How Growing up in an Italian Family Makes it Hard to Relate to American Families (Key Differences)

  1. The way that we view and treat animals versus how they are valued in American Culture.


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Growing up my parents had no pets and when they decided to have me six years later and my brother two years later, they never had the desire nor did they want to be burdened with a pet not only is it a third child but you have all that nasty shit everywhere and plus, they shed.  

My mom’s mother never wanted pets or took much liking towards them but that is not to say that Italian families don’t have pets- YES, tons of Italian-Americans and families in Italy have pets but the way that they treat them is different than how an American may treat them.  Italians are very religious about their furniture so if they have a pet they will not let them up on the furniture or in the bed with them.  And generally, we don’t treat pets- whether it be a dog or cat- as family members! We just don’t!  

As I went to Italy last year, there were some people with dogs- that is not to say though that every Italian on la strada (the path) had a pet.  But if they had a pet, I noticed some things that were quite different that fascinated me they always stayed by their owners and never really looked interested in other people nor did they bark or howl at other people.  And I saw a couple leash-less dogs standing outside of their owners store in the centro.  Not only this but Italians don’t really value pets as much as their farm animals. 

2. The superstitions that we believe in that Americans might find kind of stupid or ridiculous. . .


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I remember when we were growing up my mom would always tell us to NEVER put our hats on the bed (since it is bad luck and it tied with death somehow) and NEVER to put shoes on the bed or table either.  Also, there is something called the Malocchio, which is also known as the evil eye and usually what Italians will do, as I know my grandparents have done this, is they test some olive oil in a plate of water and if the oil forms a large drop right in the middle of the plate and is not spread out then it is a definite sign of the evil eye and sometimes prayers are said to relieve this power but to ward off the evil eye we have the Cornicello (The little horn).  My dad actually wears this around his neck and had one that he put in his car for good luck. 

Not to mention when you make bread, it has to be facing up, my Nonna does this every time she makes a loaf of fresh bread.  It has to be facing up or else it is bad luck and I believe it has to do how it is impolite because bread is a symbol of life as the Bread of Life.

3. American Grandparents are MUCHHHHHHHHHH DIFFERENT than your average Italian grandparents!!!

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While you are an American living in the United States you are not raised in a villa with mom, dad, your siblings, you, nonna e nonno.  That is not to say that I or my family lived in a luxurious villa but the point is: family is a CRUCIAL role and particularly plays a role in your future relationships with other people.  

The mother is an important part of the family- as she is like the bread and butter of the family and she knows everything about the lives of her husband and children (their friends and their lives).  Although, the roles may have changed for women in Italy now, not sure.  To Americans, it might seem a little crazy that the mother has to keep everything together but they are known to run every aspect of domestic life.  That is how my Nonna and her mom were raised.  They might also think that Italian mothers spoil their children and do too much for their husbands.  But she is the glue of the family keeping it all together.  In addition, if someone in the family passes away whether it be the mother or father usually the grandparents step in to raise their grandchildren and they are with them more often than even the parents (as they are active in the lives of their children and grandchildren).  

One thing, I have noticed is American grandparents are not as active in the lives of their grandchildren.  When something happens in an Italian family whether it be financial problems, Nonno e Nonna always has the back of their son/daughter and grandchildren.  

Here American grandparents almost act like they would be bothered if they were asked to watch their grandchildren while the parents are at work.  As they believe they have their own thing to do and already had their time raising children.  Which is why American families get a babysitter to do the job that they don’t want to do.  But who needs a sitter when you got nonno e nonna, they love watching their grandchildren and would take advantage of any moment they got to spend with them. 

Another thing, when you are married, you marry his/her family and for an Italian family that means calling his mom and dad: “Ma” and “Dad.”  There is simply no “Hey Mary” or “Hey Tony.”  They are also your Mom and Dad now and they will tell you to call them that!  But the American family finds this weird because it is not your actual parents and I don’t even know to this day how they address their in-laws??

4. Our love for the traditional ways of doing things for the holidays and recipes that we keep alive in the family.

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Let’s just say there is an emphasis to keep certain traditions flowing throughout the family, like a recipe from a great-grandma that I’ve never met or her mother.  When you great the family you have to hug and give a kiss on both sides of the face it is just the way we operate!

I also grew up with my nonno, both of them, playing the accordion in the house.  But my mother’s dad always would play it more often even though he only knew about one song.  An essential part of the culture is the food.  No matter what holiday it is, you gotta have pasta!  Usually for easter we first have pasta with broccoli and then lamb and some cod and some salad.  If we went to my Dad’s parents they would usually have a tradition of playing a card game called Scopone(which is actually my grandmother’s maiden name).

5. When we talk loud sometimes people mistake us as being rude when that is how we talk

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Most people that hear us talk think that we are deep in an argument when in reality we are just having a normal conversation about work, life, and the family.  And we are also very expressive people which is why we always talk openly with our hands all the time.



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