Adventures of an Expat: Damir Doma Dishes on Milanese Etiquette

We asked the city’s latest transplant, the German-born, formerly Paris-based designer Damir Doma to dish on all the head-scratching conventions that he faced when he relocated his biz here last season. Here he describes the ins & outs, tricks & tips and all the mannerisms and etiquette to surviving this crazy, chaotic wonderful world of Milan.

On Talking on Cell Phones:

The only word you need to know is CIAO. You have to say it like a million times before you get off the phone with an Italian, it is like with the Japanese when you have to say bye bye bye and then go back and say it again. It is always like this: CIAO CIAO CIAO CIAO CIAO.

On Communicating:

Italians talk differently to one another versus when they talk to foreigners. When two Italians are speaking, they shout and scream at each other. One moment it is “ciao amore” the next they are saying “F&%k off!” And it is always caizo this or merde that. It is all so emotional but at the end they there is always a hug and then they take a coffee.

On Parking:

You can park anywhere you want as long as you are not bothering anyone. The Italians see an open space, even in the middle of the street and they take it! It is great.

On Airports:

Linate is the best airport. Everywhere else they make you get naked to go in security, but at Linate you just walk through. If you beep you keep going. The Italians are so relaxed.

On Becoming a Regular:

If you go to a place more than twice not only will the Italians remember your name and what you like to eat but the cook will come out of the kitchen and greet you as if you were his brother. They actually give a shit about you.

On Football:

It is really important to pick a team right away. If you have a one-hour business meeting the first 3 minutes will be devoted to talking about actual business and the rest of the time you will have to talk about football.

On Italian Men’s Dressing:

Generally they look great. But I see Italian bankers and businessmen wearing horrible puffer jackets over their suits when they ride on their scooters all the time! They wear these bad puffer jackets over their suit pants which I find crazy because you can find such good tailors here.

On Italian Women:

Everyone thinks Italian men are macho but its the Italian women running the show. They need a lot of attention. You must be patient and you always have to be very interested in them. They can be very bossy!

On Sciure:

When I first arrived I kept seeing these older, very well kept women around the city. They were so groomed and perfectly coiffed that to me, they were like MILFs but then I was told they were called “sciure.” I love their attitude, they take care of themselves and do not care what other people think.

On “Disrespecting the Line:

Italians do not know the concept of queuing. You have to shout and make the most noise and push your way to the front to get what you want. That is their technique.

On the Weekend Exodus:

There is no weekend in Milan! All of the Italians leave! In other cities like London or Paris everyone will wait for the weekend so plan their social life but here the city goes empty because everyone is off at their country house or the seaside.

-Meredith Nichols

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