While chatting with my other half I happened to mention a conversation which had taken place between two students of mine. The subject of this discussion was whether Milan was a better place to work than Rome. One person, who knew somebody who had worked in both cities, was of the opinion that Milan was a much better place to work. The other student, who had worked in Rome, said that he preferred Rome to Milan.
So, you may be wondering, what the difference is between the two cities as work places. The answer lies, or so it would seem, in the mentality of the people populating them. My wife says that the Romans are laid back and consider work to be just another part of their lives and not the be all and end all of life. Romans like to ease themselves into work mode. They go to the bar in the morning, order a cappuccino and a brioche (bit like a croissant) and then spend a little time reading the morning papers. Having psyched themselves up a little they then toddle off to work. All nice and relaxed. However, the relaxation continues over into work time and lots of tasks are approached in a relaxed sort of 'What's the hurry?' way. The pro-Milan student, who hailed from the south of Italy; where the people are not exactly renown for their strong work ethic, was all against this overly relaxed approach to getting jobs done and said that she would find this frustrating. On the contrary the other student, also a southerner incidentally, much preferred this type of laid back approach. Horses for courses, I guess.
Milan, on the other hand, is a city in which all its inhabitants seem to live for work. Things are generally more businesslike and efficient. Milanese people scurry to work and stay there until late. Well, anyone who has, will have, or hopes to have any responsibility does this. Manual workers tend to prefer to more or less work their contract hours, unless someone will pay them overtime. The long and the short of it is that in Milan things tend to get done more quickly.
Basically, the conversation which I've just gone on about was a classic example of the north/ south divide which exists her in the living museum. The only strange thing was that, as I have already mentioned, both parties to this discussion were from the south and it was not as you might have expected a conversation which took place between a northerner and a southerner.
You should perhaps note that as a general rule, the northern Italians think that their southern counterparts are lazy and work-shy. Hence the separatist movement that exists which would like the country to be split into two parts, with each having to fend for itself. This would mean that the richer north of the country could avoid funding the poorer south.
Now, does the fact that such a conversation took place mean that attitudes are changing a little? Are some southerners as hard working as the northerners like to think they are? Very good questions, which I cannot really answer. You have to know that the wheels of change here grind inexorably slowly.