I have not yet been back in Australia for one week, but already I can see so many differences between here and Italy. It is not like I am only realising the differences now...but when you have been gone from a country - your home country - for 2 years, the differences are really so much more obvious.
Take customer service for example. Customer service in Italy (and the UK for that matter) is relatively non-existent. You can walk into a shop pretty much any where in Italy and be ignored. The sales people, if you can see anyone, will not even make eye contact with you. The sales assistants will most likely be enthralled in a dramatic conversation and give you the death stare when you dare ask to try on a pair of shoes...or they will be smoking in the shop doorway ignoring your 'scusi' as you try to get their attention.
And don't get me started on the supermarkets! I know no one packs the bags for you, but if I have some eggs or fresh fruit why do they have to throw them with such force at me? I know they hate their jobs, but come on...just handle them a little more delicately. And if I don't have any spare change at the cash register it's not my problem so don't go all crazy on me. (Note to people thinking of coming to Italy: carry some small change if you don't want to be given rude glances and have to put up with inaudible curses from the sales staff.)
Australia is the exact opposite and when I say exact opposite I mean that I got scared at how friendly the shop assistant was when I was looking for a dress the other day. And the thing is that she was honestly nice - none of this fake smile stuff. This used to always happen after trips back to Melbourne when I had been living in London. I was shocked, taken back and not prepared for the oh so friendly Australian staff. I had been living in the land of grey skies and matching personalities for so long that I had forgotten that customer service is meant to be just that - serving a customer.
I went to look at a simple dress here in Melbourne and got trapped by the friendly shop assistant asking me what I was looking for, could she suggest a colour, could she tell me that she could order something in if I could not find my size.
Supermarkets here are a joy, a pleasure. I used to work in a supermarket when I was in high school. In Australia...well in Melbourne anyway we pack the bags for the customers. We are taught to put the heavy things at the bottom, to be nice and friendly and above all to smile. I went to the supermarket and was asked how I was, and told to have a great day...Oh...yes - I hope you have a nice day too I stuttered back.
And I will not even tell you about my trip to the post office. If anyone has been traumatised by a post office visit in Italy (I was in tears once) then it would be cruel to gloat about my excellent customer service here in Melbourne, Australia.