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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!
 

LANGUAGE AND CULTURE

Italy has one of the worst levels of English in the EU, study finds

Despite Italy's popularity with English-speaking visitors and home buyers, the country's average level of English is still among the worst in Europe according to a new study.

Italy has one of the worst levels of English in the EU, study finds

Italy ranked 32nd out of 35 nations in Europe for English-language skills, according to the latest English Proficiency Index study conducted by language school empire English First, putting the country near the bottom of the table once again.

The ranking is based on English language test results of more than two million adults in a total of 111 countries and regions.

Italy scored 560 points out of 700 – placing slightly ahead of Spain with 548 points and France, which came last out of the European countries, with 541.

On average, people in Spain, Italy and France have a “moderate proficiency” in English, the study says, which is in the same range as that in Ukraine, South Korea and Costa Rica. 

A colour-coded map of Europe based on English proficiency (credit: EF EPI)

People with this mid-level of English are able to carry out simple tasks in English such as understanding song lyrics and writing professional e-mails about subjects they’re familiar with, but may have problems with more complex conversations and understanding films that haven’t been dubbed.  

READ ALSO: Why Italians have a hard time learning English

All other European countries were rated as having “high” or “very high” average English-language proficiency levels.

The Netherlands was in first place with a score of 661, and Austria came second with 628.

The global average score was 502.

Italy’s score this year was a slight improvement on 2021, when it came bottom of the ranking among European countries.

The study this year again showed a clear north-south divide when it comes to English language levels, with southern Italian regions scoring markedly worse than those in the north.

A map of Italy showing English language proficiency by region. Dark green indicates a higher average score. There was no data available for Marche. (credit: EF EPI)

Veneto, Emilia-Romagna and Lombardy, all in the north, were named as the Italian regions with the highest levels of English proficiency.

At the bottom end of the table were the southern regions Sicily, Basilicata and Calabria.

Cities with the highest English language levels were Vicenza, Modena and Bergamo, while Puglia’s regional capital Bari fared worst overall, followed by the Sicilian cities of Palermo and Catania.

Why is Italy lagging behind other European countries?

There are thought to be several factors contributing to Italy’s persistently low scores in English-language proficiency rankings.

Teachers, students and language experts say that the way the language is taught in Italian schools generally leaves students at a disadvantage, and that students have few opportunities to use the language in real life.

READ ALSO: Why is Italy ranked among the worst at speaking English in Europe?

Meanwhile, the prevalence of dubbing in film and TV means young Italians are not exposed to foreign languages in this way as often as their counterparts in some European countries.

Why does it matter if Italians don’t speak English?

Criticism of Italians’ English language skills can be a source of irritation for some. 

After all, many Anglophones don’t speak any language other than English – so why should Italians or anyone else need to speak English?

But the study is concerned less with the convenience of tourists, and more with the fact that language learning opens up more opportunities for work, study and communication – and comparatively poor attainment in this regard leaves Italian nationals at a disadvantage.

“A worldwide lingua franca is still necessary,” stated the study’s authors.

“This explains the estimated 2.5 billion English speakers, of which only about 400 million were born into the language. People are learning English because it is useful to them,” the findings noted.

“English is by far the most common language of information exchange across borders, making it a key component for accessing knowledge and expertise.”

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