Are they? Yes.

Tempted to end there, but I’ll humour you and myself with an explanation. The “jokes” about people from southern Europe referring to laziness, need to stop. Really. Also, comments such as: -what a silly traditions -what a strange culture (and with that comment assuming that your culture is better), -they only care about food, -yeah, they haven’t really managed anything after the Roman era (forgotten about Renaissance?), -their healthcare is probably very bad (er.. no!), need to stop. It’s getting to a point where these prejudices are intervening with the welfare of people. As in, are they worthy or not worthy of our support, or financial aid? It’s starting to become really damaging. If you’re guilty of any of the above, it’s essential you keep on reading. If not, then just view it as entertainment or some extra information and know that you’re not being personally addressed in this post.

The first time I thought: “Wow, I’ve never seen anyone work as hard as she does.”, I was travelling in the south of Italy. Not in the Netherlands, not in Germany, not in Scandinavia, not in Great Britain.
If you ask a random employee in Italy how many hours they work and how many days they work, the answer: ten hours a day and five days a week, is not uncommon. If you own a small business, or even a medium sized business, ten hours a day and six or seven days a week are not uncommon. It’s true, there is a reasonable amount of holidays that you receive as an employee in Italy, but not as much as in Germany for example, and very few holidays are left when you have to keep your business running.

The idea that Italians are rich, because they often own houses, is hilarious to me. This is how it is. First of all, have you seen the houses they live in? They are decent, but they’re not villas, they need work and investment. A lot of it. Besides, they have been family properties for generations. To make sure children had something to inherit, generations of people hardly spent any money on themselves, just so that they could give something to the next in line, because with the salaries you’re being paid in Italy, there’s no way you can easily afford a house. They’re not cheap here, despite what you may think. Since Italians earn on average less than the minimum wage in most northern European countries, if you don’t have a house in your family, you’ll have to pay rent for the rest of your life and that isn’t cheap either.
Then, it’s not the Italians who go partying every weekend, drinking like crazy and blowing off steam by literally throwing money over the bar. It’s also not Italians that get the chance to go on holiday every year, to travel to another country. For many of them that is a once in a lifetime opportunity. They don’t have the luxury to spend their money like that.
Instead, they work.

So, when you’re on your holiday and you see Italians walking around in the middle of the day on a week day, don’t assume that all of them don’t work. Often people here work in the weekends as well, so perhaps they have a day off during the week, or they have night shifts, or they are jobless. Just because they smile and their entire identity is not based on having a job, doesn’t mean they aren’t hardworking. I mean, you are on your holiday, judging them for being lazy.

Then there’s something such as retirement. Do they get to retire early? What is early? As early as the Germans, as early as the Dutch? Yes, that’s pretty much the age most Italians are allowed to retire. If they retire early, they won’t receive state money until they’ve reached the appropriate age. Sounds familiar? And actually, seeing someone of the age of 80 or more working in a shop, is a more common sight than you might think.

It’s surprising to me how many comments about the laziness of Italian people I have personally received, heard or read. Fortunately, I know (at least I hope) that many of the readers of this blog don’t share all of these prejudices, if any, but the next time someone around you is wondering whether or not Italian people are hardworking, you’ll know what to answer.

From Italy with love,

Merel

p.s. Oh, and their culture isn’t weird, their traditions aren’t silly. They’re different than yours, but who says you’re so cool.