who raise their children as puppies” and I suddenly become a “U.S. blogger”. Chaos ensued.

The free impressions and personal opinions of an expat mum who goes back home over summer are then dissected as a sociology manual, igniting a fierce debate on the real nature of Italian mammas and rapidly (and sadly) degenerating into personal attacks, various insults and toxic remarks.

What about a pinch of salt, guys? (or a sense of humor?)

It’s clear that my cahier des doléances can’t cover the 100% of Italian individuals and I am candidly surprised that talking of neurotic parenting and disputable ethical standards struck such a chord.

I guess it rubbed salt in an open wound. Now I’d really like to go back to my expat stories, though.


  1. Dear Ms. Ottominuti, I’m writing from Italy. In my modest opinion, the really alarming thing is that the most important Italian newspaper -who also prides of a sort of international standing- was not able to translate your post correctly. My doubt is: how many times did it happen without us knowing? I always try to docheck sources, and I’m teaching my children to do so, but as a matter of fact it is not always possible, so trust, in this case in the journalist, should really matter. Best whishes. Francesco Spisani, Mestre.

  2. And you haven’t even SEEN the tempest your post caused in our expat Facebook group. Holy moly! over 100 comments. I’m going to have to leave the group to stop receiving notices about it! 🙂 Good job on hitting a controversial subject!

    Also, it is now painfully obvious to me what the world thinks about US bloggers. Damn.

    The most interesting part (culturally) to me is the reactions of Italians and expats… often times being reversed from what you would expect. Anyway, I just posted this little post in the group as well, so expect some traffic… and be ware! We’re a rowdy bunch, us expats! 🙂

  3. I agree with Francesco Spisani. But I would not recommend you to write a post about the poor level of English among Italians living in Italy (unless you want to unleash hell once more).
    And I add, it surprises me that the “most important” Italian newspaper must rely on blog entries to create articles for their own internal “women power” blog (whose overall quality is highly debatable).
    I am not at all suprised by the reactions you received and by the comments to the Corriere article. Something else which is true about Italians is: they will praise everything which is foreign, but they are not open to accept criticism and change their behaviours to meet these of those mythological “foreign countries”.
    As expat myself, I have seen that so many times, and I have given up even try to bring it up with Italian people.

    In any case the Corriere article made me discover this blog, and I like it.

    1. Dear Lilli, thank you for your message. I won’t post any soon on Italians’ mastering of foreign languages, thanks for the tip :-DDD
      On a more serious note, though, I can’t but agree with you. At first I was surprised and amused. Then, when they came out with a box on the homepage titled “Le mamme italiane riviste e bocciate all’estero” (Italian mums reviewed and rejected abroad) and they went on with that note on Twitter I started to find it creepy. Italians have always been over sensitive to being criticized by foreigners. That title (and the false indication about me being ‘a US blogger’) played with that well known sentiment.

      Your analysis is precise, I am glad that you like this place.

  4. Aw, I’m so sorry to hear that this has happened to you 😦
    I sincerely hope that this unpleasant experience won’t put you off blogging. Just yesterday, one of the bloggers I follow posted about something (vaguely) similar, though it probably wasn’t as personal as the attacks you’re having to put up with.
    Stick to your opinions, they are sharp, humorous and never inconsiderate.

    1. Thanks for the support, ladyofthecakes, it’s really sweet and I’m touched. Luckily I am made of strong stuff and, after all, Humphrey Bogart warned us all: “That’s the press, baby. The press! And there’s nothing you can do about it. Nothing!”. LOL!

      1. If I translate, when I don’t understand the Italian I just make it up 🙂 and hope it is something like the original sentence (not unlike Google and Corriere della Sera) Mrs Sensible can do the .. simultaneous translation,.

        I can do simultaneous translation from Italian to total gobbeldegook.. 🙂

  5. So you did decide to write a sort of rebuttal! Well done, short and to the point.
    It always amazes me that people have such venom to spew, that they get so worked up about complete strangers’ opinions and that they have that much on time on their hand to perpetuate threads ad infinitum. It’s wonderful when people participate in conversation, even and especially when they disagree – it’s sometimes illuminating to see another’s point of view but, hidden behind a screen and a moniker, they feel entitled to unleash a rudeness they would not display to your face. A bit sad and, unfortunately, not limited to Italian readers.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s