Wednesday, 3 December 2008

Sam: Cultural Confusion

It’s Christmas party season, and I’ve been out chatting as usual. My most recent interesting conversation was with a very attractive and very single Italian woman. She was totally confused as to why, after years in England she had failed to snag a boyfriend.

Since these things are endlessly fascinating I started asking her some questions. Were the only guys that actually approached her idiot womaniser types? ‘Yes! How did you know?’, She asked surprised. How did she feel about making it clear that man was interested in her ‘Well I couldn’t do that, I’d be acting like a slut!’. Things started to become clear this was a case of cultural confusion. The thing is that in Italy if you give out any signals at all (e.g. making eye contact or smiling) you are pretty much seen as being totally up for it. You can start to see why friendly American women get into so much trouble and feel totally sexually harassed in Italy.

The interesting thing is that while all cultures tend to use the same basic flirting signals, the whole flirting dance changes in every county you go to – in some places it is as different as the language.  Sometimes it is louder, sometimes more subtle. The problem for this Italian woman is that in Italy the rules are very different to the UK. In Italy a man is interested he will relentlessly pursue his woman only giving up after a long and heated chase. ‘Of course in Italy No means yes!’ She proclaimed. ‘It is like a film I saw set in Rome, there is a man, who has just seen a woman, he runs up to her, proclaiming his love. She slaps him, tells him to fuck off and to get away from her. The next scene he grabs her and they both kiss passionately!’. Try the same thing in the UK and they would probably be calling the police.

So this poor Italian woman had completely turned off all her public flirting signals (as is appropriate for Italy), which means British men presume she is unavailable and she only attracts the womanising rule breakers. It would be nice is someone could get around to publishing the International Languages of Love. Would lead to a lot less confusion for everyone.

10 comments:

Anonymous said...

it is surprising how different things are! my friend was in Bordeaux for a year as part of her degree, and drunkenly snogged a french bloke at a party. apparently the french think you are immediately in a relationship after the first kiss!

Anonymous said...

Spain used to be a very similar country to Italy as far as sexual mores are concerned (both were very traditional societies with a strong influence of the Catholic Church and strong 'family' values) but it has changed a lot.

My impression is that there is a lot of sexual repression in Italy. The way blokes ogle women in public places, the catcalls...

Until they storm the Vatican and send to Pope into exile the Italian won't be free of mind and body.

Cheers

Pepe

lalita said...

In Germany many men are too inhibited to openly show sexual interest in a woman. They are taught to repress their desires not to create a situation that would make them look sexist or threaten equal rights of men and women. As a result, in order to approach a woman, a typical German guy has to drink four beers to overcome his inhibitions. Unfortunately, when the inhibitions go, the seduction attempt tends to be well, crude...Also, it's different from the southern style, where men are prepared for rejections and take them lightly, as part of the game. Here approaching a woman requires so much internal fight, men are deadly offended if a girl rejects them.

Gatz said...

Interesting. I love Italy and usually visit at least once a year. One of the things I most enjoy is the passagiatto before dinner. I always seem to attract more smiles and eye contact than I usually do in Britain. You've made me think that I've been missing out on gorgeous Italian women who think I'm hot.

Anonymous said...

Mmmm well I have Sicilian friend who makes it pretty obvious when she's on the prowl and likes somebody. Honestly guy's (myself included) moan that we can never tell if a girl likes us or not, with my Italian friend there would be no confusion. Simple, uncomplicated, easy to understand does what it says on the tin - more women should be like this. Do any of her male friends think she is 'easy' or a 'slut'? No, not at all.

Anonymous said...

British men think making eye contact and smiling indicates that you fancy them - are you sure?

In my experience, you virtually have to rub your breasts against his face for him to get the hint that you are interested. (But that might be because I prefer shy men to arrogant ones.)

Anonymous said...

I find most British men to be only after one thing, I think it's cos so many women are offering that kind of relationship these days, that it's the norm.

Oh well, I'll keep waiting patiently to find a gentleman, hopefully I'll bump into one, one day

Innocent Loverboy said...

I find most British men to be only after one thing, I think it's cos so many women are offering that kind of relationship these days, that it's the norm.

Not strictly speaking true, Anon #5... that's the media making us all appear like dickheads again. I'm so sick of the media.

Anonymous said...

While in Greece with American friends, we were bemused by being chased down streets and openly propositioned everywhere.

When I smiled at a man on the freeway, he actually started to try to get out of his car when there was a traffic jam.

Frighteningly enthusiasm there.

Anonymous said...

"My impression is that there is a lot of sexual repression in Italy. The way blokes ogle women in public places, the catcalls..."

There is very little sexual repression in Italy. It probably depends on the milieu, but most Italian men are quite un-repressed sexually speaking. They're just very direct and assuming about what they want...