From all nationalities I have come to know during the last few months, the Finnish and the Estonians seemed the least `flirtuous`. Italians have positioned themselves at the other extreme of the scale. In Italy, love is art waiting to be expressed. Whether in reference to love, to business or to anything else: compliments open doors. Italians, regardless of gender, like to be admired and they go out of their way to make a good impression on whoever they think is worth it.
From all nationalities I have come to know during the last few months, the Finnish and the Estonians seemed the least `flirtuous`. Italians have positioned themselves at the other extreme of the scale. In Italy, love is art waiting to be expressed. Whether in reference to love, to business or to anything else: compliments open doors. Italians, regardless of gender, like to be admired and they go out of their way to make a good impression on whoever they think is worth it. According to Lucia (30) and Gianluca (32), men and women both go for eyes, a good smile and a nice figure. Giovanni (28) has a girlfriend but is nevertheless happy to share his view on what his ideal woman would be like: `Black hair, green eyes, sizes 90/60/90. She also has to be sexy, stylish and, if possible, good at cooking.` Federica (18) wants her boyfriend to be intelligent and funny, and interested in travelling. He should be cute and preferably taller than I am. I would be happy if he told me he admired me as an intelligent and pretty girl.`
`A man should wait for the woman to signal her interest to him`
Julia (22) knows that Italian guys go for physical beauty before anything, `but so do the girls. Guys are very keen on making a good impression on girls. They will continuously tell jokes and make compliments. Or behave as machos in front of their friends to impress the ladies. Italian men are not necessarily very romantic. Some simply use Prince Charming techniques, others are good actors.`
Laura (30, photos) explains why Italian men always seem to be more pushy with foreign girls. `It`s easy for them, they have nothing to loose and all to win. If they don`t get what they want, they at least didn`t waste their image. Italian girls know their tricks, innocent foreign girls may not.` She further explains that it is traditionally the man who needs to approach a woman. `They do not expect a woman to take the first step and may back off if it happens. A girl is supposed to show that she is ready to be approached, and a man needs to act on that. Obviously, some men consistently think that the time is right when it`s not.`
Laura tells that Italian women are very picky when it comes to serious relationships `They need to be gentle but strong and, at the same time, make the girl feel comfortable and desired. But many `relationships` don`t get that far. Italian men like playing at different tables. If they change their mind, or get what they want, they may disappear like Houdini.`
`Men need to be picky as well, because if their selected girl is not approved of by his mother, the future of the relationship becomes at least uncertain. Most Italian men live with their family until they get married and if anyone knows them best, it`s their mothers. What the father thinks hardly matters, but if the mothers sense that the girlfriend does not make a good match, she can be very unsupportive`, Laura says. `The mother`s opinion is a commonly accepted test to be passed, and it does not only apply to the adult men who walk hand in hand with their mothers when they go shopping: the so called Mammone.`
According to Luca (26), a decent relation also requires an almost continuous exchange of compliments and presents. He agrees that having a girlfriend is an expensive hobby in Italy: `Most couples will buy each other some presents at least once a month. I choose to offer my girlfriend underwear or jewellery as a present.` Gianluca (32) likes his girlfriend to occasionally give him a book or a shirt, `or even jewellery as well.`
Despite all these different ways of declaring love to each other, Italian couples frequently have arguments. Sarah (24) thinks most of those are caused by jealousy: `If you are with a boy in Italy, there`s a reasonable chance that he would like to print his name on your forehead. Women are not much different: they know what men are like, and what Italian men are like in particular. Some partners can get angry over each other`s horoscope if it predicts something negative for the couple.`
Giuseppe (26) and Eduardo (28) think that the fear of being cheated by a partner is justified. `Having an affair is not officially acceptable. However, publicly successful figures, especially men, tend to get away with it or are even secretly admired for their achievements`, Giuseppe says. He adds that women are hardly any better at remaining faithful than men; `they are just more discrete about it. I think I would break up with my girlfriend if she tricked me.` Giuseppe then jokes:`There is an officially suggested best way to find out if your girlfriend is seeing somebody else. When you get home, you slap her in the face and if she asks why you did that, she`s not cheating on you.`
Love in Italy is rollercoaster material. A lot of arguments, frequent sex to make up for it, lots of seduction and flirting within or beyond relationships. Summarised: everything that love in Finland lacks. But the down-to-earth paradigm `What you see is what you get` does not apply in Italy. Instead, it`s a never-ending circle of hoping for the best and preparing for the worst.
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