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Italian Culture

In: Philosophy and Psychology

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Italian Culture in America

John Smith

Psych 105
Dr. Diop
Spring, 2012

Italian Culture in America America is known to be the country where most people from outside immigrate to, not only bringing their families but also their traditions with them. “According to the 2000 U.S. Census, almost 16 million Italian Americans live in the United States” (Quagliata, 2011, p. 1). Most immigrants that come to America lose their heritage; however, that is not the case for the Italian culture. Not only did Italians incorporate a style of living in America, they also brought their traditions into the country as well. Some of the customs they brought with them include their food, their game of bocce ball, their religion, and their way of greeting one another.
Italian Food When thinking of the Italian culture, the first thing that comes to mind is their food. Cinotto (2000) states, “Since food is a cultural artifact, imbued with meanings and values, the cross-cultural consumption of Italian cuisine is a significant marker of the way in which others see and imagine Italy and the Italians” (p. 1). Pasta, parmesan, and cannoli’s are probably the most popular and most known Italian foods. With the way many Americans fell in love with the Italian food, it soon became part of the American culture as well.
The Italian immigrants brought over their historical foods and formed new eating habits for the Americans, and most of the Italian food was shaped in Little Italy where the immigrants resided. At one point in time, some of the Americans disagreed with the eating habits of the Italians and tried to bane it.
Between the 1910s and 1920s, progressive reformers, equipped with newly developed concepts of home economics and nutritional science, tried to change the eating habits of Italian immigrants, supposedly unhealthy and economically inefficient. Italian one-pot dishes were believed to be of poor nutritive quality, spices allegedly favored alcoholism, and shopping for expensive imported products in neighborhood independent stores was criticized as wasteful. (Cinotto, 2000, p. 7)
Although, some tried to change the way of Italian eating, they were unsuccessful. After this conflict had ended, Italian food soon became famous.
Bocce Ball: An Italian Sport Bocce ball is a game of concentration and great competitiveness among many Italians. Although bocce ball’s origin is from Italian roots, the Americans have accommodated it. “There are more than 25,000,000 bocce enthusiasts that have heard of the sport, play recreationally, or play on structured courts in the United States today” (Ferrari, 2012, p. 65). Bocce ball first started off as a family sport played by two or three people. Now, bocce ball has become a tournament sport (Ferrari, 2012). The rules and game technique to bocce ball is very easy. There may be anywhere from two to four to eight players on a team, and each player is given two balls (boccia). A player continues to roll their balls until they get closer than the opponent's ball. Players are awarded one point for each ball closer than the opponent's closest ball nearest to the pallino ball (the smallest ball, which has already been thrown onto the field). Players may also throw on the fly (volo), striking the ball to move the point ball. Balls, including the pallino, may also be displaced by the balls of other players (Ferrari, 2012). In summary, bocce ball is a game, like any other, that is meant to bring families and friends close together and provide enjoyment for all.
Religion
As like in any culture, religion plays an important role in the Italian culture and traditions. Much like the Americans, the Italians have mostly the same beliefs in religion. “The majority of the population is Roman Catholic, as about 90% of native Italians practice Catholicism” (“Religion,” n.d., para. 3). Some traditions of the Italian religion are similar to those of American Catholicism, such as marriage. The majority of marriages take place in a church because religion is the foundation for the formation of family, and religious symbolism of the church is something that is very important to the Italian people (“Religion,” n.d.). The big difference between the Americans and the Italians is that “the pope is considered to be the head of government of Vatican City, his official title being Sovereign of the State of the Vatican City” (“Religion,” n.d.). The pope is yet another symbol of the importance of religion.
Greetings
Every culture has certain ways of greeting one another, whether it be a certain saying or a handshake; greetings are common all across the world. For Italians, greetings are more proper, unless the speakers know one another well. “First introductions are accompanied by handshakes, while friends typically greet each other with kisses to both cheeks, starting with the left (to avoid awkward nose-bumping)” (Thielen, 2012, p. 7). Italians greet people with whom they are familiar, such as family or close friends, with kisses on the cheek, whereas Americans greet their families and close friends typically with hugs.
Summary
Italian culture has greatly influenced the American way of living through their food, their game of bocce ball, their religious lifestyle, and their greetings. Most immigrants coming to America are not lucky enough to be able to make their traditions as concrete as the Italians have. The Italians’ traditional food, games, religion, and greetings have made American society more diverse, and more interesting as a whole; and America has embraced much of what the Italian culture has had to offer.
Discussion
The decision on choosing the Italian culture came from realizing the relativity of the culture. Italian culture does not stray far from the American culture, mainly because as Americans we have adopted many of their traditions. Nevertheless, the Italian culture is a very distinct and interesting culture when examined very closely.
Throughout this course, I have learned that some individuals, or even groups of people, have a very difficult time fitting in when attempting to establish life in a new culture. As is discussed in our text, acculturation is a stressful experience that results in a number of different styles of adjustment, including assimilation, segregation, separation, integration, and marginalization. Though at one point Italians may have had a difficult time embracing American living, facing some of the adversities, stereotypes, and discrimination that we’ve learned about in class, in the end, Americans not only came to accept Italian traditions, but they also adopted and practiced many of them as well.
This research has helped me to truly appreciate the things I know, celebrate, and practice every day. I have gained a new appreciation for Italian culture and traditions, and I can celebrate being an American who has learned that embracing a new culture is much easier and beneficial than fighting against it. As was noted in this course, diversity should be embraced, not feared or ignored.

References
Cinotto, S. (2000). Representations of Italian food in America. Retrieved from http://www.italianacademy.columbia.edu/publications/working_papers/2003_2004/paper_sp04_Cinotto.pdf
Ferrari, P. (2012). A brief history of bocce. Retrieved from http://worldbocce.org/bocce-history.htm
Quagliata, M. (2011). Italian American history. Retrieved from http://home.comcast.net/~m.quagliata/iahistory.html
Religion. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://acad.depauw.edu/~mkfinney/teaching/Com227/culturalPortfolios/ITALY/Italyreligion.html
The Global Road Warrior. Italy: Greetings and courtesies. Retrieved December 1, 2012, from http://0-www.globalroadwarrior.com.library.ccbcmd.edu/ContentInfo.asp?iso3ltr=ITA&nid=13.02&cid=73&next_nid=13.03&parent=Society%20and%20Culture

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