by Andrew Nute (University of Colorado)
DURING MY TIME IN ITALY I have noticed that certain stereotypes about Italian people are not as accurate as maybe they once were. However, some definitely are very accurate as the case usually is with less negative stereotypes. When I came to Italy I noticed that a lot of the guys were really aggressive with the American girls. I thought that was a stereotype that I had heard prior to coming here and believed to be true. But after being here for a while I started to pick up on how Italian guys treat American and Italian girls that I believe they respect and like. Certain Italian guys with a romantic type of relationship treated at least that girl nicely and so did their friends. However guys that did not care for a multiple-day relationship were always the ones acting like jerks. Now I have come to realize that this is the way it is everywhere. Some guys a jerks and some guys are nice to new people just like some girls can be. This stereotype that Americans have of Italians is just as wrong as the stereotypes that Italians have of Americans.

Other stereotypes that aren’t so negative are definitely true such as the constant gesturing even while talking. If an Italian is talking to you he or she will be using his or her hands to express emotion on top of using exaggerated tones. Even when they aren’t waving their hands like they are controlling aircraft through a minefield, they will be touching to express how personal something they have to say is. Here there is a lot of understood communication that they don’t need to express. One example of this is that nobody will be around from 1 pm to 4 pm and because of this there is absolutely no mistaking between what hours are the morning and what are the evening. When an Italian talks with you for longer than 30 seconds, they intend to add a substantial amount of information to the extended conversation that is the way of speaking here. There is no literal translation for the word bye. Some would say “ciao” but as I learned here that is really a derivative from a word in Latin or Italian that means or meant “I am your slave.” Ciao is used as a greeting and final word after a conversation much like aloha in Hawaii.

Stereotypes like that Italian guys use a lot of gel in their hair is not true either. They all care about looking good but none of them have a gross amount of goo hanging from their hair. Some don’t even use gel and have long hair. And no, not all of those with long hair have a black pony tail. These are just a few examples of how stereotypes can be true and how they can be false or based on misconceptions. The one thing that I have learned about stereotypes is that they can’t be trusted. They may not be wrong but you should never follow them before experiencing a people first with an open mind.