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LANGUAGE AND CULTURE

The A to Z guide to dating an Italian

So you're thinking of dating an Italian? Here's our A to Z guide on navigating the Italian dating scene.

The A to Z guide to dating an Italian
Photo: Shutterstock

Aperitivo

Let's start at the beginning.

The informal Italian aperitivo is a great way to get to know your new love interest on a first date, without breaking the bank.

Be persistent

Men, take note. Some Italian woman expect to be conquered, so be prepared to put the hours in and dedicate yourself to some serious romance.

Conquer by cooking

Italians are frequently excellent cooks, so expect to be cooked for. The negative side of this is that, while you may also be a genius in the kitchen, your Italian partner might kick you out.

Dutch dates

The general convention in Italy is that the guy will pay for your date, so gentlemen should make sure they bring enough money to cover the bill in case she doesn't offer to split it.

Early

As in, 'don't bother being on time'.

It's perfectly normal for Italians to turn up 10-15 minutes late to anything. Dates are no exception. And if the wait is even longer that that? While there are limits, remember that punctuality just isn't such a big deal in Italy. Try to keep your cool.

Fidanzato/a

This one is a biggie.

Fidanzato literally means “betrothed”, so when your Italian boyfriend or girlfriend starts referring to you as their findanzato/a it's a sign that things are getting serious.

Be warned – the turning point is normally when you go to dinner at their parents' house.

Gender roles

In Italy's overwhelmingly patriarchal society, a more defined division of gender roles persists. Especially in the more traditional, Catholic south of the country.

Men from other cultures might find it baffling that their Italian girlfriend demands he 'look after' her. Whereas women might view their Italian boyfriend's desire to 'protect his woman' a little chauvinistic.

High maintenance

Let's just say that it's no coincidence that the word 'diva' is an Italian word. Men need to be prepared to give as good as they get!

Intimacy

Generally speaking, Italians are much more touchy-feely, which can cause a headache when it comes to reading the signs.

Just because your cute Italian friend hugs you and ruffles your hair, it doesn't necessarily mean there is a romantic interest from their part.

You might be in the dreaded 'friend zone'.

Jokes

The language of love may be universal, but humour certainly isn't.

English people take note: 'English humour' is a term Italians often use to describe a joke that just isn't funny.

Think carefully before starting a conversation with “three nuns walked into a bar…”

Kids

Though Italians famously love kids, there are in fact fewer children being born in the country every year. But your Italian partner may still be keen to bring up the subject surprisingly early on.

Look good

If you're going on a date with anybody from any nationality, you should of course always put a bit of effort into how you look.

But Italians are well known for taking this to another level.

Generally, most Italians are on point with style and will turn up for a date (or any occasion) looking their best. Make sure you do the same.

Mamma

Women beware: Italian men are slightly notorious for being mummy's boys – or mammoni.

Obviously this is not true for all men, but generally in Italian culture, mamma continues to look after her sons until they are well into their 30s (and beyond), much to the fury of their exasperated partners.

If you're from a culture where this doesn't happen, brace yourself.

No

'No' means 'no' in both English and Italian – men, take note.

Odd numbers

Gift-giving is always tricky. But if you're buying flowers for your Italian girlfriend or boyfriend, they should be given in an odd number, for superstitious reasons. That said, a bunch of 12 is perfectly fine on your wedding day.

Playing hard to get

As a general rule, Italian women are good at this, so don't expect this to be easy. Italian men are expecting it, so girls can have plenty of fun making them sweat.

Quick

Woah there. Slow down. This is dating Italian style. Linger over your dinner, have a philosophical chat. Whatever you do, take things slow.

Ragazzo/a

The Italian word for boyfriend or girlfriend, but it is generally used in the early stages of a relationship before things get too serious.

Scooter

Italian men, listen up. Foreign women of all ages are going to dig your scooter and want to be taken for a spin on the back of it.


However, it should be noted that the novelty of this has worn off for all Italian women over the age of 18.

Tinder

Probably not the best place to start.

Italians are known as outgoing and sociable people and there are plenty of opportunities to find Mr or Miss Right without going online.

Ultra – passionate?

The Italians have a reputation for being some of the most passionate people on the planet. There might just be something to it.

One woman told The Local that Italians were “way more passionate than Nordic people”. Crikey.

 

Vanity

Italian men have a reputation for vanity so be careful not to insult their good looks! On the plus side, they will turn up for dates looking impeccable.

Whatsapp

A bit of a double-edged sword. While it's great for breaking the ice, Whatsapp has been linked to the soaring rate of divorce in Italy right now.

X

As in, your partner's dreaded Ex.

Ex's will rear their ugly heads from time to time as they are wont to do. Sorry folks, in Italy, it's the same old story…

Yellow

In Italy, yellow is the colour of jealousy – so flower givers beware. In the UK and US, yellow flowers are a symbol of friendship.

Don't get it wrong in Italy, or you risk sending out the wrong message.

Zoo 

If you play your cards right, that's exactly where you could be taking your Italian grandchildren in 40 years time…

Carpe Diem!
 

CULTURE

Why Friday the 13th isn’t an unlucky date in Italy

Unlucky for some, but not for Italians. Here's why today's date isn't a cause for concern in Italy - but Friday the 17th is.

Why Friday the 13th isn't an unlucky date in Italy

When Friday the 13th rolls around, many of us from English-speaking countries might reconsider any risky plans. And it’s not exactly a popular date for weddings in much of the western world.

But if you’re in Italy, you don’t need to worry about it.

There’s no shortage of strongly-held superstitions in Italian culture, particularly in the south. But the idea of Friday the 13th being an inauspicious date is not among them.

Though the ‘unlucky 13’ concept is not unknown in Italy – likely thanks to the influence of American film and TV – here the number is in fact usually seen as good luck, if anything.

The number 17, however, is viewed with suspicion and Friday the 17th instead is seen as the unlucky date to beware of.

Just as some Western airlines avoid including the 13th row on planes, you might find number 17 omitted on Italian planes, street numbering, hotel floors, and so on – so even if you’re not the superstitious type, it’s handy to be aware of.

The reason for this is thought to be because in Roman numerals the number 17 (XVII) is an anagram of the Latin word VIXI, meaning ‘I have lived’: the use of the past tense apparently suggests death, and therefore bad luck. It’s less clear what’s so inauspicious about Friday.

So don’t be surprised if, next time Friday 17th rolls around, you notice some Italian shops and offices closed per scaramanzia’.

But why then does 13 often have a positive connotation in Italy instead?

You may not be too surprised to learn that it’s because of football.

Ever heard of Totocalcio? It’s a football pools betting system in which players long tried to predict the results of 13 different matches.

There were triumphant calls of ho fatto tredici! – ‘I’ve done thirteen’ – among those who got them all right. The popular expression soon became used in other contexts to mean ‘I hit the jackpot’ or ‘that was a stroke of luck!’

From 2004, the number of games included in Totocalcio rose to 14, but you may still hear winners shout ‘ho fatto tredici’ regardless.

Other common Italian superstitions include touching iron (not wood) for good luck, not toasting with water, and never pouring wine with your left hand.

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