I’m often asked to compare Italy to the United States to give people an idea what it’s like living here. Obviously, a lot of these things are generalizations, things I’ve heard from my husband or our Italian friends but written in a humorous and exaggerated way for my own amusement. The statistics and stuff I read in books or articles, and many of them are linked. It’s titled, 25 Things I’ve Learned About Italy because it’s things that I’ve learned from others and a few things that I’ve observed through an expats eyes. It’s not 25 opinions about Italy. That list would be a lot different and probably funnier and more offensive. So, it might sound like I’m trash talking, but that’s just because I was blessed with an incurable tendency to be ironic. Also, it’s also good to keep a mental note that this is a humor blog where I freely make fun of pretty much everyone (Myself, Italians, Americans, and sometimes Poodles.) It helps to have a good sense of humor before approaching anything that I write. If you’re offended easily, you should watch this instead.
1. The mother-in-law is one of the top cited reasons for divorce.
2. The infidelity rate is in the 60% range, yet divorce is only 11% [Italian society of divorce lawyers]. So, basically, the majority cheats and either doesn’t get caught or people do not divorce for cheating. Cheating has long been known to be a part of Italy’s culture and is often encouraged, rewarded, and approved by peers. Bro’s before Ho’s y’all!
3. Mammoni is a cultural phenomenon where the mother basically breast feeds the children into their forties. After they stop breast feeding, they send liters of their breast milk to be used as coffee creamer or in cereal. Mostly.
4. On average people do not marry until their 30’s, and they don’t move out of their parents house until they marry. This is mainly due to economic issues and more recently, Mammoni.
5. People don’t clean up their dogs shit. Ever. If you’re in Florence, you should always keep your eyes on the sidewalk. On a different note, everyone in Florence seems to love dogs and they spoil the shit out of them (pun intended, hey oh!). Oliver’s head gets rubbed down and molested every four feet while we’re on a walk.
6. Most of the apartments, restaurants, etc are COLD in the winter (compared to the US). Heat is very expensive and nobody uses it as much as we do in the US. Seriously, things are expensive here. Keep whining about your 4 dollar per gallon gas people, it’s like 4 dollars PER LITER here.
7. Everyone says they are Catholic, and Athiest at the same time. This confuses me.
8. It seems that everyone smokes and it’s the only place I’ve witnessed three generations sharing a smoke together: Grandma, Mother, And teenage daughter. It is also legal to smoke and drink as a teenager.
9. Coffee is a big deal and Italy has great coffee, however, everyone drinks it like they’re throwing back a thimble of gasoline. Sitting down to have a nice, big, cup of coffee is not common. Stand up, chug espresso, then go smoke.
10. Friends and family members do not share “personal information.”
11. Florence is full of Neo-Nazis and Fascists. Yes, seriously. If you see someone who looks like a skinhead, they are in fact a skinhead.
12. Graffiti is used mostly for love. “Dear Angelina, my little star, I will always love you,” is what most of the spray paint around the city says. Yes, seriously. It’s not gangster at all, it’s pretty much bad poetry. Or rascist.
14. Northern and Southern Italians don’t like each other, or rather, they generalize heavily about one another. Why? Typically, the north is industial and educated while the south is still stuck in the 1920’s. This is actually kind of true, but not entirely and it has a sociological/economical explaination that I’m too lazy to get into right now. My husband is super intelligent, and hard-working, yet he is from the south, however, I have noticed that really traditional southern Italians are really sexist and super Yee-Haw. Also, Florence is considered “the south” according to my friends in Brecia, yet Florentines consider anything south of Rome “the south.” Also, Florentines are some of the laziest people I’ve ever met in my life so…generalizing is stupid unless I’m the one doing it. To give you an example of north vs south reasoning, it’s common to hear these things, “Oh, she’s from Milan so she’s probably really rich and snobby,” or, “Oh he’s from the South so he probably beats his wife and doesn’t work.” And no I’m not exagerating. People say these things.
15. Italians are really under-paid. An Engineer, for example, is likely to make only slightly more than someone who works at a cafe. It is creating a brain-drain where the smartest people in the country are leaving in search of higher wages. Way to go Italy, you totally just lost the new Di Vinci by being cheap.
16. Education is mostly free in Italy. The only downfall is that there is no real incentive to go, since it’s unlikely you’ll make a lot of money. Also, it’s not uncommon for people to spend 10 years earning a bachelors degree. And when you ask someone “how is school going,” the response is often, “really, really difficult.”
17. Italian men are pretty romantic culturally compared to American men. However, lying is also a large part of the culture, so enjoy the shit they say but know they’re lying to you.
18. If you want the morning-after pill, you’ll possibly have to go before a panel of assholes who will tell you that you’re plenty old to have a baby so, no, you can’t have the pill. Then you’ll threaten to ship your baby to them if you have one and they’ll just stare at you like you’re the asshole.
19. The food is amazing. While Americans have the reputation for food obsession (and being chubby), these people are actually obsessed with food. In my husband’s region, a birthday dinner lasts around 4 hours. Yes, eating the entire time for 4 hours. Yes, you do want to kill yourself after, and yes, I do sometimes sneak my food to the dog under the table who then pukes on the rug.
20. Americans have a horrible reputation here for being loud, slutty, stupid, and trashy. I can actually see how that opinion formed. I am all of those things. But seriously, most of the tourists here from the US are really old, middle class Americans who haven’t travleled much. They often complain a lot, demand too much, and say really odd things to the locals. The other group here are 18 year old college students who are spending a semester abroad. They are suddenly allowed to drink and have no social obligations to act like a normal person so they go crazy, drink, dance, and try out European men like ice cream flavors. In the US these are the same good christian girls who often go to Tufts, Yale, and many, many good schools. Lady in the US, topless dancer in Europe.
21. Europeans are not circumcised and so all the dudes have elephant trunks in their pants. Americans are the “weird” ones who chop their willy’s up. This reminds me of a story from art school. The nude model came in and two different girls leaned over to me and asked, “what is wrong with his weiner.” I mumbled, “uhm…he’s not jewish?” For the record, it does seem weird to me to cut up your junk.
22. According to my Italian friends, making new friends is hard. Even Italians don’t often make friends with other Italians past their teens. Basically, the friends you have in your teenage years are often the friends you have for your entire life. Going out with an Italian person 200 times in mixed company will not result in you going shopping or having coffee together. Unless they are trying to have sex with you.
23. Italians have weird boundaries. I’ve heard this story from a lot of female women here. “My mother-in-law keeps inviting my husbands EX GIRLFRIEND over to have dinner with us!” Because all that matters here is “bella figura.” Which is, a good impression. So, regardless of the inappropriateness of a situation, how people see you will always be more important than anything else.
24. This one is good for tourists who think that a tube top, booty shorts, and flip-flops constitutes an outfit. Italians in Florence do not go out with bare legs until June. No, it doesn’t matter if it’s hot, they do not care. You’ll notice that they’ll wear tights under their shorts even in death heat. Why? Bella figura, Bitches.
25. Liking your wife seems to be weird. I’ve never heard an Italian say anything nice about their wife or partners. In fact, I’ve heard men outright talk about wanting to have sex with other women. A man who likes his partner will be teased for acting like it. Because it’s not cool to think your partner is awesome (this is much stronger in the south where Machismo is still a thing). Italian couples often seem like two people who just ingested battery acid together. I read a study that said it’s because Italians do not always marry for friendship or even love since there is still a strong tendency towards tradition (making family and having children)(http://www.acop.com/press/2010/10/married_couples/.) They often marry to “produce children” as is required by the Catholic church. In fact, if you marry without producing children, the church does not recognize your marriage (At least that’s what our priest told us). Kind of like how my mother-in-law doesn’t recognize our marriage because she hates me. Actually, that’s not the same at all but I just wanted to whine about it. My husband and I hate each other. We totally got married to split rent. Now I only pay 50%. Everyone wins!
So anyways, now you know what Italy is like: A porn stars vagina. Famous, reputable, disloyal, cold, dark, shaved, and covered in graffiti and yet everyone desperately wants to be near it.
Welcome to Italy!
- Why Everyone Should Live In Italy At Least Once In Their Lives (survivinginitaly.com)
- Long-lost Orson Welles film screened in Italy (thelocal.it)
- Don’t Be Just a Tourist – My Study Abroad Experience in Italy (abroadee.com)
- More than half of Italian men live with their mums (thelocal.it)