Valentina Signorelli reflects on the accuracy of five British and Italian stereotypes in the globalised era.
“Mum is always mum” – Italian proverb.
This stereotype is definitely true. Italian mums are famous to be very attached to their kids, especially to their sons. They can be very subtly influential in their lives. This means that an Italian guy always relates to his mother, anytime, including those crucial moments when he has to make any sort of important adult decision. In short: if you’re a woman wanting to marry an Italian man, remember that you will marry his mother as well. Be prepared to lose in every comparison – she will always be sweeter, gentler, smarter, more balanced, more beautiful, more tender and a better cook than you. Always.
One of the main differences I had the pleasure to notice during my various journeys all over Great Britainis about talking together. Italian interlocutors usually gesticulate and dramatize a lot of the cadence of their voices to better sharpen their speech. Furthermore, Italians always look into each other’s eyes to create a straight and involving contact. If you don’t do it, you will probably be treated like you have something to hide. I don’t want to assume this is not common in the UK as well, but maybe this is not consciously intentional. In fact, when I pointed out the lack of constant visual link to my British friends, they said people might find it very annoying, like you’re challenging your counterpart.
The Falsehood paradox.
In English there are many colloquial expression such as: “Honestly” or “To be Honest”, which underline the distance from any possible misunderstanding. I have always appreciated this kind of interjection from British speakers. The reason? Italians are darned great liars. To support this statement it will be sufficient to remember that if an Italian asks you to trust him, both in an apparently calm and suspicious situation, he would probably be on the way to screw you! On the other hand we can’t forget people’s disposability to help anyone in any circumstance while asking nothing back. This is especially true when it comes to money. Hence, if I personally had to pay all my creditors, I would probably lose all my friends. Or maybe they are just waiting to be paid back before running away. Who knows?
Italians are not a particularly united people, but this is not down to social or economic factors. Remember, in Italy everyone is opinionated in his own way. It becomes most obvious when we look at the impossibility of working in a group without the constant loud debating. Nobody wants to be guided, because everyone wants to demonstrate that his alternative is better than the others’. For Italians everything is a form of art (speaking, cooking and flirting included). This is a consequence of the incessant ingenious impulse, but sometimes this excess of creativity looks almost ridiculous. For instance, this is glaring during international football competitions. Italians feel part of a Nation only if the team wins. Winston Churchill used to say: “Italians lose wars as if they were football matches and football matches as if they were wars”. True, and not by chance.
My favourite stereotype: British people are detached.
Even if Italians are more physical during meetings – they hold hands, kiss relatives and strangers, and non-stop poke while speaking – this platitude is definitely not reserved to us. Every time I come back in the UK I find more human contact than ever. Why is this so important? Well, the answer is simple. In this mechanised new world, the ability to build interpersonal relationships is fundamental to remark the difference between the robotic globalization and the cosmopolitan state of mind.