Travel Log 9: “Exploring Stereotypes” By Marc Capparelli. Venezia, Italia

Being of Italian descent, you could say that I hear many different stereotypes about Italians all the time. Some of these include Italians only eating pasta and pizza, Italians always talking with their hands, and Italians looking similar to myself: dark haired with olive skin and hairy bodies. After traveling to Italy, I can definitely say that of these stereotypes some have been shown to be true, some false, and some in-between.

Italians eat all types of foods. Pizza is definitely all over the nation and pasta is definitely on every menu and it is also almost always delicious. However, a more specific stereotype is that Italians only eat spaghetti and meatballs for their pasta dish or that the pasta dish would have a red sauce. I’ve learned that the red sauce pasta dishes are generally more in the south. This is because the southern Italians were the ones to immigrate to America, making spaghetti and meatballs a southern Italian dish. Yet, as you travel north this dish becomes even less common. The variation in types of pasta is tremendous.

Most people always mention that Italians talk with their hands. I always thought of this to be more of an exaggeration than a truth until I came to Italy. Italians do not only use their hands when talking, but they also use their entire bodies to say what they want to say. Italians move so much when they talk that it is actually extremely entertaining to simply watch people converse. The body language of an Italian during conversation carries the conversation way more than the words themselves.

Although Italians may eat lots of pasta and talk with their hands, they definitely do not all have olive skin and dark hair. While some may look this way, there are Italians that have pale skin or light skin or with blonde hair or some lighter hair too. Italians come in all shapes and sizes. I thought everyone would be short like myself but there are even tall Italians! I was blown away.

Speaking about American stereotypes, I’ve learned that most people think Americans eat only hamburgers or hotdogs or McDonald’s and they we are very fat. Though, I’m never offended by this stereotype and it usually just makes me laugh. However, when talking to a Belgian I met in the gym who is studying in Perugia, he told me that Americans only hang out with each other and don’t like to socialize with people who aren’t American. While he told me this after I told him I had never been to this one club in Perugia that gets really packed and people stand shoulder-to-shoulder, I could see how he may think this at times. I was annoyed by his comments but I do know that most Americans go to American consortiums where they are with American students most of the time. Now it may appear that Americans stick together, but I certainly do not think it’s true, at least not about myself. I think of myself as friendly and I like to converse with people regardless of their nationality. I think this stereotype, including others, “usually emerge to fill a vacuum of knowledge.” Even though I was annoyed by what the Belgian student had said, I could tell he wasn’t trying to be mean. I now see that it was just simply not knowing. He believes the stereotype, just like other people believe stereotypes, to fill the void of not knowing. People like to label things, and stereotypes are a short and quick way to label a whole lot of people.
I chose this picture of the girls from Mean Girls to demonstrate a clique. Based off what the Belgian man said, an American stereotype here is that Americans only hang out with Americans. The girls from Mean Girls only spent time with each other and thought that all other girls were ugly and boring. 

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