Whether they are on holiday or moved abroad for work, Italians do show some unmistakeable behaviors. If you have Italian friends and you hang around them often enough, you certainly noticed at least some of them. Actually, you may even have some yourself.
From their obsession with Italian restaurants to the endless quest for — or continuous escaping from — other Italians, all the way through the way they dress around town, there are some things all Italians do when away from home.
They obsessively seek Italian restaurants and are pretty judgmental about them
Italians who live abroad are, to a greater or lesser extent, all guilty of it: they do want to know about and do want to try Italian restaurants. Mind, this is only in part due to feeling homesick, the inability of cooking or sourcing the right ingredients for a favorite dish. This is all about assessing the territory: friends come to you, mention an Italian restaurant in town, they say “it’s good” and finding out the truth becomes a mission. Good Italians have the duty to ensure the quality of national grub outside the borders well represents the magnificence of Italy’s cuisine, because you know the way it works: you can get an Italian offended only in two ways, by criticizing their family and by butchering la cucina Italiana.
Local Italian restaurants are therefore sought and carefully tried. Everything is evaluated: from the decor to whether they bring you bread and olive oil to munch on while you wait for your main— it’s a no-no: you’d never see that back home — from the menu, to the actual authenticity of each dish. Most eateries gain a mere pass, and only a handful (usually managed by third of fourth generation Sicilians with whom Italian diners immediately get on first-name terms) rise to the “that tasted just like what you get back home” Olympus.
In truth it doesn’t really matter: Italians living abroad are — and always will be — convinced the best Italian restaurant in town is their kitchen.
They can be rather clingy with other Italians, or avoid them like the plague
As exciting and fascinating as it can be, living abroad is not always easy: sometimes you just miss the small comfort given by hearing your native language, and talking about Italian news and current events can be sometimes therapeutic. It doesn’t matter how well settled and integrated you are in your new country, it’s always nice to find someone from Italy to speak to.
Every now and then.
Yes, every now and then, because many Italians abroad — often tourists — would latch on to a fellow countryman or woman as if their entire life depended on them. Of course, being in a foreign country — one that, often, you don’t even understand the language of — can be a tad daunting at times, but then… why go on holiday there? These are the kind of people that Italians living abroad tend to avoid as if they were a curse: be too nice and give them a couple of hints about the best bars in town and you risk to mother them for the entire weekend.
We’re talking two extremes here, though: most Italians living abroad are happy to mingle with new arrivals and it’s always nice to be nice, right?
Italians abroad are not comfortable wearing sportswear unless they are at the gym
Things have changed a little in the past bunch of years, but you’re still unlikely to see an Italian expat — woman or man, it doesn’t matter — dressed in sportswear unless they are on their way to or from the gym. While tracksuit bottoms and hoodies are largely embraced within the safety and coziness of home, things change when it comes to going public looking too sporty. Sportswear is for, well… sports and not to go to a bar nor to the cinema. It could be just acceptable at the supermarket, but only if the outfit is impeccable.
But behind closed doors, Italians of Italy and of the world are very much the same as everyone else: baggy trousers, zip up hoodies and comfy socks all the way.
They suddenly become incredibly patriotic
The longer you live abroad the more, it seems, you become patriotic. It’s natural, I guess, as distance makes the heart grow fonder. After becoming part and integrating into a different culture, you start looking at your own with different eyes. It’s like when you finally become an adult and are able to look at your parents as people and not solely like “mom and dad:” you realize they are not perfect, that they may have even made mistakes, but hell with that, you love them anyway.
Well, living abroad for Italians is just like that: it’s the coming-of-age of their being Italian. Often, they abandon il Belpaese in exasperation, tired of being underpaid and under-considered, feeling they are citizen of the world, cut for a life outside of a country still thinking of the past as a luminous example of national greatness.
And then, it happens: you start looking at your country differently, you start seeing it with the eyes of your foreign friends, of those who didn’t necessarily grow up surrounded by baroque churches, and piazzas and grandmothers who taught them opera arias as if they were tv jingles. It happens just like that: you realize that a lot of who you are also comes from your country, from the values its history gave your family, your community and, then, also to you.