11 March 2009

Siamo americani

When I am not an "American"

One of the interesting things that is different here in the Cilento area concerns our nationality. In other parts of Italy when people hear our accent they will ask where we are from and we usually reply “Siamo americani” and the follow-up question is usually what state we are from, whereby they usually have some relative who lives in New York or another major metropolitan area.

Here the conversation goes more along the lines of…

Where are you from?

We’re Americans.

Really, are you from Argentina (or some other South American country)?

No, we are from The United States.

On each occasion when we have said we are “americani” the response has been similar. We have inquired why; when citizens of The United States of America tend to consider themselves “Americans”? Wouldn’t someone from Argentina be “un argentino”? This may be solely a national pride issue but my experience is that those from the United States consider themselves “Americans” and such a label differentiates us from other nationalities.

The explanation we have garnered is that a lot of people from this area have family who have migrated to other parts of Italy, Europe and the world in search of job opportunities. Many of these emigrants have settled in South America so it is common for us to meet someone who has an aunt in Brazil or a brother in Argentina, more so than a cousin in New York.


Jenn said...

This is a common US citizen reaction to a common question - we're not "Americans" - well, technically we are, but we're United State-ians.

In Spanish speaking countries,I say "soy estadounidense" not "soy americana" and in Italy, ""Sono degli stati uniti"

But, "California" is always understood.

Bryan said...

jenn - In Italian we would say "Siamo degli stati uniti" or "siamo americani", "We are from the united states" or "We are americans". In other parts of Italy we are always understood as being from the USA when we say "siamo americani".

Just a little difference in this area due to the large number of people who have relatives in the Americas (North & South).

marybeth said...

ciao Bryan,
Thanks so much for your continuing portraits of Italy!

I've been told that it's part of our hubris in the U.S. to refer to ourselves as "Americans," when that term covers so many countries in North, South and Latin America. In fact, citizens from even Canada and Mexico might be insulted by our assumption that people in the U.S. "own" that title.
Like you, I find it easier to identify myself as "sono americana" when in Italy, and am usually understood to be someone from the U.S. But since I've been called on it a few times, I always clarify by adding da Stati Uniti...

a presto,