This article is purely ironic on some stereotypes. If you’re a touchy person, I’m really sorry for you and your inability to detect sarcasm.
When you’ve been travelling for a while, you understand that there’s so much more to be learned from it than just eating new and weird stuff, getting used to drinking at non-conventional times (times for which your mother would call you an alcoholic) and using transportation that looks as if it’s come straight from the 80’s. The most challenging part of travelling is getting in touch with the locals. Yes, the people that are staring with disappointment at you, at your clothes and your backpack. They are the ones with clean hair, who remind you of the fundamental, life-changing power of a shower; even if you’re not meeting anyone you know.
So yes, meeting locals is a tough challenge, especially in countries where English knowledge is not so widespread. And even if you manage to find your way through the language and cultural barriers, you may notice that there are some topics that aren’t actually good for light conversations. Topics that may, inadvertently, hurt the delicate sensibility of your conversation partner, leading to unwanted misunderstandings and to the premature end of a promising new friendship. Topics you should shut the fuck up about if you want to enjoy a nice evening.
Just a quick summary of my own conjectures: you don’t want to address guns in the US, prostitution in Thailand, the government in China, homosexuality in Russia or aged cheese in France. It is highly probable that you’re going to have to listen to an endless monologue about topics you have no clue about and may not agree with your new acquaintance.
So here I provide you with a short, life-saving guide to the worst conversation topics you could think of while in Italy. Thank me later.
Let’s start with the obvious.
I know you may feel the uncontrollable urge to express your opinion on politics or to just mockingly ask “What country would keep on voting for such a figure?”. I mean, the guy was fucking chicks in the parliament and jerking around other Prime Ministers and similar shit for twenty years. The thing is, you don’t really want to hear the answer. There are three possible answers and every one of them is equally going to waste your time.
1. “Oh well, he did actually do some good things”. You’ve met a Berlusconi supporter. You still have some seconds left to run away and save your ass before having to hear the wonders of Berlusconi’s economic miracle of the 90’s.
2. “It’s a bit more complicated than this”. The complete history of post-war Italian politics is awaiting you following this sentence, in a pathetic attempt to try and convince you of the fact that the country is not completely fucked up.
3. “He is the representation of the old political robbery, which must disappear”. Maybe it sounds nice to you, my naïve companion. Sadly this individual is going to trap you in an irrational spiral of conspiracy theories about ‘chemtrails’ and Big Pharma bullshit – after trying to get you to take part in a Cinque Stelle meet-up. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, you lucky mate, please listen to me and blow.
I’m sorry, I must recommend that you avoid the food topic, too. The person in front of you may think of you as a stereotypical foreigner eating pasta with ketchup – and is not going to recognize your culinary expertise. Even if you can prove your knowledge of real, proper, traditional Italian food® there is always going to be a better pizza, lasagne or gelato than the one you proclaim to know. Trying to debate food could be like “trying to play chess with a pigeon — it knocks the pieces over, craps on the board, and flies back to its flock to claim victory.” In a nutshell, spare yourself the time and frustration and just focus on beer, don’t try to compete with mamma’s wisdom.
Last but not least, it’s time for the enormous, stinky elephant in the room: the Church. Deep down there’s not much to say about it: I know that where you may come from Catholics look like an obscurantist ancient cult led by an elderly dude with shitloads of gold, but here in old Italia it’s actually just a religion. The vast majority is baptized and doesn’t give a damn about it. That’s why your stereotypes about Catholics not using condoms or being virgins until marriage could in many cases slightly irritate your interlocutor.
After carefully reading what I’ve written until now, it seems I’m taking away all the potentially funny conversations from your Italian trip and that Italians are really oversensitive pretentious fuckers. But no, not all of them are like this (just the writer); so try and dive into the wonderful world of a true, honest and open chat with a local.