Thinking About Italians

During my first airplane ride to the U.S., a blonde hostess asked me if I wanted ice in my ginger ale. I kindly declined thinking to myself “ice, with this cold?” It was October, we were thousands of feet above the ground and I was already freezing. The last thing I wanted was something that chilled my bones further. Coming from a cultural background where using ice was rare, that question sounded as odd as it was intriguing. When we observe other cultures, we are often dazzled by their unique lifestyle. We are captivated by little things such as what they eat, what they wear at social events or the way they greet one another. The discoveries that we make often leave an everlasting impression on us. So, what kind of perceptions do others have about our fellow Italians? I asked some people in the community to reflect on that one thing that left a mark on their mind when thinking of “Italians.” Here is what they had to say.

Mike M., a fourth-generation Italian American, affirmed that in the States: “when meeting a stranger on the street, it is common to say ‘hello’ or ‘how are you,’ even if we don’t know the person.” In contrast, during his very first trip to Italy, he noticed that “Italians do not greet strangers.”

George L., whose family came from the Abruzzo region, tied the word “Italians” with a strong sense of love. He shared that: “An amazing thing about Italy is the feeling of love and belonging that you find in many Italian households. For example, in my family, my grandparents left Italy 100-years-ago and contact was lost between the Italian and U.S. branches of the family for more than 50 years. But when the families reconnected, there was an immediate bond.” Chris L., who visited Bel Paese for the very first time this past June, had a similar experience. She stated that, “The people were so friendly and welcoming. I connected with family members that I had never met before my trip. They welcomed all of us as if they had known us forever. We ate and shared family stories and photos.”

Scott G. loved “that there is a social decorum in Italy. Even if you are not wealthy, you dress nicely when you go into the city, you practice nice manners to everyone. There is a sort of pride and self-respect that I like; it makes me feel good when I am there.”

During a couple of trips to Italy, Nicole E. found Italians to be incredibly vocal and outspoken. She was amazed by “how passionate they were in just their day-to-day conversations.” On top of everything, she also noticed that their conversation seemed to follow a common pattern. “They always get louder and faster when they want to make a point and then there is silence or laughter.” Likewise, for Jacob W., “the most interesting and awesome things Italians do is argue or just simply talk loudly and then when [the conversation] is over still be so close.” While munching on crunchy pizzelles made by his Italian grandmother, he expressed the following: “I find it funny how people get uncomfortable around loud talkers. I love it; that is all I have ever known.”

The comments reported here are only a drop in the bucket about Italians’ way of life. However, it is safe to say Italians are some of the most hospitable and inviting people on earth who carry a deep sense of love for their family, regardless of how much time or how many miles they have been separated over the years.