Stereotypes about Italians are fascinating and a lot of fun. Well, stereotypes in general are a lot of
fun because most of the time they reveal half-truths. I personally find those concerning common
human behaviours of different countries and cultures very captivating.
Distinctive features of an average Italian are known worldwide. Just to give you an idea, let’s imagine an Italian taking a vacation abroad trying to order something in a restaurant or asking for information in a city centre. Somebody will inevitably recognise his strong accent and his loud tone of voice, not to mention his gestures that will definitely distract the listener from what the tourist is saying.
Have you ever wondered, why the whole world thinks that the most important words in Italian are “pasta” and “pizza”? Because it’s a fact! Maybe we don’t always use the expression “pasta” to describe our daily meal, we use more specific terms such as “gnocchi”, “orecchiette” or “pennette”. But it’s always pasta after all. So, I think that in that particular case, stereotypes actually do have a point.
Did you also know that stereotypes about citizens of different Italian regions exist? That’s exactly the topic that I wanted to talk about in this article, focusing particularly on my region: Apulia. Italy is culturally divided in two zones: Northern Italy and Southern Italy... did you know that? (Just in case you were wondering, yes, cultural influences of Central Italy are not taken into consideration that much). This division is undoubtedly due to historical conflicts, their economical status and some external influences, which made Italian regions very different from each other. Sometimes these differences become points of contention, but there are so many reasons we can just laugh and joke about. Apulia belongs to Southern Italy, and so do I. I feel proud of my region from time to time, unfortunately not always. There are pros and a lot of cons, but I couldn’t imagine a better place to live.
It may surprise you to know that culinary traditions and the amount of food, that an Italian can assume, changes depending on the region of origin. Apulians are known as the best eaters of carbohydrates! Taralli, pettole, parmigiana, panzerotti... this is what we’re living for. A family from northern Italy couldn’t handle a typical Christmas Eve dinner, if a southern Italian grandmother cooked it for them. That’s also because we are very attached to traditions concerning festivities, therefore we are not allowed to spend those holidays away from family and relatives. If a son or a daughter missed the Eastern lunch, it would be a disgrace to the entire family.
We are also well-known for our punctuality and our sense of duty, especially when it comes to work. Our routine starts very early in the morning and almost every shop works all-day. No, just kidding. We could say that we enjoy life. We hang out with friends whenever we want, we are not content with spending only two days per week with them. Our relatives, especially our grandparents, are very important to visit assiduously (that’s because they also provide us with “economic aids”).
In addition, working here takes on a different meaning. We don’t live to work, we work to live. Indeed, sometimes employees try to make their work as light as possible. How? By not working at all. Quite brilliant, I’d say. Our life-style is genuine but most of the time is misunderstood by the remaining part of the nation. We care a lot about family ties and about the quality time together, also with friends, acquaintances or colleagues; therefore, sometimes we sacrifice hours of work to create memorable moments over a coffee. That’s a matter of priority!
As a final point, I must underline an aspect which I am not so proud of: criminality and vandalism. There is an Italian saying that goes: “tutto il mondo è paese” (literally: the whole world is the same country). This means that we can find good people and bad people everywhere, the world is the same wherever you go. In fact, there is no perfect country when it comes to delinquency. However, in Apulia things get out of hand. Criminal organisations, illegal operations and the contempt for rules in general, have become normality. And unfortunately, these are the only things that the world and the rest of Italy notice the most. Our passionate temperament, our lightness of being and our attachment to what we care most about, are obscured by negative aspects.
However, I have faith that things will change, because they already have over the past few years. It’s up to us to let the beauty prevail over prejudices and over the ugly face of our region, because Apulia is love, it’s passion, it’s a way of life and a brightness impossible to overshadow.