“Italians do it better,” they say. But what? Ok, I know the stereotype, but let’s keep it censorship-friendly here, guys!
In all honesty, I don’t really believe there are countries better at doing certain things than others, unless tradition, history and cultural background made it different. There are a bunch of things, though, Italians are particularly good at, without necessarily be “better than” the rest of the world. Let’s see whether you agree or not with my choices!
1. Italians are great orators
Oratory is an old art born and developed between Athens and Rome at the times of the forefathers of western civilization. In extremely simple words, it is the art of speaking properly and convincingly: president Obama, for instance, is a great orator and so were JFK and Martin Luther King. Italians, let’s face it, are pretty good with words, and this makes them charming and very dangerous at once: capable of making out a tale of homeric proportions out of the littlest of events, Italians are certainly a pleasure to listen to when they start speaking, but as everything in life, this has its downsides.
Aware of their innate talent with words, Italians like to use them to their advantage: they flatter and they know how to do it well, especially when they need to convince you of something. Mind, Italians are genuine people and when they pay you a compliment, they’re likely to be honest, but be careful! Their artistry with words may confound you. As spendidly put by Luigi Barzini, Italians “have always used (the arts of flattery and oratory) offensively, to gain advantages, destroy rivals and conquer power and wealth; and defensively, as the squid uses ink, to blind and confound powerful men, dictators and tyrants.”
2) In spite of the temper, they’re great diplomats and negotiators
Well, this goes hand in hand with the one above, because to be good at diplomacy and negotiation you have to know how to use words efficiently. Take negotiation: if you do business with Italians you’ ll notice how fantastic they’re at getting what they want, it being free goods or a lower price. And you know why? Because Italians are not afraid of being blunt: they don’t ask for a discount, they take it for granted. They don’t discuss prices with you, they pretty much – with a smile on their face and a handful of that charm they’re known for – impose what they think is the right one. Negotiation Italian-style usually leaves non-native quite surprised… because it works.
But Italians also make great diplomats. You’d never think that, would you, considering the proverbial temper Italians are, quite rightly, believed to have. In spite of it, Italians have always been known for their diplomatic flair: in the end, the best of them all, Niccolò Machiavelli, was Italian. Diplomatic art is as old as civilization, but modern diplomacy is, in fact, believed to be yet another gift of Italy to the world, which was born in Northern Italy between the late Middle Ages and the early years of the Renaissance, with the first embassies being created in the thirteenth century. The Sforza family, rulers of Milan, were the first to establish embassies in the other city states of the North and the first to send a diplomatic representative to a foreing country (it was 1455, in France). Much of the diplomatic protocol as we know it today – think of the presentation of the ambassador’s credentials to the head of state, for instance – have originated in those years, in Italy.
3)…But they are also the best at swearing creatively
At this, Italians are unbeatable. Their flair for poetry, inflamed by the red hot anger of their proverbial temper and spiced up by Mediterranean creativity, helps the people of Italy to produce bona fide swearing compositions. Usually involving insults directed to the object of scorn, plus at least three generations of its family, Italy’s own swearing creativity is a true gift, albeit peculiar for certain.
When living abroad, I was known for stringing up words fast in Italian when getting upset at something, especially when, while at university, I used to work in a busy café. Those were glorious moments, where all my co-workers’attention was on me; unable to understand the crass, often maleficent, never ladylike verbal concoctions I would come out with, they enjoyed the sound of Italian so much they would forget I was actually, quite literally, telling someone to go get lost.
You’re very likely to experience Italian creative swearing at its best during soccer games and while stuck in the traffic.
4) Thanks, CNN, for the suggestion: Italians excel at changing governments
… And by the way, we’ve just done it again. After the ‘no’ vote at the beginning of December’s referendum, Italian (former) prime minister Matteo Renzi has resigned leaving the country deep inside a “crisi di governo” or, as you would say in English, a government crisis. These are pretty popular in Italy, a country where it’s highly unlikely, if not blatantly impossible, for a government to lead for a whole legislature. In fact, since 1946, Italy has had 64 govenrments. 65, actually, if we count in the new one about to be nominated by Mattarella. Each of them has ruled for about 13 months, against the 18 of France and 35 of Germany. Political stability’s just something Italy doesn’t do well: one votes, then complains about the person voted, the government falls and it’s time to go voting again, often the very same person of the round before because “better know the evil we’re getting”.
5) They’re the absolute best at airing out dirting laundry
It’s time to go back to words.
Once more, Italians show their favorite activities are, indeed, speaking and creating a bit of good, old fashioned drama. You see, Italians find it hard to keep it all inside: this is behind another of their favored activities, gossiping, which is not however the one I want you to read about. The fact is that in Italy, more than anywhere else, people love airing their dirty laundry in public. I don’t know if this depends on the fact we have such a penchant for drama and opera, but as soon there’s an opportunity to inform the world about personal issues, events, cheatings, affairs, Italy’s ready to take it.
Not every Italian shares these habits, but the percentage of those absolutely relishing in the thought of oversharing their life’s details with the rest of the world is pretty high. Are Italian whiny, then? No, not really: they dont’ necessairily complain, they just really enjoy talking.