Screw the Foreigner

italian farm to table

So they play a little game here in town – quite similar to kancho, my absolute favorite thing about living in Japan. I call the game Tutti a Fregà la Straniera – or, Let’s All Screw the Foreigner. It’s an old game, an ancient game, but still highly popular and from what I understand, it’s popular world-wide.


  1. Find a foreigner somewhere; doesn’t even matter if they speak Italian fluently – it’s more of a challenge that way. Find them at a supermarket. The post office. A bakery. You know, some place where money will be exchanged.
  2. Ready? Set? Screw them.

Now you know why Italians are always smoking.

It’s really quite simple, but the thing is that no one tells you the game’s started. You’re at the bakery and you want two pieces of focaccia and dude says Sorry, we just have this big wide corner chunk left and that’s how it’s sold and you’re all Wait a second. That doesn’t sound right. But, whatever, I’m in a rush and my other foreigner friend is waiting for me at the cashier so what the hell, we’ll share the rest with someone else. And you buy it. And you take it home but the big wide corner chunk is stale. And Katarina, your Hungarian friend who has lived in Italy for the past 10 years says: Dammit. They could have at least given you some warning that Let’s Screw the Foreigner was in session. And you say: Oh, well, I guess they got me. Well played, maestro. I’ll get you next time!

So, next, it’s to the post office to mail off short stories to submit to writing contests and literary magazines. It’s something you’ve done before and you know that a 20-page short story costs around 5 euro to send to the U.S. But dude’s all That’ll be 50 euro and you’re What! I don’t freaking…. oh, wait. Are we playing Let’s Screw the Foreigner? AW, YOU GUYS! And dude: Signorina, I’m simply trying to explain that we have two options to send packages to the West. This 50 euro option or this 20 euro option.

Well excuse me, SIR, but these aren’t packages, they’re envelopes with paper in them and I’ve sent envelopes just like these to the US before and it weren’t no 20 euro. (ADVANTAGE: FOREIGNER)

Signorina, I’m just trying to explain that we have two options. If you look here on the computer screen… (VOLLEY: ITALIAN)

Yeah, I’m looking and there are five options there. FIVE. (+1: FOREIGNER)

But, signorina, three of those are for shipping within Italy. (+1: ITALIAN)

Dude? Give me the cheap, ordinary option that I’ve been using for the past six months. (THE FOREIGNER IS ON FIRE)

Signorina, I’m just explaining that… (VOLLEY: ITALIAN)

Okay. You know what? Give me the envelopes. Just give me the envelopes. Goodbye.

U.S.A! U.S.A! U.S.A! U.S.A!

Foreigner goes home. Foreigner eats risotto. Foreigner drinks Peroni. And then foreigner + other foreigner jump on the train to Rome without buying a ticket since no one ever checks and even if they do, they never look closely enough to make sure your ticket has the right name on it. ‘Cause that’s how you do it, son. That’s how you play the game.

39 Replies to “Screw the Foreigner”

  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Japan_Blogs, Mike Sowden. Mike Sowden said: The acceptable, fun-loving face of xenophobia. RT @ieatmypigeon Screw the Foreigner: #italy […]

  2. They play a real good version of this in Vietnam. 😉

    1. I imagine they do in Japan, too, but my Japanese was too poor to ever really catch on….

    2. I had the same thought too when i read the article 😉

  3. Fun post! Indeed, we always have a choice – we can either:

    A. grumble and complain about it, or…
    B. make it a game and laugh about it.

    I agree, the latter is lots more fun.

    Foreigners 1; Locals 0 😉

    1. All you can do is laugh, Dyanne… laugh as hard as you can – scares the hell out of the locals 🙂

  4. OMG–I so loved this. And so true–you can see a sort of gleam come over their eyes, just a spark…and then you either turn around and walk away, or stand and fight…love it.

    1. I just think, “bring it, bitches. La Americana is ready to play.”

  5. Clearly you’re not flirting enough.

    1. You know me, Paul – useless!

  6. Hey, at least you got a ‘signorina’. Round here they screw with me *and* call me signora.

    1. Oh, I’ve gotten the signora screw before. I just choose to remember the good times.

  7. OMG it’s been way too long since I’ve read your writing! This was great! Love when the foreigner catches fire!

    1. *ssssssssssssss*

  8. Eheh 😉
    But you know what, it’s not just about “foreigners” (not Italians), sometimes it also happens if you are Italian, from another city and you have a different accent, or if you are not friend with the person you’re talking to. It happened to me many times too 🙂

    I like Italy, love the food, -sometimes- also the people, and it’s nice visiting once a year for a week or two.. but honestly I couldn’t live there 😀 You’re a signorina coraggiosa!

    1. It’s true! My Italian friends said the same thing. People just like screwing each other… it’s a biological need 🙂

  9. Love this post, half the time I’m wondering if I’m playing the game but the locals always insist you aren’t!

    1. I think we’re always playing the game… or at least always need to have our cleats on.

  10. HA! They do that here in Thailand on the motorcycles.

    “You want 30 baht?! Uh, it was 10 baht yesterday.” *Motorcycle drives off* Sigh.

    So frustrating!

    1. So check this; I go to another post office yesterday and they give me the usual fee, but they tell me that I can’t send any SASEs because Italian stamps can’t be sent from the U.S. Which is contrary to what I was told at the other post office. The way I get screwed, you think I’d be a lot calmer.

  11. Good stuff. Reminds me of when I lived in Thailand — most of the time I dodged the farang (foreigner) rate because I could pass for Thai. I’d follow the locals’ lead and pay for things by pushing money across the counter like they did, no words exchanged. But sometimes clerks talked to me. And then I’d stutter. And then they realized I wasn’t Thai. So, I couldn’t always play the game. Interestingly, oftentimes from such an exchange they grew embarrassed and just let me go.

    1. I strive to cause extreme embarrassment in the locals whenever possible. Easier than one would think.

  12. The game is popular round here as well. I’m not very good at it. I might jump a train or something.

    1. You are… Superman? 😉

  13. Italians love to screw other Italians. In turn, it’s the loser Italians that screw the stranieri.

    1. No doubt – perhaps screwing should replace calcio as the national sport. 😀

  14. Heyyyyy, wait a minute. I’ve played this game! It’s very popular in Rome as well, so careful where you escape to.

    My favorite Italian move is when I get in a cab and here “It will be X Euro more because you caught the cab here.” Oh, because I caught the taxi at the taxi stand? Really? How interesting. Now, is this the straniera fee? Or the ‘it’s-late-and-we-both-know-you-need-a-cab” surcharge?

    1. It’s the rottura di palle fee…

  15. lol

    Never seen much of this bullshit in the real world, it would really upset me. However, train tickets have no names in Italy 🙂

    1. … meno il Birg.

  16. I think my “OH HELL NO”s would come out in full force.

    1. My litany of road rage swears:

      “Get off my ass, sir!”
      “Son of a bitch!”
      “What the f*ck!”
      “Where? Where do you want me to go, f*cker? The light is red!”
      “I don’t f*cking think so, assclown!”

      and other displays of class.

  17. Hahaha. Reminds me of traveling through certain countries. I don’t want to say which countries but they rhyme with Dhina and Nindia. However, in my nearly 2 years of living in Korea, I’ve almost never been forced to play this game. In fact, Koreans are generally nicer and more likely to give you free stuff just because you’re a foreigner and they want to give off a good impression of their country. It’s really the greatest selling point for being an expat here. Except for the workplace. But even that is more of an equal opportunity screwiness, as Korean workplaces tend to mess horribly with both their Korean and foreigner employees.

    I just thought I’d write my life history in your comment box. Hope you don’t mind.

    1. Feel free 🙂

  18. Probably the world’s best-loved game! Fortunately it doesn’t happen to me too much (anymore) in Chile, but one night 3 gringa expats & long-time residents, hopped into a cab in a touristy spot and made the mistake of letting the driver get chatty (STF game strategy: beware extra-chatty cabbies, it’s how they divert your attention from the meter). When he dropped us off, the meter read about 3 times the going rate. My friend refused to pay and offered to either pay what she thought was fair or wait for the police to come and sort it out (BIG win for the gringa!)

    1. JES! I love it when the gringos win from time to time…!

  19. So that’s the name of the game! I think its a common mindset locals have for foreigners, you just have to be clever and play the game against them 🙂 It would be much easier to visit places where you have a trusted friend to show you around.

  20. There’s also a really good version of this in Spain. Especially at the post office.

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