Barbara's Blog

10 November 2007 - Drive

Driving in Milan is definitely worth a few lines in my blog.

My mom calls my car a battleship because of its dimensions. No, no don’t get her wrong, it is just a normal SUV and to the standards of Wyoming probably a small car, but in Europe these cars are considered huge.
I think battleship is just the right expression because that is what it is used for: going into battle. Traffic in Milan is a kind of war, survival of the fittest, where everybody in Wild West manner just makes his/her way disregarding everything, especially the laws and anyone else.

It took me about three years to learn how to drive in Milan. This might be because I am German and as such, I was used to obeying the rules. And so I was completely lost because I had no concept on how to react to scooters overtaking on the left or on the right or on the left and right at the same time. I had no idea how to cross a road when no one ever stops not even at a red traffic light and I never ever could park that car because I felt nervous when I had to use a non regular parking space and regular ones just can’t be found. In addition to all this, I did not know which roads to take because I was new in town. So I hated driving and if I could, I would avoid it.

For everybody who is just thinking: “Stupid woman, why don’t you use public transport”!
I just want to note that very soon you can read about this topic, too in my blog and then you will understand why.

So after a long and painful process of learning and adapting and also thanks to the battleship and a navigator, I drive in Milan and I drive nearly like a Milanese. Nearly because I am still rejecting as a personal choice the Wild West Manners and I still have my awareness for the environment and I still try to be as nice to the others as possible.

But I learned how to park on sidewalks without getting nervous, I do cross red lights when there is no reason to stop, I manage to cross crowded roads and I even double park the car with the lights flashing. I do turn the engine off though, always bearing in mind that this city does not respect the smog limits of the EU not even a single day of the year. Are wondering what the police are doing? …Oh, they just parked their car on the sidewalk right where the pedestrian crossing starts, left the engine on and are having a coffee in the bar down the street…

But now, when I am back in Germany, my mom reminds me that I am supposed to stop ON the white line and not directly AT the traffic light and I keep explaining to her that in Milan if I stopped so far behind the traffic light someone would pull right in front of me. She reminds me that I cannot park “bumper to bumper” because I would scratch the other cars and I keep explaining to her that in Milan EVERYBODY parks like that in order to save space. She complains that I start driving when the traffic light is still yellow and I tell her in Italy there is only red or green so if red is off green must be on. And somehow I feel like an unruly traffic bully. Just another classical expat-dilemma I guess.

In Milan where I am considered a slow, prudent and moderate driver I get into my battleship with the best intentions. With a Buddha like smile on my face I lean back, put on some music and decide to be kind in traffic. I stop at the next pedestrian crossing to let an elderly lady pass and I pray to God that the Alpha type investment banker in his Porsche 911 who was behind me and is just overtaking doesn’t run her over.

Ten golden rules to survive traffic:

1) Don’t expect to get anywhere in time and don’t worry, no one else expects you to be either.
2) Never expect anyone to follow the rules don’t worry, no one expects you to do either.
3) Just relax and breathe deeply.
4) Don’t try to find satisfaction by being one place ahead in the row (Is there any anyway?). Life is so much nicer if you don’t swim with the sharks.
5) Grant the satisfaction to be one place ahead in the row to a male driver. You’ll save his day and night.
6) Smile, smile, smile.
7) Don’t shoot, even if you wish to.
8) Get used to scratches on your car and don’t panic if you scratch someone else’s car.
9) Listen to good positive music.
10) In case of problems with the police pretend to be a stupid blonde foreign girl, you’ll get away with it much easier that way.

5 october 2007 - " Poveri Turisti Stranieri- Poor Foreign Tourists"

Blog: Poor Tourists in Milan Dear Mr. Beltrami Gadola,

Today a friend of mine sent me one of your comments in La Repubblica in August, with the headline “Poor Foreign Tourists under the Duomo“ where you were complaining about the fact that at the Malpensa Airport the Tourist Information Office was closed and that elsewhere you only got some insufficient magazines, that were not comparable to what you could get in London or Paris, and that even the website of the City of Milan was very confusing and not structured in a way that tourist might find the information they needed or were looking for.

Well Mr. Beltrami, this is Italy and I can tell you more: It is not only that tourists that lack information, but also anyone who comes here on business is pretty much left alone.

For example, in none of the relevant ATM Ticket sales points it is written in English that the ticket to the Fiera Rho costs more than a regular ticket and as the sales assistants don’t speak English either, the poor visitor remains without a clue why the guy at the exit gates gets mad at them, shouting in Italian of course, not being able to explain it to them in English what went wrong.

At the entrance to the “NEW” Metro stop at the Rho Fair 90% of the ticket machines cannot read the new electronic tickets and the old ones are not sold anymore, therefore all the visitors, after first trying and trying the old machines, end up in an endless queue, and without ever getting any kind of explanation, not in English but this time not even in Italian.

As far as the new fairground is concerned, it should be the business of the company to figure out why buyers and exhibitors don’t come anymore and to offer them better service.

As far as the foreign tourists are concerned I am happy that now there is MY-MILANO.COM that will contribute to showing them around and prepare them for their visit to Milan with style and taste.

As you are some kind of market expert Mr. Beltrami, the MY-MILANO.COM team would be happy to hear your opinion. But please be kind and give us a chance as we have just started so we are not covering everything yet but I assure you we will never ever take as long to update our site as the Comune di Milano does.
Best Regards

Barbara Niemann Fadani

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