Travel Log 9, “Exploring Stereotypes” by Katheryn DeMarey. Florence, Italy

Having come from a family who practically lives ‘under a rock’ I really didn’t have a lot of knowledge of other cultures. My family never really talks about other cultures, never travels to experience different types of people and we are generally very open-minded individuals. This being said, the definition of stereotype’s that I think of is the way high school students classify each other as the ‘geeks’ or the ‘jocks’… when it comes to cultural stereotypes, I really didn’t come to Europe having very many pre-connotations.  Yes, the typical photo of a heavier set Italian man with a mustache slurping spaghetti may come to mind, but I didn’t expect that to be a prevalent trend throughout Italy.

I find that the stereotype’s that exist throughout my host culture are mainly between Italians and Americans. Italians seem to view touring Americans as a disturbance, easily manipulated and more or less… stupid. I think that many times the stereotype’s that are held by Italians are very true. When you look around the Duomo you see thousands of people looking up, walking into each other, gawking at the gypsies on the side of the road, taking pictures of native people doing their daily activities and even video chatting their parents out loud speaker on their way to lunch. I find that many Americans are very self-centered when traveling around Europe, to the point that they don’t care if they are causing a traffic jam while they are taking their perfect Instagram photo in the middle of the street.

At first I was a little taken back by the treatment Americans receive from the people from our Italian host culture, but after the first few weeks I have come to reason with the way we are viewed. I think the stereotype of ‘you stupid American’ has righteously developed from the actions of all the Americans who travel. There are few travelers who have a global mind set and are looking to be engulfed into the host culture atmosphere. Americans in particular are very much used to their 5 star hotels and snappy service and they are not afraid to cause a ruckus when something doesn’t go their way.

To an extent I agree with the phrase ‘stereotypes emerge to fill a vacuum of knowledge’. I think that many times, there is a correct aspect to stereotypes but other times; stereotypes are made to make oneself feel comfortable with the unknown.

Throughout writing this blog post I have figured out that because I am an American and frequently find myself frustrated with other Americans actions, I feel as though the stereotypes are accurate within my host culture… when they may not fully be.  This being said, not all Americans act the way I have described. This is what makes stereotypes unfair because it classifies EVERYONE under one judgment even though many individuals may stray from the stereotypical thoughts. Oddly enough, I don’t find myself stereotyping the different cultures around me … I find myself stereotyping other Americans based off of my frustrations in how I see them act.

e4142f44267a5325f0c81ad605932cc3The photo I chose to depict the average stereotype of an Italian is shown to the left. There are some correct stereotype’s to this photo like the fact that the man is being depicted as eating pasta, but the amount of pasta is completely wrong. I think that many times the portion size that Americans think of is much larger than the actual portion sizes of this country. Pasta doesn’t necessarily mean meatballs and bread either… Italians actually seem to stray away from the thought of meat with meals. Looking deeper into the food culture of Italy, I have found that the meals are WAY longer than American meals, but this trend is solely based on the purpose that Italians view family time in high regards and meals are a great time for quality time with your friends and families. So yes, the stereotype of ‘eating is a big thing in Italy’ is correct but many times it’s not for the food… it’s for the time to bond with your loved ones.

 

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2 thoughts on “Travel Log 9, “Exploring Stereotypes” by Katheryn DeMarey. Florence, Italy

  1. Katheryn,

    I always enjoy reading travel logs from other students studying abroad in Italy, because I find that we often are experiencing the same things! Similar to your experience, I at first was angry towards the Italians in Rome, annoyed that they were generalizing all Americans with such negative judgements. However, with time, I sadly understood why they’ve developed these stereotypes, and even find myself trying to hide the fact that I’m American when out to avoid rude looks and whispers. This is why I find it so important to surround yourself with students who respect the cultural differences of your host-culture, therefore showing Italians that not all Americans fall under these negative connotations.

    Furthermore, I love the picture in which you have chosen in order to represent an American stereotype towards Italians. It is definitely true that Italians take their food seriously, and have no issue having pasta several times a week! However, I agree that the positions and sides are different from what Americans believe is “Italian food”. Being that my parents were raised in Naples, Italy, I always grew frustrated growing up when people would ask if my parents cooked “spaghetti and meatballs”. I would always try to explain that pasta was not served with meatballs, that this was an Americanized Italian dish. Have you noticed any other differences in the food culture compared to American stereotypes?

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  2. I think that the main difference with American stereotypes and Italian food is the huge portion mentality. I think that in restaurants we actually receive much smaller portions than Americans typically get when they order. Breakfasts and coffees are much different as well. In America I would order huge breakfasts but here I find myself content with a banana or a croissant.

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