Thursday, 16 November 2017

The obsession of putting people in a box (Italian nationality and stereotypes)

Have you ever felt completely fed up with the whole idea that is necessary to label people? Whilst some of these ‘labels’ became recognised as some sort of discrimination (racism, sexism, etc.) or non-politically correct terms, other labels still get a pass because it seems there is no consequences after ‘saying them’ or it is even funny to say them. Well, some stuff can be fine if used for comedy, but some labels just need to DIE.

For example, I’m totally annoyed about people determining nationality as a factor contributing to the personality. Putting a whole population of a country in just one box only because they were born there and lived there afterwards is stupid. Some people will certainly abide by the stereotype and get on with that, some won’t. This is bound to create some misplacement issues in the society later on, as it happens with sexuality or race (even though I don’t agree with the term ‘race’ to describe the colour of the skin, human race is just one).
The character of a human being, although influenced by childhood background and eventually the society where he/she was born, has no long-term effect on the personality if the person oneself is at odds with the common denominators of that nationality. In this case I will take myself as an example to do further analysis. I was born in Italy and although I started travelling and living abroad nearly 25 years ago, I only migrated for good 8 years ago. I was NEVER Italian in any way, but even less if the usual stereotypes are taken into account. I will make a list, to make my point.

Italians gesticulate.

This is something I partially lost during my early years. It isn't necessary to use your hands if you speak the language. Given that I studied 6 languages, I never needed to use my hands much when I was abroad. Strangely, if I go back to Italy and speak to people anywhere, I’ll use them. I guess it is kind of conformation to the national habit when on Italian soil.

Italians love pasta and pizza.

I certainly do, but I don’t eat pasta every day or even every week, let alone pizza. However, my husband is British and he also adores pasta and pizza. Not sure this is a stereotype still valid nowadays because of the spreading of the Italian cooking on a worldwide scale. I am in love with bagels and they’re not from Italy lol By the way, I hate spaghetti and rarely eats them.

Italians never lose their accent.

Untrue. This is something I worked on for decades. Italians do lose their accent if they study how to lose it. The position of tongue and mouth whilst pronouncing Italian is very low if compared to the English language, for example. In USA I completely lost my accent after a ‘modification of the accent’ course and I was very proud to have a perfect American accent (... or better, a Floridian one :D ). It is a pity that following my stay in USA I also travelled to New Zealand and then settled in Scotland, so my perfect American accent went through two other national accents, and a dozen local accents. I’m totally confused now about what kind of accent I have. My husband says I speak with the Merlin accent, which means it is a pout-pourri of accents hahaha

Italians are warm and friendly.

I am not, as I am terribly shy and I was being brought up to be wary towards the others and/or unknown situations. Still amazed at Italians saying that they go to get a coffee together with acquaintances. Never done it in my life. I had always an appointment for that and generally with friends. I’m usually kind towards neighbours, colleagues or acquaintances, but definitively friendly is a stretch. Bit of chit chat yes, friendly and warm NO.

Italians are obsessed with the ‘double invite’.

Usually, if an Italian invites you for any lunch, dinner, birthday party or any other formal function (holy communion, wedding, etc.) he or she will expect to be invited back when an occasion arises on your part. I’ve always considered that like opportunism (this opinion being quite the opposite of Italians’, who do think this is friendly behaviour...), because it implies you’ve to give something back. This ended up with me being isolated for much of my childhood and teen years because situation in the family was explosive and I was ashamed of it. Not being able to invite anyone back meant nobody invited me either. So, sod the Italian way of inviting people. Nowadays, if I invite anyone for any social gathering, I’m not expecting that the invitee will be forced to produce an invite later on or even never. It is down to the pleasure of having friends around. For me, this involves gifts and cards too, which I often send to people without expecting to receive one back.

Italians are all the same and all speak the same language.

Contrary to what believed, the number of regional differences is at least up to 20 (I come from Tuscany, which is a region in the centre of Italy). Within these regions (similar to British counties), there are several provinces, sometimes smaller than the equivalent of a British council. Count that nearly every local council has a different accent, as well as the region has a different dialect... hmm, much like UK then? He he ;) Counting only the upper part of Tuscany, you’ve the accents and dialects of Lucca, Pistoia, Prato, Firenze, Pisa, Massa, Carrara.... Put in the cauldron that Italy has been united only from 1861, therefore people from Sicily and from Piedmont speaking their dialects wouldn’t even understand each other. As from Wikipedia “the Italian language adopted by the state after the unification of Italy is based on Tuscan, which beforehand was a language spoken mostly by the upper class of Florentine society”, which means I’ve not much of a dialect compared to the Italian language but the other regional dialects also sound to me as foreign. I can’t understand someone from Sardinia speaking their language as well as anyone in Iraq, for example.

Italians value the traditional family above all,

This is a stereotype that irritates me big time. In 1970ies and 1980ies, 60% of families in my neighbourhood and area had some kind of abuses or domestic violence going on within it. Of course, you’d have never guessed up front. I call this a product of hypocrisy and Catholic bigotry. It was inappropriate to let people know that your family sucked big time and you’d have liked to have two parents from Mars rather than yours (my mother was fine, lovely lady but built as a doormat, unfortunately). Sod the traditional family as a model when it is just an excuse to hide the worst abuses ever. Better the enlarged family if everyone gets along, which is what matters in the long run, in my opinion.

Italian women are all classy and fashion-trendy.

One of the things I love most about UK is that I can go to a supermarket in my jogging trousers and nobody gives a crap. I don’t spend money in make-up products anymore and I can wear whatever without someone forbidding me to go out in that or this outfit (my ex fiancé used to do that...). Sod the fashion and the last trend and your face painted like you’re Katy Perry just to get out of the front door, for me it is the best freedom ever to be myself in that regard!!

Italians think Italy is the best place on Earth.

Never thought that. Undeniably, it is a very beautiful country. However, I’ve visited enough places all over the world to know that many countries are beautiful, not just Italy.

Italians think there’s always the sun, all the time, all over Italy.

Lol this shouldn’t even be worth commenting, ludicrous. It rains more in the upper part of Tuscany than in Cumbria, the county where I live in England. Pure nonsense and I always believed that, especially after I lived in Florida for one year and it poured rain for a whole summer!

Italians are all obsessed with appearances.

I have never been. I can say I conformed to the model and the social peer pressure until I was living there. Once I was abroad, I completely forgot this ‘rule’ existed for me. Sod the appearances, in every meaning lol

Italians can't live without the nocturnal life and they need to have smashing holidays.

Again, I’ve done this to conform to the national trend, as above. Once I was abroad I am pretty fine whilst watching Poldark or Sherlock on BBC and I couldn’t care less to go out at all during the evenings or weekends. People think I suffer or I’m even lying about it... Get over it, I’m fine!! If I miss something, sometimes, is one day out, walking in the nature. Of course, during the winter I’m at home most of the time. Concerning the holidays, I’ve never had a ‘classical Italian’ one in 7 years and I didn’t even have a honeymoon trip. To be honest, if you have loads of money, it is ok to go abroad for a holiday. If you haven’t, it doesn’t seem smart to me to get rid of your savings for a holiday. To each his own, I guess.

Italians need to have the last fashionable thing, whether it is an Iphone or a belt.

Yuck... should I even comment on this pile of tripe.... I’ve a 10-year-old Nokia mobile, still receiving and making calls. Which is everything you need if you are at home and a student. Can’t even wrap my head around the fact that some people are even getting a loan to pay for one of these trendy accessories....

Italians are loud.

You got me! Yes, I am. But I get a pass because I’m becoming deaf therefore I need to shout to myself or I can’t hear what I’m saying :P

Italians are rude or clean or.. (etc.).

Although I do find that some Italians are rude, this hasn’t been always like that. Things got worse in Italy in the last 20 years and I can understand why so many people are so miserable. However, any adjective connected with a nationality is plain stupid. There are no clean or rude nationalities, there are only rude or clean people, regardless of where they were born.

Italians can’t accept other people can have different opinions from theirs’ without calling them out or even insulting them.

Oh my God, I so hated this thing. Thank God, we’re all different and I do like to hear different opinions when they are well explained and in an educated way. The cultural exchange is fantastic, in every country you are.

Italians can’t stand rules or to be called out for something bad they’ve done.

Main reason I don’t live in Italy. Main reason I am trying to spend as less time as possible when I go to Italy to visit my mum. After two days of that crap, I’m ready to come back home.

Italian expats are racists against Italians living in Italy.

I know this very well, I get it all the time. Apart from the fact it is a contradiction to say that an Italian is racist against another Italian, first because Italian is not a ‘race’, second.. how can you be ‘racist’ against your own nationality? Goodness gracious, that is a very stupid argument. Italians don’t like to be described in negative terms and called out (see above) on several of their faults. Given that we ‘shared’ the same cultural dirt at some point, Italians don’t simply like to hear about it. It goes without saying that we could file this under the expression 'don't air your dirty laundry in public'. Then, some of them when they are abroad like to point out that people from this country or from another are acting cold towards them. Learn self-criticism before attacking others. Plus, I might add that Italy has a high percentage of racist attacks against immigrants, therefore it shouldn’t be surprising if and when we’re treated the same abroad (I wasn’t but maybe it is just me, and not everybody else’s experience).

Italians think that if you're born in Italy you must be Italian all your life.

This is my 'favourite trope', because I never felt Italian and I don't feel like I belong to their culture at all. Pretending to convince me I am someone different is useless. Stop with the scandal about renegades and disregarding my own culture, because in my book Italy is not my country and that is not my culture. I'm not betraying anything or anyone. That is a stupid, bigot argument, like a son who's gay and his parents are heterosexual. If anything, I'm discussing about a place where I lived for 35 years. The fact I didn't like it at all or didn't belong to it at all is who I am. GET OVER IT.

Well, long-winded post and.. Merlin doesn’t sit or fit in any box, I’ve mine, the only one I belong too!!

Merlin x

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