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How Did They Know I Was American?

Discussion in 'Travel and Tourism In Italy' started by Tommy, Oct 31, 2012.

  1. I found this forum and figured I can pose this question to either Italians, expats, or other travelers to Italy with similar experiences.
    In August my wife and I went to Italy. We are both Italian-American-my wife Sicilian/Barese and myself of Friulani/Toscano background. We loved Italy, particularly Napoli.
    On the way back home in Fiumicino airport, the customs agent told me she wanted to search my bag. She took one look at me and maybe my suitcase and asked me if i speak English. I did not speak to her in English first. Why was she so sure I was not italian? Any opinions? Has this happened to others on this forum? I have been told it could be anything from my clothes, to the fact that in August in Rome, most people are not Italians, or even that I have fair skin for Italian(even though I am 100% Italian). Any thoughts would be appreciated.
    wowtgp likes this.
  2. That's weird. You know, many italians have a common face. What kind of haircut did you have at the time? Did the customs agent hear you talk to your wife in English? Maybe she just has it in for foreigners, it's happened before.
    I'm foreign too and, from my experience, the only way I can tell when someone is or isn't italian (aside from skin color, obviously) is if I hear the speak so I have no idea why the lady asked you if you spoke any English.
  3. Dress will also give it away. Italians tend to dress a lot better than Americans. Tennis shoes and blue jeans are not as popular as they are here. I think people who work in the industry get to where they can spot visitors. I was in New York once and someone approached me and asked if they could help me find something. I was lost, but did not think I looked lost. That happens over seas more frequently. Things like jewelry and hair style can also give indications that you are a visitor. When I lived in Florida I could spot a tourist a mile away. Locals just act a certain way. They know the protocol of the local area.
  4. Well... In my experience, Americans are really easy to spot most of the time :D I don't mean by the way they look, but you guys just kind of... act American? I'm not sure how to put it, because it's more of a feeling, a brief impression than anything else. It just shows :)
  5. I can't answer your question for certain, but I would guess that customs agents and other people who deal with travelers on a regular basis could pick out Americans pretty quickly.
  6. Was your accent spot on? The person might have heard you say a word weird or something. Or the clothing could give it away as well.
  7. Possibly, they heard you speaking English to one another?

    But in general, security staff are well trained to spot many give away signs such as dress, accent and general behaviour.
  8. That's also true, airport staff has to deal with people from aaaaall around the world on a daily basis.
    My guess is that, if they didn't hear you speak, it must have been your looks.

    I specifically remember, when I was in school, that our geography classes weren't all about geography, but we had a lesson where we actually had to learn what specific looks certain people have: Asian (with the Japanese being different from other Asians, for instance), Germans (many have freckles), French (long face, mustache), Italians etc. It was a really weird lesson to teach 12 year old kids, but interesting nonetheless.
  9. #9 patrizio, Sep 5, 2013
    Last edited: Sep 5, 2013
    It's always easy to spot tourists. As italians, we're often spotted in other countries. Italians have "invicta" backpacks and ridicolous whiskers.
    Americans are always red for the sun, the girls always wear short pants and flip flops. The old men have big stomachs, shorts and sneakers. They're always full of bottles of iced water, and cameras. The women dress in a normal way, but they sometimes wear sneakers where the shouldn't.
    Eastern europe tourists are often drunk, but not aggressive as irish. Brits are drunk in the evening. When drunk tourists want to act like they're in their own house (pissing in fountains and so on) the romans get angry and shit happens. Unfortunatly all our hoolingans from Rome and Lazio football teams are always ready to mark their territory
    Germans always wear birkenstock, often with socks.
    Japs are shy, bow a lot their head, and they are usually quiet and almost scared. Chinese tourists think since they got money in their hands, they rule the word. Korean tourists are quite cool perople, very european.
  10. My mother and father-in-law are Italian born but their children are Americans who can speak Italian. When they speak Italian it is different from their parents. The language does not sound as though it comes out as easily as their parents. Maybe that is why the agent knew you were not a citizen of that country.
  11. I can imagine that very subtle things can be a giveaway. Like if I saw someone here in Britain who was 100% British but had lived elsewhere for a while, I would almost certainly know... or at least I think I would!

    Clothes, mannerisms, details of the accent, lots of things!

    I can't say for sure but... I can imagine the little details being very important!
  12. Birkenstock with socks, ouch! I can't imagine all Eastern Europe tourists are often drunk.

    There are signs and impressions people give off and we see them in our home cities everyday. The tourist is usually the one with the sunburn on his/her face from walking around outside for the whole vacation. When on vacation you tend to dress casual and comfortable, as well as speak with an accent, so you stand out amongst people going to work or about their daily lives.
  13. I agree 100% with Allegra. It's not difficult to spot who is a tourist in a city, even if it is their home country. For trained staff at airports there will be a lot of clues that they tune into, and I am thankful they have such skills.
  14. I have found that when I have gone on vacation, I can usually tell if a tourist is American. Americans tend to dress in a particular way, and behave in particular ways. Sometimes I can hear their accents when the speak, and other times I can just tell. I'm Canadian and am often mistaken for being American, as we have similar accents and dress alike.
  15. That is strange ha ha. I get the opposite problem, I was raised in New Zealand but when I visit most European countries I get mistaken for a local. I remember being in French Polynesia too and half the tourists seemed to be French and the other half Japanese,Australian, British ect.. Anyhow on a boat trip to an island, the staff gave out two different tokens, one for those who'd go on the English speaking excursions and the other group on the French tour. The staff would ask most people French or English but just gave me a French token without asking me ha ha.
  16. It's definitely the accent.

    Italians have a special way to pronounce their own words (as does everyone when they speak their mother language, of course! :D )

    Even I can tell if someone is Italian or a foreigner, especially Americans. In English, you don't pronounce the word as you spell it, you pronounce it differently, which is what makes Americans 'vulnerable' if they don't want to be discovered LOL :D
  17. Certain mannerisms and maybe an American accent that you cannot hear when you speak Italian was probably present. Or perhaps even your clothes. Could be anything but I am currently abroad and originally from New York. I speak the native language and even dress like the people here at times and they see and say it immediately, "You are from America?" they ask. LOL
  18. #18 Wulfman, Nov 10, 2014
    Last edited by a moderator: Nov 10, 2014
    Ouch. That is probably true but still that hurts :p
  19. Dress would always be a give away, even if you are trying to be Italian. Maybe I'm generalizing a lot, but there's a certain way that people carry themselves - and it's not a judgment thing - and Americans and Italians do carry themselves differently.
  20. While some people in Italy assumed I was African or Dominican, most knew I was American because of my accent and appearance.

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