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The Italian syndrome: shouting “belle gambe” at random girls? Really?

August 18, 2011

A few weeks ago, I was having a drink with some friends in a garden of a coffee shop, enjoying the evening. They had just returned from a summer vacation in Liguria and were still tanned and under so many fantastic impressions.

At some point on the evening, a young, fine-looking girl walked past our table, dressed in somewhat skimpy clothes (not strange considering it was 30C at 10pm) which I wouldn’t have even noticed if it weren’t for the boys’ comments and loud observations, including shouting “belle gambe” (let’s translate it as “nice legs”) at her. It wasn’t one of those unpleasant scenes, I think even the girl took it as a joke (which I think it was) but still… What surprised me was my own reaction to it. Or lack of.

I’m usually somewhat hostile towards guys commenting out loud like that, but at that moment, I just thought “hey, they were in Italy. It’s the Italian syndrome.” Is it really?

I’ve heard a lot of things about Italian guys before my first trip there, and I must admit, I succumbed to the stereotypes. You know, they talk with their hands, they’re always using their cell phones, they comment on girls on the street… Once I got there, I was actually surprised to find that it was all a tad exaggerated. Italian guys are not such sexual predators as we think. In fact, I haven’t had one unpleasant experience with them so far. They tend to be open and confident around girls, maybe even more than you would expect from a guy who is shorter than you and would probably loose and arm-wrestling match (not all of them, of course, this is just an example). But still, most of them are not offensive in any way. If they like something, they tend to let you know, but not in a way that would make you uncomfortable. And even if things get a bit “loud” at some point, it’s usually in some form of a joke, not meant to look like harassment. At least those are my experiences.

I think the opinions change based on where you stand. Where you come from that is. We always compare guys to what we are used to at home, and if you come from a place where the guys tend to sit in one corner, and the girls in another, not mixing, approaching or interacting in any way, Italy might freak you out a bit at first. Or maybe it’s just what you would be hoping for?

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