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I'm a 21-year-old journalism student. I spent last semester living in Florence, Italy. These are my adventures.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Diversity Diary #9

Greece was really the first time I got to talk to talk to Europeans other than Italians. Although I had been to Switzerland, we didn’t really get a chance to meet anyone besides other American students traveling and staying at the hostel. Most everyone else was shut inside for the coldest weekend of the year.
I mentioned that we made friends with a Brit, James, for a couple of days in Athens. He made his opinion of Italians clear. “Ohhhh Italy. Italian men.” Then he proceeded to mock the stereotypical over-sexed, passionate Italian man. “Kissy kissy ohh mwah mwah mwah.”
It made me laugh, but it got me thinking about stereotypes. Americans certainly have plenty of assumptions about European countries, but I hadn’t really thought about the stereotypes formed within Europe of their neighboring countries.
In contrast to the wildly inappropriate Italian men, James also said people perceive Englishmen as cold and unfeeling. He didn’t see why not being as showy as Italians made him cold. It was an interesting conversation.

A few days later we ran into an Armenian man in Santorini. Now I’ve already heard Italians’ general presumption about Armenians. “Stay away from the Armenians.” People have said the inappropriate behavior and disrespectful cat calls of “Ciao bella!” come from Armenians, not Italians as American students often mistake. As a whole, they’re not a favorable crowd to Italians.
Well this man didn’t have too many kind words to speak of Italians either. When we told him we study in Italy, his immediate question was “what do you think of Italians?” We didn’t really give him an answer before he was telling us his own opinion. “They’re not helpful at all. In my culture, in my country, if your fellow man needs help, you help him. They don’t ever help me when I’m there. Not for directions. Nothing. They don’t like to help people.” My best guess is this may be true, but the stereotype Italians have of Armenians is probably largely to blame. Who knows though?

I just thought it was really interesting to hear from both sides of this. I felt like I was listening to both sides of a stupid argument between bickering children.

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