Before I begin, I have to mention, sono filo-italiana, so I am a little biased regarding the following…
What doesn’t make any sense:
- The French (Parisians to be more exact) asking the tourists to speak French, and even acting non-friendly (there’s a syndrome named after Paris, not in a good way, here and here) for a country that receives and depends on so much tourist economy. At least being friendly for a season or two can help their own country’s image. Tourists are there for days, weeks, not months, so why should the tourists learn a new language and understand French as a preparation for the trip to France if they are only there temporarily (for vacation to relax)! It is most certainly nice to have tourists try to speak French, but it should not be an obligation. Most importantly, DO THESE PARISIANS HOLD THE SAME STANDARD FOR THEMSELVES WHEN THEY VISIT ANOTHER COUNTRY (as in do they speak another country’s language when the visit a foreign country)?
- At least some people I met from Firenze, Toscana, whenever they were taking a picture or being a tourist, they would say that they were being “Japanese”. This not only is a very old stereotype (since now that non-Japanese take pictures and selfies like crazy), tourists are allowed to take pictures! They spent so much money they saved to go to a foreign country, OF COURSE they have to take tons of pictures, even if unnecessarily more than they should. Maybe it sounds okay in Italy when someone says that, but it sounds like someone scratching the blackboard when the same thing is said in the U.S., particularly to Asians, Asian-Americans, and Japanese-Americans. To add to the ridiculousness, I am a non-Japanese descent, and I just visited Firenze in May for research purposes, and I was asked if I was Japanese by my Tuscan colleagues… The moral of the story is, since the Italians can’t tell if someone is Japanese or not, they might be seeing another ethnicity taking tons of pictures and called them Japanese.
- Foreign PhD graduate students studying in Italy don’t try to speak Italian and rely only on their English. These students speak English to Italian colleagues as well as their daily encounters, unconsciously forcing everyone else to conform to the foreign students’ comfort zone. I think this really a shame. First, if the students (highly educated and intelligent) spend 10 minutes to 1 hour a day to study the language that surrounds them, they will definitely become masters of the language by the time they graduate (3-4 years). Secondly, as long-term guests to another country, living there for years, not days or weeks, benefiting from the country’s education system and their hospitality, these students should show some sign of courtesy to at least communicate in the country’s official language. They are both missing the opportunity of a life time (after they graduate and if they later wanted to learn the language, it would be too late) and not being really good guests. Show the host country a little love.
- In a English (possibly in Brighton) private elementary or kindergarten, the school asked the students (overwhelmingly majority is Anglo-Saxon) to dress up in “Chinese costumes”, complete with Fu Manchu mustache and “slanted eyes” drawn by eye liners, for a school performance event. I know this because I was shown pictures by two of the kids’ grandma, who proudly said the kids liked dressing up as “Chinese” (or more like Chinese stereotype) and they were innocent enough not to care about the consequences/issues associated with such a derogatory display to the Asian or Chinese eyes. Some stereotypes are just too old and outdated to even be fathomed that they still persist in Europe, and of all places in England, a country that boasts its diversity (here and here) and number of inter-racial marriages.
- Since we had both the Copa America (Centenario) and the UEFA this year, there’s something odd about the sentiments toward the “Pan-American” soccer and the European soccer. Someone expressed to me that “Players from Copa America play for passion, and European players play for skill.” I ABSOLUTELY DISAGREE WITH THAT. First, not every country in Copa America is good, the same with the countries that played in UEFA. Secondly, have you seen the good team forms and efforts from Brazil, Argentina, and even Chile?! They are solid, they work together, and their team and form are impeccable. So where did this “Europeans are better at soccer” coming from? Many of the top soccer players from Brazil, Argentina, Chile, and Guzman (a wonderful goalie, by the way) from the U.S. are in European soccer league, meaning that they are just as good as the European players. Sometimes people hold Europe to such a pedestal unnecessarily.
- I read in this Italian news article from Corriere della Sera, titled “In Spagna più di 6 milioni d’immigrati ma non c’è xenofobia. Ecco come funziona la ricetta dell’integrazione” (roughly translated to be “More than 6 million immigrants in Spain, but there’s no xenophobia. Here’s how the recipe of integration works”), misleading by the way, as there is no mention of xenophobia in the article. I have to first applaud the work that these professors are doing, getting the Spanish people to trust that immigrants do not harm their economy, and that the fear of losing jobs is unfounded. The thing I wanted to pick on is that in the article (I have yet to read really what is in the report and the interview still), it mentioned that the Spanish’s attitude toward immigrants were the same before and after the 2004 Madrid terrorist attack (“Anche dopo l’attacco terroristico del 2004 a Madrid, l’atteggiamento degli spagnoli non è cambiato nei confronti degli immigrati”), but… What about the attitude the immigrants felt from the native Spanish? Did they feel more fearful, more integrated, or experience more discrimination? To me, not mentioning this point was a big flaw in the article, as this is essential to the well-being of the immigrants, who might have been forced out of their country and having no choice but to settle in Spain. In this case, I have to bring up France’s racial profiling tactics after the terrorist attack recently. Did they not learn anything from the U.S.’s mistakes during the aftermath of 9/11?
- Non si parla l’italiano in volo di KLM da Firenze. The flight attendants I had on the KLM flight only spoke to me in English, even though the flight was departing from Firenze. There was a young man who only spoke Italian and Spanish having much difficulty with what was going on, and he had to rely on and endure my rusty Italian for translating the announcements (made only in Dutch and English).
Okay, my sister would have said more than these from her experience studying in Germany for 4 years, but that’s another story.
What makes sense:
- I have to mention again, sono filo-italiana, so here it goes. From the beginning, my interaction with Italians have averaged to be positive, here is a big reason: they understand that a big portion of their economy depends on tourists, and they try to help the tourists as much as they can. 11 years ago when I studied abroad in Italy, not a lot of people spoke English, and this past May, you can find someone who speaks English almost anywhere. For the most part, they are friendly to tourists.
- Italians also understand and can relate to being discriminated (did you hear about how Italian workers were treated in France and in the U.S.?), and they are even very accommodating and accepting of tourists and immigrants (see how Riace welcomes immigrants and Rome’s Chinese police officers). They have very well-rounded language programs for the newly arrived, even the national TV/radio website has a section for learning Italian (please go see how the actors in these videos were African-Italians and Croatian-Italians, with inter-racial marriage, that was very progressive even in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s).
- Speaking Italian in Italy is a good thing (according to my sister, this is not really the case in Germany). I would really like to speak Italian more if I can, 11 years ago I was quite good at it, but since it has been very hard to find someone to speak Italian with, my Italian is okay but rusty. While I prepared my talk to be presented to my Italian colleague and students at a university in Firenze, I also prepared a little introduction in Italian; my colleagues were astonished and kept asking me how come I speak Italian. More than that was their positive encouragement and helping to further my cause.
- Italy has decided to eliminate waste as much as they can. I have to show you this:
This is how Alitalia complies with minimizing waste. Biodegradable packaging for all the in-flight meals and also biodegradable utensils and cutlery. I don’t really care how the customers of Alitalia don’t make a proper line when they are boarding, I will book an Alitalia flight just for their effort. Love that. Also Coop, the Italian co-op chain grocery store also allows shoppers to use biodegradable bags to put fruits and vegetables (most of Italy’s vendors don’t want you to touch the fruits and vegetables, at a big grocery story, they would ask you put gloves on and/or put the fruits in the bag but with some protection from you). LOVE that. This was in Toscana though, where the sanitary service picks up the organic food waste daily, so elsewhere may not be like this in the grocery store.