Stereotypes are generalizations about groups of people and they can either be negative or positive. They are often created and sustained to help people who are unfamiliar with the other culture understand something about it. As Hafez Adul said, “…stereotypes endure because they provide a comfortable shortcut to understanding complex matters and that they usually emerge to fill a vacuum of knowledge.” People spread stereotypes because they are ignorant of the truth and it is sometimes easier to give a generic answer, than a detailed one.
One of the biggest stereotypes that I came to Italy with that Italians are lazy. I heard that Italians walk slow and do not have much of an urgency to do anything. While I have noticed that Italians do things slower than Americans, I do not think it is something that should be associated with negativity at all. Italians move slower so that they can appreciate things to the fullest extent. There is a phrase here, “La dolce vita,” the sweet life, that explains how Italians live. They don’t want to move fast because they don’t want to miss any of the sweetness life has to offer. If you ask me, I think that’s a pretty good way to live.
Another stereotype that I had of Italians was that they love wine, and a lot of it. The first part of this statement is true. Italians do love wine and they have a deep appreciation for how the wine is made and what separates certain wines from others. However, people do not drink to get drunk and getting drunk is incredibly frowned upon. It is pretty much a dead giveaway that people are American when they are seen stumbling down the street or taking shots in bars. Italians will casually drink one or two glasses of wine or cocktails with friends to enjoy the taste, but they do not drink in excess. The picture I chose represents the true wine culture in Italy. Wine is usually enjoyed with some food, to prevent getting drunk, and it is sipped casually in company of friends.
One stereotype that was only brought to my attention upon arriving in Italy is that Italian women are rude. This stereotype is mostly spread by men, which makes sense. Maybe the men created this stereotype to protect their egos after being shut down by so many women. In all seriousness, I have noticed that Italian women in general can be colder than many American women. They are not as friendly and are not as quick to trust. Some people say that this is a reaction to the overly-affectionate Italian male counterpart. Italian men love to yell at women and tell them how beautiful they are, so people say that women have become numb to this and give off a cold vibe to keep away the hecklers. While some Italian women are cold, this is not the rule at all. I have met many Italian women who are kinder and more welcoming than many American women. I think this is the biggest thing I have learned about stereotypes. Sometimes they have a little bit of merit, but many times they are not the rule. People in other cultures, just like in America, are individuals and they all operate differently. It is unfair to generalize traits over a whole culture, when there are so many different personalities that make it up.
While I have not had the chance to discuss stereotypes about Americans with many Italians, I did meet a couple of Canadians with whom I discussed stereotypes surrounding each of the cultures. They said that they believed that Americans are generally more blunt in their delivery than people from Canada or other countries. One of them made the joke that it would take a Canadian 25 words to say what an American can say in 3. Even though before I said that I think it is unfair to generalize about a culture, I do believe that this stereotype has some truth. I have noticed that Americans will come right out and ask a question. We are very confident people. I think that this stereotype may have developed in part because it is true, but also to explain why Americans can seem rude and loud. People from other countries are probably a little put off by our boldness, so if they know what to expect before dealing with an American, it may be comforting. In this way, I guess that stereotypes can be truthful and helpful.