Written by Lauren Roth
Before I went to Italy I heard so many stereotypes; don’t do this, make sure you know this, oh the food will be great and so on. The fact of the matter is, stereotypes are stereotypes. Being in Europe for about a month and a half now and having the opportunity to interact with all the different cultures of Europe.
One of the major stereotypes about Italy that I think we’ve all heard is all that Italians eat is pizza and pasta. This isn’t a complete misconception, the amount of pizza and pasta I have eaten here is uncanny, however, each region in Italy has its food that it is known for in the country. For example, Perugia is widely known for its meat and chocolate. It seems as though every Perugian loves their red meat. And the chocolate, well it is simply the best chocolate I have ever had. It might be because they have their chocolate factory here so it is just that much better.
Another major Italian misconception is that they all talk with hands, like with huge hand gestures. Truth is, I don’t think I have seen one Italian talk with their hands. I think I talk with my hands way more than they do. What is unique about how the hand motions that Italians use is that each motion means something, from the way that their fingers are placed to how fast the hand motion is. The hand motions are all very intentional in the Italian culture, whereas in American when we talk with our hands the gestures simply don’t mean anything.
There are many other stereotypes that we have all heard about Italy, and there are many stereotypes that Europeans have for Americans such as we’re fat and only eat McDonald’s, or that we drive our cars everywhere, and that one may not be as much of a lie. Either way, despite the truth in stereotypes or not, every country, every group has them. I have had the opportunity in this last month and a half to experience Italian culture up close and personal, but also other European cultures. I have met someone from Norway, Germany, Spain, Turkey, France, Ireland, and so many other places. The beauty in meeting these people from the other European countries isn’t just that I get to compare other cultures to mine, it’s that I also get to compare these cultures to each other. For example, in Italy women are greeted by men kissing either side of their cheeks that is a very European greeting as a whole. What’s interesting is that in Turkey, when a man greets another man, say a good friend, they greet them by leaning in almost like they are going to kiss each other on the cheek but instead they tap heads. It’s not the easiest thing to describe, but that isn’t the point, the point is the differences in cultures that I am seeing that I never would’ve seen if I didn’t study abroad.
Stereotypes are an interesting thing. They’re everywhere we go, from in between cultures to different colleges. They aren’t necessarily a bad thing. Some of the things said can be harmful or simply incorrect, but other times they can be partially truthful. Traveling abroad has allowed me to learn about these stereotypes, and what’s true and what’s not.