Travel Log 9: “Exploring Stereotypes” By Jim Webb Perugia, Italy

Stereotypes are encountered in varying degrees by every group of people on the planet earth.  Hafez Adel, a University of California at Irvine student wrote an article titled “Slashing Stereotypes” for the magazine Abroad View.  She described stereotypes as a generalization of people emerging to fill a vacuum of knowledge.  After reading this I looked up what the real definition of a stereotype was and in Meriam-Websters Dictionary a stereotype is, “a widely held but fixed and oversimplified image or idea of a particular type of person or thing.”  I think combing these two partial definitions gives us the best definition of a stereotype, a widely held but fixed and over simplified image or idea of a particular type of person or thing stemming from a lack of knowledge or understanding.

Before coming to Italy I had a few ideas of what I was going to be seeing everyday, stereotypes if you will of the Italian people.  I half expected men with thick mustaches, in wife-beaters with old pasta stains on it, speaking through a heavy accent, while over gesticulating with their hands.  The Italian women were the picture of fashion, gorgeous and always draped in the finest and most expensive clothes.  And everyone in Italy had at least a cousin that was in the mafia.

But for the most part I was wrong about these Italian stereotypes.  Yes, the majority of Italians do talk a lot with their hands but its always to convey some point they are making better.  I was right about the women being beautiful and dressing to the nines for every occasion but surprisingly Italian men dress just as well.  Now the mafia stereotype was very much a stereotype in my region but down south in Sicily having family in the mafia is not something to assume but its probably true.  One issue with Italian stereotypes is that Italy is still so new to me and each region is so culturally different that most of the stereotypes I know are about the American-Italians.  Within Italy there are pretty major stereotypes between the different regions and I found a small list online that compiles it pretty well.

Apulians – Pugliesi, Apulians, are said to be proud and ironic opportunists.

Calabrians– People from Calabria are considered mistrustful and stubborn.

Genoeses and Ligurians – People from Genoa  and, more in general, from the region of Liguria, are said to be tirchi or stingy.

Lucani – People from Basilicata are considered stubborn.

Milaneses – People from Milan are renowned, following the cliché, for being arrogant, cold and efficient in the working world.

Neapolitans – people from Naples are considered noisy, superstitious and good at making pizza.

Piedmonteses – There is an Italian saying referring to people coming from Piedmont: Piemontese falso e cortese, which means Piedmontese are kind, but false.

Romagnoles – People from Romagna are famous for being passionate, greedy and feisty.

Romans – Two adjectives are often attributed to people from Rome: noisy and burini, the Roman dialect equivalent of being a hillbilly.

Sardinians – People from this gorgeous island are said to be proud, stubborn hicks.

Sicilians – People from Sicily are labeled as omertosi, meaning that they don’t talk especially when it comes to denouncing

I know there are a lot of stereotypes about Americans but I am glad to say the group I am with breaks a lot of them.  I think many Europeans view Americans as fat, arrogant, gun toting, and loud.  Which I hate to say it but, that isn’t too far off depending on where you go in America.  My group in Italy is different we are relatively fit, the majority of us are invested in the culture here and try to leave our arrogance at home, there don’t seem to be too many gun toting Americans, and finally we are defiantly loud.  I think most of these stereotypes have emerged because of media portrayal and are very loosely based on facts, much like our stereotypes of other cultures.  Stereotypes are defiantly used to fill a vacuum made from a lack of understanding like Adel suggests.  However, in a few instances the stereotypes are very true and completely accurate of what life is really like.  The image I chose to accompany this travel log is one of the ones I found when I googled “American stereotypes.”  I think it accurately represents the extreme version of the fat, arrogant, gun toting, and loud American that some people might jump to think about.  I do however think that interacting with any of the students in my abroad program would quickly change a persons’ view of a stereotypical American.  I think the only way to get rid of stereotypes is to go out and meet people from that culture.us-stereotype2

“The greatest enemy of knowledge is not ignorance, it is the illusion of knowledge.”

-Stephen Hawking

Works cited

Stephen Hawking quote

Fat American Image

Italian regional stereotypes

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