Giardini Reali, Turin, in autumn

Our weird cultural notions, or: Why does Zoe have a cold?

Autumn is slipping past and winter is rolling in; the cover photo of this post is from only a couple of weeks ago and already the trees have lost almost all those leaves.

Late autumn brings good things, like excuses for hot chocolate, and — for my American friends — Thanksgiving, the one American cultural tradition that doesn’t seem to have been imported by the rest of the world. Seriously — why not?? It’s a holiday where you eat yourself stupid and don’t have to go shopping for presents for everyone! ie: The best idea ever. To be fair, by definition I’ve only ever been to “friendsgiving”, which you do with people you choose, rather than as a rellie-bash, so that is probably giving me a rosy perspective on the whole thing.

Also, I didn’t really intend for this to be a post about Thanksgiving, but I feel I should put this on the record: Green bean casserole. Sounds like it would be gross, is actually delicious.

Back on the topic of autum — it also brings the dreaded cold and flu season, and I’ve spent a good chunk of the weekend moping around at home with a cough (which seems to be getting better, thankfully!). How did I catch a cold? Well, the culture I grew up in in Australia tells me it’s from being close to other people who had the virus already. But I’m in Italy now, and if I really want to culturally assimilate, I’m going to have to consider some other possibilities. Like — and these are all things I’ve heard, from people from around Europe:

  1. It was cold and/or wet outside.
  2. I went out with wet hair.
  3. I went to bed with wet hair.
  4. I wasn’t wearing a scarf.
  5. I wasn’t wearing a warm enough jacket.
  6. I was cycling and ended up getting too hot, and my sweat gave me a chill.
  7. I didn’t change out of wet clothes quickly enough after being caught in rain.
  8. Only relevant in summer, but possibly I was exposed to too much airconditioning.
  9. Or any airconditioning, really. Can’t be too careful.
  10. Maybe I sat on a cold surface too long.

Yes, I have been known to say to people, “have you heard of the germ theory of disease? It’s been quite fashionable since, oh, the 17th century.”

This is absolutely not to say “haha, those crazy Europeans with their weird cultural notions”. Partly because I have become a total convert to the scarf theory of cold and flu prevention. I am wearing a scarf right now and I swear it will make my cough go away faster, do not ask me how.

And partly because I have odd cultural notions of my own: alternating too much between hot and cold air will make you sick; drinking a slightly nasty concoction of lemon, garlic, honey and hot water will cure your cold; sugar in any form (except, somehow, the aforementioned honey) will make a sore throat worse; sitting on that cold floor will give you piles, for sure.

So I will wrap my scarf a bit tighter and make another cup of lemon-garlic-honey tea. And maybe not wash my hair until I have a chance to dry it properly — you never know…

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