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Some Clichés About Italians
Every culture has spawned stereotypes that are hard to dispel and the Italian culture is no different. While we often hear about them, it's important to remember that we can't generalize and think that the whole population does the same things or has the same habits. People abroad often seem to think of Italians along certain lines and expect certain stereotypical behaviors to be always true, although that is not always the case.
Here is a list of the most famous clichés about Italians. Some are true, or partly true, but others are myths that should be debunked.
1. Italians Sing
That image of an Italian in the kitchen or walking down the street spontaneously bursting into song? We know them all. Sure, Italy is well known for its singers and traditional music, as well as songs like "O sole mio" that became worldwide hits. Still, many other cultures are known to have talented musicians but their people are not all expected to be talented singers.
This cliché was born from a superficial knowledge of Southern Italian popular culture and is now so deeply rooted in the collective imagery that it has generated strange situations, like that of seeing some musicians on the gondolas of Venice singing Neapolitan songs when they have nothing to do with Neapolitan tradition and culture. These types of performances, put on for tourists, just help to feed the stereotype, generating in turn a deep misunderstanding of Italian heritage and tradition.
2. Italians Always Eat Pasta
It is true that Italians love pasta and miss it when they are abroad, but foreigners should know and understand that Italians do not always eat pasta. Actually, this habit changes from family to family because there are some who want to eat pasta every day and some that are used to eating pasta once or twice a week.
3. Italy's Economy is Based on Art
Italians are really proud of their artistic inheritance, masterpieces left by inimitable artists and their important history, however, art isn't the only driving force behind Italian economy. Tourism based on art is certainly a relevant sector in the country's economy, but Italy can count on other sources like agriculture, industry and services to bring in the bucks. By analyzing Italy from an American perspective, there aren't as many differences as one may think, especially if we take into account the last 50 years, during which Italy has tried to emulate America as an example for productivity and progress.
4. Italians are Catholic
It is true that the majority of Italians are Catholics and that the Church plays an important role in Italian society, however, some clarity is needed. First of all, being Catholic for some Italians is often a habit or a tradition passed on by their families more than a personal belief. Moreover, the number of Italians who are atheist is increasing considerably, even if the amount of Catholics remains high. Like most modern societies Italy is also moving away from traditional social mores dictated by religion despite the continued presence of the Church in the country.
Of course, in addition to Catholics and atheists, Italy is made up of people of all different beliefs and religions including Evangelist, Jehovah's Witnesses, Buddhists and so forth.
5. Italians Must Tackle the Daily Problem of the Mafia and Brigate Rosse's Terrorism
No one can deny that the mafia and other local criminal organizations like camorra and 'ndrangheta is still a problem in Italy. In fact, the police and justice officials have had to fight against this criminal phenomena on a constant basis, with the last 10 years seeing a change for the positive. Despite the fact that these lucrative organizations definitely do exists it's not true that ordinary Italians have to grapple with a mafioso on a daily basis.
As far as the Brigate Rosse is concerned, we can safely say that this type of terrorism is now an ancient memory and it has almost disappeared. We hear about it on TV due only to past episodes and attacks or history documentaries.
6. Italians Live for Football
Former Liverpool FC manager Bill Shankly once said, "Football isn't a matter of life or death, it's much more important than that." Do many Italians feel the same way? Sure. Do all? Of course not.
Football (soccer) is certainly the most popular sport in Italy, and while Sundays in the U.S. are often reserved for that other kind of football, in Italy many people, especially men, start watching soccer in the early afternoon and finish up at night with review programs like the Domenica Sportiva. Still, there are indeed Italians who don't like football and those who prefer other sports, from F1 racing and basketball to bike racing and rugby.
Of course, the World Cup is one event that most Italians don't want to miss.
7. Italians Drink a Lot of Coffee
Coffee is certainly one of the drinks that Italians love the most. They drink coffee, rigorously ristretto (strong), several times during the day: at breakfast, after lunch and during the famous pause caffè, coffee breaks. Obviously, there are some Italians that don't drink coffee because they don't like it or for other reasons.
8. Italians are Poor
Some foreign cultures think that Italians are poor. Actually, it is important to understand that the economic situation and conditions of Italians change considerably from place to place. There is a considerable gap between the North and the South of Italy, but the average Italian population is far above the poverty line.
9. Italians are Always Late
People believe Italians are always late. Sure, there may be many Italians who are, but for each one there are others who manage to be bang on time or those who actually arrive early!
10. Italians Gesticulate
It is true that Italians generally recur to the language of the body in order to express themselves better, however, it must be noted that the habit of using the hands to talk with a view to being better understood is a habit that belongs more to Southern than Northern Italians. Neapolitans are the most famous for gesticulating when talking.
These are national clichés widely known abroad, however, some foreign people might not know that the different regions carry their own stereotypes within Italy. Below are some stereotypes, true only in some cases, that can be considered amusing in a certain way as they are the mirror of ancient popular culture in Italy.
Apulians - The Pugliesi, Apulians, are said to be proud and ironic opportunists.
Calabrians- People from Calabria are considered mistrustful and stubborn.
Genoeses - People from Genoa are said to be tirchi or stingy.
Lucani - People from Basilicata are considered stubborn.
Milaneses - People from Milan are renowned, following the cliché, for being arrogant, cold and efficient in the working world.
Neapolitans - people from Naples are considered noisy, superstitious and good at cooking pizza.
Piedmonteses - There is an Italian saying referring to people coming from Piedmont: Piemontese falso e cortese, which means Piedmontese false and kind.
Romagnoles - People from Romagna are famous for being passionate, greedy and fighters.
Romans - Two adjectives are often attributed to people from Rome: noisy and burini, boorish.
Sardinians - They are said to be proud, farmers and stubborn.
Sicilians - People from Sicily are labeled as omertosi, meaning that they don't talk especially when it comes to denouncing offenses. Sicilians are also famous for their jealousy.
Tuscans - They are called mangiafagioli (bean eaters) and they're known for loving nature.
Umbrians - They are associated with kindness and reserve.
Veneti - People from Veneto are said to be heavy drinkers and not patriotic at all.
These are obviously clichés belonging to popular culture, we count on the open-mindedness of people in order to understand that they should go beyond these sayings and stereotypes and understand that, to really understand a culture, you must experience it first hand and even when some of these stereotypes hold mostly true they don't apply to everyone.