No doubt you have heard some things about Sicilian people that have made you question if a trip to Sicily is right for you. Want to know what we are really like before you visit the Island?
There are all kinds of questions that tend to come to mind when people think about Sicilians. Are we like The Godfather movie? Are we going to flirt with every woman anytime and all the time? Are Sicilians all involved with the Mafia? I get it. While I can’t describe every single person on the Island, I can tell you that we have all types here. What I will do, is give you a breakdown of the average Sicilian (both the good and the bad) to help you out.
I guess the best way to describe the people of this Island is: bipolar. We are half evil and half angel, and this might have something to do with all of the various rulers that the Island has had in its existence. Palermo is the most conquered city in the world, for instance. In Sicily you have the lowest of the mobsters and the pinnacle of anti-Mafia heroes. While we have some of the broadest and deepest histories in all of Europe, we also have been among the worst at preserving it. We have a high unemployment rate and yet people walk around dressed very nicely and pour into expensive night clubs every evening. There are all kinds of contradictions.
So, understanding that we are just following through what might describe the stereotypical Sicilian, here are some of the respective stereotypical facts.
People of Sicily – Who we are
“Sicilians can’t speak any English”
There is a lot of truth to the fact that nearly all of Sicily (and consequently Italy) doesn’t speak a word of English. In fact, a study done by EF Education – an international organization which specializes in language courses has found that Italians are bringing up the rear with English speaking European countries. This might have something to do with the bad schooling systems here, featuring more written than spoken content and a lot of teachers than are not native English speakers themselves. Even the English movies in Italy are dubbed over which makes it even harder to learn how to speak English. So yes, it will be difficult to talk with Sicilian people, especially those of an older generation.
“We speak with our bodies”
Even if the large part of us can’t seem to hold a normal conversation in the English language, we can communicate our message with our bodies better than the best silent films you’ve ever seen. We are a caring people, open and friendly, that simple language barriers are easy to transcend. Since we are always ready to help people, be prepared for quite a show of physical communication to get your problems solved.
“We are aggressive drivers”
It would be difficult for me to disagree that Sicilians are perhaps the worst drivers in all of Europe. It’s bad enough on broad roadways, but when you get into the twisting alleys, you would swear that these drivers are literally just trying to kill you. Speed limits, driving rules and basic principles of peace have gone out the window on the roadways. To make things worse, you have all the obese men on Piaggio Vespas (helmetless of course) and Lapino to make things even more unpredictable. This is like something out of an action video game.
It gets worse still. Driver’s here park on the sidewalks, they pass through cross-streets when the light is red, they don’t know how to use turn signals and they speed through pedestrian walkways. Really though, that isn’t even as bad as it gets. The municipality refuses to keep up with the roadways. There are few road signs to speak of, crosswalks are faded or discolored, the streets are damaged and the police are much more concerned about coffee than apprehending vehicular offenders.
Now, if you happen to rent a car when you visit, it doesn’t seem as though you’ll have much trouble learning to drive like we do. The real danger is for the walkers and bicyclists.
“We are hospitable and generous”
While we might be a little extreme on the roadways, all of that changes once we have exited the vehicle. We do our very best to make everyone feel at ease, happy and comfortable here in Sicily. While it might be difficult with the language barriers, if you find yourself in a Sicilian’s home, you will be truly shocked by how hospitable, kind and generous we actually are. One thing to say: you will never leave a Sicilian home hungry as food is our way of connecting with people. From the moment you step in the door you will be given tons of food, as though you were a small army. Don’t be surprised to hear the word “Mangia!” (Eat!) a good bit. Afterwards they will drop you off where you are staying and spoil you until you are officially out of their care.
“We are rough and uncivilized”
While our homes might be full of food on the chance that we have guests, you will notice that some of the streets are full of trash and filthy. It seems as though a portion of the Sicilian population doesn’t understand the basic rules of living in a social world. You will see mountains of garbage in some places that defy the laws of physics, and unfortunately stick out worse than a fat Islander’s thumb (which is a testament to the food here). I’m sure someone could see the artistic value in it, but most Sicilians will just tell you that the ineffective trash services here are the primary reason for the unappealing heaps of garbage. It is evident that Palermo is deeply uncivilized.
“We are not cold-hearted killers”
As much as it pains me to disappoint you, you aren’t going to see the average Sicilian walking around with a Cosa Nostra shotgun (lupara) looking to kill someone. It’s easy to think Godfather films here, but that’s just an elaborate work of fiction. No one is going to leave you horse heads to find in your bed, nor are they going to brutally kill you for declining that famous “offer you can’t refuse”, capisci?
While we might be a little bit bloodthirsty on the roads, we are kind and hospitable everywhere else. Sicily is the safest place in all of Italy to visit, and has a remarkably low crime rate.
“We are always trying to cut in line”
While we are not walking around with shotguns, there is something that every Sicilian unanimously hates: waiting in a line. It is inevitable if a Sicilian is waiting in a line, we are going to try and weasel our way to the front of it (no matter where we are). It really isn’t even trying to be rude, it is just a knee-jerk reaction. If we see an opening in a line, we will shoot into it and then talk our way out of it. You won’t even feel wronged if it’s done correctly. My advice: if you are in a line, don’t leave any openings. We might not be rude, but we are definitely an impatient people.
“We are gentlemen and very talented suitors”
Sure, we can’t wait in lines. The exception to this is when there is a girl in line with any Sicilian alpha male. If this situation happens, you are not only going to get treated like a true princess, but you just might fall in love right there in the line. I’m not kidding, Sicilian men know how to treat the fairer sex, starting with the abundance of respectful gallantry. You will be overwhelmed with kindness as you are treated with the respect you so rightfully deserve. If you are bringing your wife or girlfriend to Sicily, be mindful of all the Romeos here that are capable of stealing them from under your nose. Sicilian women are difficult to charm and impress, on the other hand. So what the rest of the world sees as an abundance of passion and charm, is really Sicilian men futilely attempting to court Sicilian women.
“We are shirkers”
Sicilians are not especially known for their hard work ethic. Even aside from the economic crisis, Sicilians are not big on laborious things in general. It gets worse when you get into the realm of guaranteed salary positions like public offices or the postal service. This might explain why public services in Sicily are so lacking, as we are much more prone to encourage someone else to do the job we were supposed to do.
“We are very funny people”
Instead of thinking of us as lazy people, think of us as people that are more concerned with spreading good cheer and fun. We are like the Island superheroes. Even if you are a little leery of strangers, within minutes a Sicilian can have you laughing out loud with their antics. We are especially fond of turning every situation into a joke of some sort. I guess that’s our way of seeing the funny side of everything we encounter, which makes spending time with some of the locals a must-do for visitors to the Island looking for a laugh.
“We have a poorer education”
While we might have devoted a great deal of time to being funny, our general thirst for education hasn’t really expanded along with it. Many Sicilians base their whole lives around primary instincts like eating, sleeping and reproducing. This general lack of knowledge, and an unwillingness to pursue it, has made the Sicilian people as a whole more susceptible to control by politicians and mobsters throughout the years. You will find that Sicilians as a whole have an aversion to education, and nearly 20 percent of 18-24 year olds don’t pursue educational opportunities beyond high school. This, along with a bad parental example, have made the youth ignorant in Sicily. Try not to be too surprised when you see a ten year old speeding down the roadways on a moped during school hours. He no longer cares about his education, and is much more concerned about plotting his first crime.
“We value family and togetherness”
While we might not be prone to studying from textbooks, we do have a deep and ingrained love (and need) to be close with family. Many kids leave their houses much later in life than what is normal around the world because the bond is so strong. Might even look at Sicily as a great sociological experiment involving themes from Oedipus and Electra.
“We are a prideful people”
When you take a moment to appreciate our general lack of education, it isn’t hard to see how we might have a skewed view of things. Our people throughout history have considered Sicily to be the Garden of Eden, which is charming and sad all at the same time. While we do have fun, the sea, and food, this is not the only draw to the Island. It is true that you can live happily in Sicily. But consider for a moment that Neverland had a Captain Hook to cause all kinds of problems, and Sicily has its own fair share of pirates as well. The main problem (amplified by our limited education) is that Sicilians refuse to see any of the problems that actually exist because their judgment is clouded by their egos and pride.
“We are courageous and enterprising”
One of the deepest fear of every Sicilian is actually not being afraid of anything at all. Think about it, we have created the Mafia and spread it all around the world. Then, we have tirelessly fought against this creation at the risk of our own lives. It is a good quality to have when you can approach each new problem with both resourcefulness and bravery. This lack of fear knows no limits. Ask any Islander to bring you the pitchfork of the devil and he will look you square in the eye and say “No problem at all. Wait here, I’ll be right back.”
While this might just be the stereotypical components to the average Sicilian, you are smart enough to understand that not every Sicilian is going to fit into this specific mold. If you have any questions at all about the people of Sicily, don’t hesitate to ask. You can just drop your question into the comment box below, and I will be sure to get right back with you.