- Tova Piha in an article written for The Florentine entitled "Controlling the Cheating"
So while I mostly write from a North-American-in-Italy point-of-view, I’ve also discovered a wee niche community that I fit into: North-American born and raised Asian in an “inter-racial” relationship with a white dude from the other side of the pond. It’s like a sub-category of expat that brings its own challenges, as you may have read about in this well-received blog post: Hardship of the Non-White Expat in Italy. I’ve recently become aware of this special perspective I give on my life here and my relationship with an Italian. Over the past two years of writing this blog, every now and then I receive e-mails from fellow Asian-American ladies out there in the world who are dating Italian men and are either writing me for a couple words of advice or just to share their own experience with me. I should say first-off, sorry to specifically set apart Asian-Americans rather than address all Asians but I just can’t speak for Asians in general, I’m presenting all of this as a second-generation, born and raised Chinese-Canadian who speaks Italian and English and (shamefully) not Cantonese or Mandarin.
As I was saying, I’ve been solicited for advice on how to “behave” in a relationship with Italians of the opposite sex. I think this is interesting in itself, it suggests to me that we see Italian and even Italo-American men as this special breed that, for whatever reason, requires special handling. That makes me giggle. Each relationship is unique in itself so I rarely give any specific advice, however I think there is one thing that can be said across the board and that is: let an Italian man be an Italian man (I’m pretty sure in self-help dating and relationship books, the phrase “let a man be a man” is rampant). You can apply this to almost any dilemma you might be having. I’ve had women ask me if they should be the first to make a move on their gorgeous Roman. My answer is no. I’ve had women ask me if they can say “ti amo” first. My answer is…you guessed it…no. Wait for him to say it. Yes, I know this all sounds very traditionalist and old-school or like it’s playing games but you know what, Italians live for the game. The suspense, the passion, the excitment, the let-downs, the last-minute comebacks…and in case you’re lost, this applies to soccer games as well. This is not to say that you let the Italian man hold all the cards. No. Just let him think that he does.
Now, you’re probably shaking your head at me and saying, come on Jasmine, love is not a game, whether it’s cross-cultural dating or not. I would like to emphasize that I’m not telling anyone to play games and I’m not trying to say that love is a game but what I am saying is that if you’re going to be in a relationship with an Italian, you need to approach love like they do- first there’s a slow burn and then the fire will explode and (hopefully) stay that way. That is to say, hold back in the beginning and once you’ve captured his attention, then amp up the feistiness and go heavy on the romance because the latter is certainly still a popular concept in the land of Casanova. The good thing is that you’ll usually know much easier with Italian men than with Americans whether they’re interested and whether they’ve fallen for you, they show it and say it. It’s very obvious. I don’t think there’s an Italian translation for “playing hard-to-get”! Please note, this is in reference to the men, I think the women here know perfectly well how to translate hard-to-get and they use it to their advantage which is why they always come off as so alluring in the first place.
Asian-Americans work well with Italians because we come from similar backgrounds that focus heavily on the two things most important things in life: FOOD and FAMILY. Most nationalities claim to emphasize similar values, but maybe not to the extent of Asians and Italians. We get really intense with this stuff. Twelve course meals are standard to both cultures and so is spending the weekend and at least a few weeknights with your immediate and extended family. When we were living in Canada, we had Sunday dinners with my family and grandparents every Sunday without fail. We now do the same thing here in Italy with his parents, the only difference is it’s now changed to lunchtime and in addition to this, we usually stop by for dinners throughout the work week. For many other people, this is just too much and I can understand that. For me though, this is just normal behavior. We have never quarreled about spending too much time with his parents or with mine whereas I think a lot of couples argue about this.
If you enjoyed this post, I think you should check out these as well, if only for some comic relief!
Cross-Cultural Dating: My First Jaw-Drop Moment with an Italian
Italian Men: The Unofficial Guide for Wives and Girlfriends
How to Snag (and Keep) an Italian Man
For slightly deeper reading about inter-racial relationships and dating, I've found this series by Marie Claire extremely interesting: Love and Race
Summary: Modern love can be summed up in one quick status update: It's complicated. In the first of a three-part series, we explore the role race plays in relationships.