Italian Cultural Analysis
The Italian culture is as complexed as any other culture. The food alone is warm and comforting. These two things have interested me in researching and doing a cultural analysis on the Italian culture. Of what I have grown to think of the culture I admire the culture as a whole. As I know it they have close families, great food, great food traditions, and a positive view of life. This is what I hope to find during my analysis. The table below compares and contrasts the Italian culture as it is viewed in Italy and in the United States.
|Key Point||Native Culture in Italy||Culture after U.S. Migration|
|Religion||The Roman Catholic Church plays a major part in the way Italians walk through life and is the main religion in Italy. (Kittler, Sucher & Nahikian-Nelms, 2017)||After immigration the Roman catholic Church is viewed at differently and is found in separate “parishes” (Kittler et al., 2016). This is a separate church for each ethnic group. Some religious holidays are still celebrated. (Kittler et al., 2017)|
|Worldview (outlook on life)||Based on views of family, church, and education an Italians worldview is focused on being self-reliant and upholding their families honor. The father is the head of the household, but the mother controls the day-to-day activities in the home. (Kittler et al., 2017)||Still based on being self-reliant and upholding their families honor an Italian immigrant in the U.S. might view the world the same way, but it is all about the individual person. (Kittler et al., 2017)|
Staple Foods Continued
|Pasta, eggs, meats, cheese, vegetables (eggplant, artichokes, bell peppers, and tomatoes), butter, dairy products, rice, olive oil, fish, beans, garlic, and spices (parsley, basil, oregano, anise, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves) are all staple ingredients in Italian foods. (Kittler et al., 2017)||Not much will change as everything is easily found in America, but some American staples might be added. (Kittler et al., 2017)|
|Meal Patterns||Light breakfasts are popular throughout Italy. Breakfast normally includes “coffee with milk, tea, or a chocolate drink, with bread and jam” (Kittler et al., 2017).
Lunch is the biggest meal of the day and is known to be followed by a nap. Meal wise lunch consists of an appetizer course to start, “such as ham, sausages, pickled vegetables, and olives, or crostini” (Kittler et al., 2017). Then a “wet course” would be served such a soup or a “dry course” such as pasta (Kittler et al., 2017). The main course a dish with fish or meat “served with a starchy or green vegetable, followed by salad” (Kittler et al., 2017). Bread normally accompanies the meal.
“Dinner is served later in the evening around 7:30pm and is the lighter version of lunch” (Kittler et al., 2017). Wine is served during the meal and coffee after wards. (Kittler et al., 2017)
|Meal patterns might change to have the larger meal at dinner time instead of lunch. (Kittler et al., 2017)|
|Flavor Notes||With the use of garlic, parsley, basil, oregano, anise, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves the flavor notes of Italian foods tend to be mild to bold in flavor. (Kittler et al., 2017)||The flavor notes in the traditional foods stay the same. (Kittler et al., 2017)|
|Health Beliefs||Common to American health beliefs Italian’s view their “well-being is defined as the ability to pursue normal, daily activities” (Kittler et al., 2017). A belief that fresh air is connected to ones well-being as well. Some believe in folk medicines. (Kittler et al., 2017)||The fact that illness is due to contamination or heredity is believed by the Italian Americans. Though older immigrants fear that “drafts” (Kittler et al., 2017), hidden emotions and the supernatural might be the cause of illness. (Kittler et al., 2017)|
|Common Cooking /Preparation Methods||Stews, baked dishes, roasted meats, grilled meats, and pan fried food items are popular cooking methods. (Kittler et al., 2017)||Cooking methods don’t change from their Italian origins as they are close to the American’s cooking variations.
(Kittler et al., 2017)
|Health and Nutritional Concerns||It is found that the Italians have a high intake of carbohydrates, low intake of fat with a high intake of monounsaturated fats compared to saturated fats. Obesity rate is at 45% in women and 66% in men. (Kittler et al., 2017)||Less pasta and more meat are consumed meaning that the amount of saturated fats in the diet is increased and the carbohydrates might decrease from that of the Italian culture. (Kittler et al., 2017)|
When counseling someone from the Italian culture there are a few things to keep in mind. “Italian Americans may seek medical advice from family and friends before consulting a health professional” (Kittler et al., 2017). It is known that when a Italian goes to seek help from a health professional they tend to be open and willing to explain their symptoms. (Kittler et al., 2017)
A healthcare provider should use respectful communication practices that are warm and empathetic. This entails that a conversational style that is “animated, warm, and expressive” (Kittler et al., 2017) should be used. “Shaking hands with everyone in the room in greeting and leaving is appropriate” (Kittler et al., 2017). Frequent and quick eye contact with elders and steady eye contact with younger Italians is preferred. (Kittler et al., 2017)
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Dietary restrictions should be carefully explained as restriction recommendations may be disregarded when they don’t fit into normal social activity. This is a cause of concern for multiple chronic conditions such as diabetes. With a rise in obesity in the Italian culture this is an important factor to keep in mind when counseling.
If I were to Counsel someone from the Italian culture, I would keep the above in mind. Always greet the client with a smile and a hand shake. Keep steady eye contact and listen to all that they are concerned about health wise. I would make sure that my body language shows that I care about their well-being. If possible I would try and educate the family as well as the client because family tends to play a big role in an Italians life. For dietary restrictions I would carefully educate and motivate the client to make healthier choices and if they interfere with their normal social activities. I will counsel them on why the restrictions should not be ignored. Respectfully my communication practices should be viewed as warm and empathetic.
Healthy People 2020 has a vision of “a society in which all people live long, healthy lives” (Healthy people 2020, 2019). Their mission is to-
“identify nationwide health improvement priorities, increase public awareness and understanding of the determinants of health, disease, and disability, and the opportunities for progress, provide measurable objectives and goals that are applicable at the national, state, and local levels, engage multiple sectors to take actions to strengthen policies and improve practices that are driven by the best available evidence and knowledge, and identify critical research, evaluation, and data collection needs” (Healthy people 2020, 2019).
Healthy People 2020 has 42 topic areas of concern that is tracked and examined with a goal of limiting them across the country (Healthy people 2020, 2019). The Italian culture will benefit from this by the goals of lowering obesity and other chronic conditions such as diabetes.
Another program that improves the health of the Italian American culture would be the Obesity Society. Their vision is for a “better understand, prevent and treat obesity to improve the lives of those affected through research, education and advocacy” (obesity.org). Their mission statement is “Through TOS’s (The Obesity Society) unique position, lead the charge in advancing the science-based understanding of the causes, consequences, prevention and treatment of obesity” (obesity.org). The Obesity Society is a great public health program for the Italian American culture as obesity shows up in 45% of women and 66% of men throughout the culture.
Throughout this paper I have found that though it is easy to generalize a culture in to stereotypes with the Italian culture I found that there is diversity within the culture that is found in every other culture. I have learned that the rich food culture that is heavy in carbohydrates can lead to health concerns throughout the culture. I enjoyed this cultural analysis because I got to research and learn about someone else’s culture in-depth and determine a way that I would be able to counsel them. It has been interesting and informative for me.
- Healthy people 2020. (2010, November). Retrieved August 4, 2019, from https://twu.blackboard.com/bbcswebdav/pid-4576076-dt-content-rid-117317307_1/courses/17FANFS317351/HP2020_brochure_with_LHI_508_FNL.pdf
- Kittler, P. G., Sucher, K. P., & Nahikian-Nelms, M. (2017). Food and culture (7th ed.). Boston, MA: Cengage Learning.
- About Us. (n.d.). Retrieved August 4, 2019, from https://www.obesity.org/about-us/
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