July 19, 2007

Starting over, again

I had lunch today with a friend who is visiting from the US after having lived in Rome for a few years.

I asked her about "return culture shock" as she and her husband are now living in a small town in the deep South. "Well, life is certainly is different than it was in Rome!" she replied, as she dug into a plate of bresaola e rughetta con gusto.

Her husband, though, is enjoying being back in the land of certainty with all its clearly defined rules and direct communications, especially on the work front. But when I told her about this blog entry on differences in "tolerance of ambiguity", she nodded and added that, for him, it is also a "lack of continuity" that keeps American businesses from investing in Italy. Potential investors often find that working with one company management does not guarantee that the ball will be passed to the next, particularly in the case of large mainly state-run companies. With long and complex projects, you keep starting over again and this can wear on investor's patience to the point where they take the ball and go home. "Just like in government," I inserted -- this frustrating way of cancelling the previous administration's good works in order to start from scratch with brand new program.

Is it a question of trust? After so many centuries of starting over and over again under new ruling kings and popes and countries, Italians have learned not to believe that a previous administration's work could flow into the present one in the name of pragmatic progress?

Complicated and long-reaching roots to a contemporary problem.

a domani,

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