Here are all the things Italians are so tired of hearing at English universities
‘You’re from Venice, right? Did you take a boat to school?’
We all come to university from different backgrounds and some of us are lucky enough to have had our nationalities represented in films and other media before we even step foot into lecture theatres. However flattering and entertaining that can surely be, it can spiral out of control.
I'm sure you've met your fair share of Italians outside the cinema… we're everywhere, but really, when you meet someone who is actually from Italy, what comes to mind? Pizza? Sunny beaches and gelato? Organised crime?? The Italian Job??
When you're lucky enough to have moved a flight away from home for higher education, you might get some interesting anecdotes thrown at you. Italians let's join together and let us complain like the British about all the stereotypes thrown at us when answering the awkward ice breaker "where are you from?".
"Oh em gee I lived in Rome on my gap yah"
This could be swapped with "It's such a beautiful country. I've never been, but all the pics I see on instagram make it look like paradise!!". Okay, I lied. No-one has ever said that to me, people usually stop at I've never been, but what follows is surely taken from the Instagram account of a travel blogger or two. But really, imagine if I told someone from London "Oh yes the UK! Wonderful! I was in Manchester for my cousin's wedding! I loved it". What would they say? So was I… three years ago… I can't relate at all so I'm smiling and nodding?
"You're from Venice, right? So… did you take a boat to school?"
Oh yeah. And you want to know something fun?? I rowed to the UK. No, actually, I swam. Damnit, why do we always think about good comebacks too late. There are only boats as public transport in Venice, but sometimes this is the second thing that's said to me after I learn your name is Archie, so forgive me if the next joke sounds a little bit like it's stolen from Jughead.
"You said you study English? So you're learning the language, right?"
Okay, this one is hard, because when we try and explain what we're studying to family back in Italy they are the first not to get that yes we already know English and guess what? We study literature. I guess we shouldn't be too bitter… after all my English can't possibly be as good as yours? Is that why, in university premises, possibly before or after a seminar about Old English that we equally don't understand, I'm asked if I speak English like a mother-tongue or if I "struggle with the language". Well, believe me, if thirteen years of international school didn't make my English any good, I'd be demanding a refund.
*Flailing exaggerated hand gestures* accompanied by laughter
They're funny, they're distracting and… meme worthy? What's not to love? King's even had a class on Italian hand gestures, so really, we can't go around complaining too much. They're famous because they're effective in adding to your words or just simply showing anyone in a one mile radius where you come from.
Three words and I'm yours: "Pizza, pasta, mafia"
Me announcing my nationality has sometimes meant people have performed the Super Mario impersonation they'd been kept hidden for years just for the ten seconds it took them to chant those three words. Impressive. Some real talent out there wasted.
"Have you tried the Italian restaurants here? They're run by real Italians"
I don't want to shatter any dreams, but no they're not. Most of them have Italians serving so that you hear the accent and are reassured your food is going to be made in Italy and magically shipped to London. And I've tried some restaurants, but by far the one that is the most genuine is… surprise surprise… Franco Manca. Italian name, Italian waiters, Italian pizza makers… You can't go wrong. It's Italian-judgement-proof.
"Oh I have a friend in halls called Francesca. She's from Naples. Do you know who I'm talking about?"
Yeah. Sure. Not only do all Italians know each other, we're also related. I bet she's my cousin somehow, right? That must be how it works? I guess we all do this unconsciously… we connect people together, thinking it will work just because they come from the same place… but do they? If you knew everyone in London, I'd be very impressed, but if you knew everyone in the UK, I'd call a doctor.
Only come knocking at my door if you want to discuss cheese crusts vs four cheese toppings. Ciao, bella.