This is my apocryphal story about learning to be content in Italy. I know some of you will gasp and wonder how one could not be content, but ask any expat and they’ll give you a long list, especially when it comes to the concept of time.

My life-changing event took place, rather mundanely, at my local dry cleaner when we were living in Milan. I had brought in my clothes; browns and blacks. The lovely lady who owns the place told me to come back for them on Thursday, which I did.

But when I returned, my clothes weren’t ready. I felt the quick spark of righteous indignation that flares in many Anglo Saxons when services don’t meet the agreed schedule. Decades of living in a society that worships efficiency does that to you. Predictably, my anger started to rise as I stood before the empty counter.

Then I realized – dare I use the word epiphany? – that I didn’t actually need those clothes that day. I had other things I could wear. The reason my clothes hadn’t been cleaned was because Italians don’t mix colours at the dry cleaner’s, they have too much respect for clothing. There hadn’t been enough dark things at the cleaner’s that week to warrant a load. It was a sensible, economical decision. My clothes would get cleaned (perfectly, lovingly, and thriftily) when it was practical.

Wow. I suddenly understood that all I had to do to be happy in Italy was remember that time is fluid, our needs are never absolute, and exigencies are a part of daily life.

And that I have other stuff to wear. How liberating.

Make like the patient land and chill out