In August it will be 11 years since I moved to this Country. I think I am pretty well integrated (well, even more than I feel comfortable admitting). However, there are still a few things I cannot get used to and make me crazy. No matter what, there are things Americans do that I find really rude.
Don’t get me wrong, Italians are NOT more polite than Americans. It’s just that the boundaries between what is socially acceptable and what is not are somewhat shifted.
For example, every time somebody says “Excuse me!” I have an immediate rage reaction. It’s funny, because in Italian we use the same expression (“Mi scusi”) to make somebody know that they are in our way. And if you read the dictionary definition, it looks really innocent: “Excuse me: used to acknowledge and ask forgiveness for an action that could cause offense.” But for some reason, and in a way that I cannot change or control, I cannot stand people saying “Excuse me.”
The tone of voice and the non verbal cues that go with “Mi scusi” make it sound like “I am truly sorry and I apologize for the inconvenience, but can you please move?” to me. When an American says “Excuse me,” instead, I perceive something like: “Moron, why are you on my way? What did I do to find myself in the same physical space with you? Move out!” It just sounds really rude to me. It makes me feel like the blame is on me.
I wonder if it’s because of the emphasis on “me” that it’s often used (Excuse MEEE; as when it’s exagerated to mean “that was really rude of you”) and it makes it sound like it’s all about me. Or maybe it’s because it gives the idea that physical closeness among people is something really bad and you need to apologize, even if there are three feet between you and them. The truth is, I don’t know what it is. I just know I can’t stand it.
I never say “Excuse me” unless I am truly pissed off. It just doesn’t occur to me to use it. I say “I am sorry!” and smile really broadly. So, if you meet me and I say “Excuse me!” get out of the way really fast. I must be in a really really bad mood and ready to bite.