Ok…First things first…Big shout out to any of my cross cultural couples out there reading this.
YOU GUYS ARE ROCK STARS! I know this, because I too am part of a cross-cultural coupling, and while it is AMAZING it also presents its unique challenges. And it can be hard, really hard, to overcome some of those cultural differences.
Believe it or not, dating, and the words we use when dating, are super cultural and learned behaviors that are absolutely not the same across all countries. In case you, in particular, are starting a love affair with an Italian, or are curious about some of the differences, here are some things I learned along the way.
1) In America, we have levels — dating, boyfriend and girlfriend, engaged, married. In Italy, there is a lot more “grey” area.
When I first started dating in Italy, I was amazed at the levels of relationships we could have. I learned about the following scale pretty quickly:
Step 1: Sto uscendo con…– I am going out with… – This means basically nothing, you can go out with many people at once.
Step 2: Sto frequentando... – I am dating… – This is a step above uscendo, but still not necessarily exclusive dating by any means.
Step 3: Sto con… – I am with… – This is more leaning towards exclusive but still not NECESSARILY exclusive.
Step 4: Sono fidanzata/o – I have a boyfriend/girlfriend. – Finally, we have arrived to exclusivity.
Step 5: Sono fidanzata/o ufficiale. – I am engaged. – Great, congrats! Engaged!
Step 6: Sono sposata/o. – I am married. – No more shades of grey here!
2.) There isn’t always a big “talk.”
I feel like we always have a “talk” in the US about what “we are” as a couple. This, I found, happens a lot less in Italy and you just kind of “become” a couple somewhere along the way.
Obviously this was super confusing for me, and I remember when my boyfriend and I had the talk, he was super perplexed.
I said something like, “you’re not even my boyfriend” and he retorted back, “parliamone” which was basically like saying, “yes I am!”
And then I forced him to hash out exactly where we were as a couple anyway, in every minute aspect of couplehood as defined by me.
Luckily he finds this compulsive “Americaness” cute and didn’t break up with me.
3.) Things move more slowly.
I also found when dating in Italy that things move more slowly. You can be “frequentando” someone for MONTHS without it ever moving to another level.
Warning: this can be frustrating.
CPF: Our Italian editor Carlotta asked me to include a side note on Italian women’s effectiveness. They have the power to change things from a frequentazione to matrimonio surprisingly fast.
4.) Introduction to the family is a general indication of how serious your relationship is.
If you don’t know the family yet, just go ahead and assume you’re not exclusive. Yep, it’s that simple. Once you have met them though, you’re in, and you guys are most likely boyfriend and girlfriend.
Italians take the family intro seriously, so don’t misread or take lightly this important step!
How about you? Have you had to navigate these confusing dating games in Italy or across other cultures? How did you do?