In Your Face

People don’t take trips – trips take people.” – John Steinbeck

I’ve discovered that Italy is a very “in your face” type of culture.  It seems like it would be very hard to offend an Italian.  In fact, if you’re not forward with them, they probably just plain won’t get the point of what you’re trying to say.  None of this “be polite so that the people you’re talking to don’t take offense.”  Say it like it is.  They’re so much more real.  That’s why I’ve been told that if Italians are at your house for dinner, it’s completely normal for them to start talking about another really good meal they had—not that the meal is bad, but they say it like it is.  I think that also has a little bit to do with the fact that they warn people when they’re going to strike…especially at schools.  Apparently there may be a strike at the local elementary school this Friday—just over minor contract issues—but still an inconvenience to the parents.  But they warn everyone about it.  And everyone just takes it, goes with the flow, that’s the way it is.

This presents a sharp contrast to both of the cultures that I’ve lived in.  Asian cultural interpersonal interactions are constantly paranoid of their own public image.  You never do anything in a group that would make you look bad, irresponsible, or inadequate.  The person you present is complete and invincible, and one of the biggest insults you could do to someone is pointing out a mistake in front of a large group so that the person loses their honor and dignity.

American culture also shies away from being as much “in your face,” but I think for different reasons.  The reservation that comes in American culture revolves around the “be polite to everyone you meet category so that they’ll think better of you.”  Overall, it feels very fake.  It’s more of a sucking up mentality.  You put on a nice, polite façade because you don’t want to offend anyone, but it’s not because of they’re honor or your honor.  It’s just because you do.

So there’s a brief analysis on cultural differences.  Fortunately, the Italian culture makes it feel okay to brag about the Scrabble game I won on Sunday.  Saturday is the feast of San Giuseppe, which involves carrying the statue of St. Joseph to the Duomo, a mass, followed by fried donuts and wine.  I think I will stop by for the fried donuts.  In my spare time, I will be writing a paper about Piero della Francesca’s Legend of the Holy Cross.


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