We are all friends when far from home.
Italians are a melting pot of their own. Since the Roman empire, Italy was invaded so many times, and by so many different cultures, that unique traits have remained depending on which region you visit – in food, faces and local dialects.
The North still maintains some French and Austrian influence, the Centre has both some proud Renaissance heritage as well as Roman/papal influence. The South instead has strong Spanish and Arabic influence.
When travelling abroad, especially in the US, people seem to think of Italians as monolithic, but nothing could be more wrong. Italians consider each other very different, to the point of dislike. Northerners are hard working business people, Centrists are intellectuals and bureaucrats, Southerners are proud, funny and sociable people, too often known for mafia violence.
Italians may dislike each other so much that divisions explode during football matches, often with violent riots between the supporters of different teams. Italians for centuries have lived a town-centric life. If you live in Florence, your town was everything to you, and your neighbours from Pisa or Siena were probably enemies and hated. That’s the case for many and many cities all around the paeninsula, and it continues today.
If you are from the North, you probably look down somewhat to the people of the South, as lazy and corrupted. If you are from the South, you probably look down on the people of the North as boring and rough.
Overall, Italy has a long standing culture of taking each other not very seriously, and of aggressively teasing one another, almost to the point of insult. It’s a strange part of the culture. Italians are generally not a violent people, not at all – but they boast and talk a big game, and ruthlessly criticise each other. I only noticed this side of my people when I started living abroad, where anything you say is taken sometimes way too seriously, and people seem to be a lot less flexible in their thinking.
Italians, on average, tend to be a little scrappy – they make the most of the little they have, trying to live a good and enjoyable life. Their historic lack of great means, has made them creative. We have been able to create great food out of very simple things; great art out of basic colours and stones; great poets out of bards and entertainers.
There is in Italy a fairly selfish mindset, nowadays – everyone is very much struggling, given the crippling political system and horrible outdated laws that prohibit any economic recovery. Too many people look at the short term, trying to live by and grasp whatever they can, and are very disillusioned about their country and their future. It is sad.
On the contrary, Italians who have moved abroad, in England for example, or in Germany, or in the US, tend to create a strong bond together. They tend to be hard-working and overachieving people who cultivate network and appreciate their old way of life, as well as the good structure that other countries have been able to create.
You can be from the North, the South, the Islands, it doesn’t matter – when you are in London or New York, you are an Italian, and by simply speaking the language, the Italians you meet are inevitably friends and allies.
The support you give each other abroad is far greater than what people in our homeland would do. And that’s also sad.
Changing times and a struggling economy – with the gloomy memories of a hard nationalism that had resulted in war – have substantially destroyed the pride of the nation. I do believe that a degree of patriotism – or, in these days where we look suspiciously at these words, we may call it love for country – is necessary to create harmony and social cohesion. A divided nation will never be able to thrive, and is doomed to slow and progressive decline. If a country does not have a vision for itself, it will not last, and its people will pay the price for it.