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Italian People: North vs. South – Two Different Cultures

Home » Italian People: North vs. South – Two Different Cultures

Italian People: North vs. South – Two Different Cultures

“Most of my important lessons about life have come from recognizing how others from a different culture view things.”
Edgar H. Schein, Humble Inquiry: The Gentle Art of Asking Instead of Telling


Different people or different Italian people?

A couple of weeks ago, during my visit to Fuerteventura, I’ve met two English ladies. Helen and Bridgit, both from London. Both in their mid-thirties, cute and smart. When they’ve found out I was from Italy, they went so excited that began to share  of their experiences of being to Italy. Along with impressions of Italian people. Well, these impressions differed considerably…

Then it have suddenly occured to me: the two ladies had visited different parts of Italy. With two different cultures that reside within them: Northern and Southern. For the rest of the flight, I’ve felt myself as some sort of cultural interpreter explaining the differences of two riven yet co-existing Italian actualities.

This made me think… Even if Italy was unified about 150 years ago, will Italians ever become a unified nation? An example? Ask North Italian whether he likes the way South Italians talk or the way they drive? Or ask South Italian whether he finds North Italian сuisine delicious and North Italians easy to get along with? All answers will be “defenitely no”. Why? Well, this is quite curious point!


Before we get started, there are few points I would like to underline. First, as ve already stated in my very first post, I’m not some kind of a tourist guide or sociologist. So don’t expect it to be a conventional Baedeker, or a detailed academic research. Just in case.

Second, whatever I write I do it from my personal and independent standpoint. I explore facts about Italian reality which I find interesting and curious. I study them, and then I share. As much as I know, as much as I’ve learned.  So, if you find my words being sceptic or offensive, trust me I’m not. Remember, I said I’m deeply in love with Italy? Well, the thing is, when you care about a particular person, a group of people or a whole country, you learn to accept them just the way they are. Both, with all their good qualities and all their defects. And the only thing you actually want, is to know them ever better. So once again, I’m not here to criticize, but to explore and share.

Italians: North vs. South

A part from political and geographical divisions or unifications, within Italy, Italians divide themselves into two broad cultural categories. More percisely: Nord (North) and Sud (South). Moreover, if not by officially accepted geopolitical division, no Italian could respond where actually does the North Italian culture ends and where the South culture begins. Therefore, the reference point once again is Rome.  The capital of Italy since 1871, not by chance, is situated somewhere in between. To unify and, at the same time, to represent two different cultures in order to make them one nation. The nation, that in 2017, still doesn’t feel as one.

North Italans

To begin with, North Italians are used to think of themselves as “better ones”. They are quite snobbish and apparently so self-confident, even when they are not. Among their prime values North Italians consider job, money, social opinion, branded clothes, shoes, and accessories, fine talks and prestigious companies, good restaurants and excellent wine, et cetera. Let alone resorts and vacations! North Italians are quite difficult to sutisfy… They demand luxury, at least once in a while. North Italians are hard workers passing their lifes at work place. Thus, since they give a lot of them every minute and once in a while they demand a lot.

In other words, the key word to understand most of the Nord Italians, is an appearance. North Italians have an intrinsic need to show up what they have achieved and how much do they earnThis makes them feel better, and know they are better. Both, in order to somewhat compensate all these hours they are constantly spending at work, and to defeat all inner doubts arising within them. What are these doubts? Mainly, if they live their lives the right way. They want it to be the right way. Even if most of them, like 9 out of 10, don’t feel that way. Yet, they are stuck to it.

So, the “upper level values”of North Italians may appear something superfluous. But only if one is not aware of the intensity with what Nord Italians make these values count. No wonder, often they appear as selfish. Or they just act as selfish. On every day basis.

Is there more?

Of course, North Italians do have real and profound values as well. Such as love, care about family members and friends.Yet, the true values of North Italians are somewhat hidden. They show and share them only with those they love and trust to. As for trust, even if deeply in love, North Italians are capable to emanate it only with years to come. Before that, they would view you as a “stranger”. Even if you are in a personal relationship. Or apparently friends. Collegues. Whatever. It’s as if North Italians are constantly aware of being betrayed. Hence their distrust as inner protection. And as a main cultural characteristic.

Therefore, every day North Italian conversations take one of two shapes. Norht Italians will either repeat “commonly” known things with an increasing and quite hypocritical enthusiasm with wide open smile, lacking though faking a sincere brilliance. Otherwise, North Italians will tell directly that they are not up to discuss the subject. Either way, you’ll learn as much as you are let to know, i.e. nothing. So, that’s the general picture: superfluous values and superfluous conversations. At least, as far as North Italians view you as a “stranger”. Otherwise, be patient and expect the years to pass.

South Italians

By Northern Italians, their Southern compatriots are often refferd to as “Terroni”. The term is to undeerline the laziness and ignorance of Southern Italians. No need to say, the term is regard as offensive by the Southern counterpart.

Why North Italians dislike Southern compatriots?


The main reason resides in the fact that in the South Italy the industrial and economical development is very low. Hence there are few work places and few money. The economy of the Southern Italy mainly consists of agriculture and tourism, so its rather seasonal. So, the whole Southern Italy is like the drag or burden for the rest of the country.

No wonder, many young Southern Italians move to North Italy in order to find a job. Which, in its turn creates futher complications for Northern economy.


Given that in the South there is no work, no wonder many South Italians grow up lazy. They learn how to enjoy the life and often their whole life consists of seizing the moment. Yet, this doesn’t mean all South italians are lazy and incapable of hard work. Lots of them are. But they have to prove that hard as well as to assimilate culturally in order to be accepted.


True, many Southern Italians used to be ignorant time ago. Due to their family social status or, sometimes, personal choice. True, some Southern Italians remain highly ignorant still today. But there is a notable differnce between “then” and “now”. Today lots of South Italians move study ever harder and achieve even better results than Northern guys do. Moreover, most Southern youngsters face necessity to get a degree at one of the Northeren Universities in order to be accepted and find job afterwords. Needless to say that their families make huge sacrifices to allow their offsprings to study on the other part of the country.

At least, ever lower numbers of Southern Italians become “mammoni”, the feature which highly characterizes Northern Italian men. So, today, not all Southern Italians are as lazy and ignorant anymore as North Italians used to think of them. For long time yet, by the way. So, who’s ignorant aftewords?

Barbarian pronounciation

True, South pronunciation of Italian language is something of horrible to North Italian ear. Even to mine is. I guess if we still were in ancient times, North Italians would regard the Southern counterpart as “barbarian”. Even I would.

Does all that really matter?

But what actually matters is that… Most of South Italians are really good people, open-hearted and kind. The sort of “the friend in need is friend indeed”. They may be too direct, too loudy, too inappropriate… But you do know, they are sincere. They might appear as barbarian and less civilized, yet there’s no kind of hatered or “intrinsic inner protection” which may offend the counterpart… They are earth-to-earth, they are simple, they are just as they are...

And those of North Italians that have them as friends, have learned to appereciate their friendship and kindness. Yet, this regards only firiends indeed.

I don’t judge, I portray…


 real, people, girl, love, sex

What is your experience of meeting Italian people from North and South?

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  1. Vincenza Maione April 10, 2018 at 6:21 am - Reply

    Scusi se riposto ma non riesco a capire se sono riuscita a commentare o no.
    Salve, mi è capitato di leggere il suo articolo sulla differenza tra italiani del Nord e del Sud.
    Capisco che il suo post è stato scritto in buona fede, eppure, se me lo permette, ci sono alcuni punti che sono scritti secondo me in modo inappropriato.
     Innanzitutto, riguardo al passaggio sul perché i settentrionali non amano i meridionali, vorrei farle presente questo pezzo:
    Le do ragione per quanto riguarda la ahimè tragica situazione economica; tuttavia, non credo sia corretto dire che il Sud sia il peso morto del Nord. Questa è un’affermazione che manca di conoscenze reali e che è fuorviante. Ad ogni modo, utilizzare “drag” (oltre che “burden”) è, a mio parere, abbastanza inappropriato per chi vuole scrivere un articolo che si mantenga sul politically correct. Veda “a drag”: “una scocciatura, una rottura” (word
     L’affermazione <>.
    Che c’è ancora ignoranza al Sud non è empiricamente dimostrato, o almeno non è quantificata l’ignoranza al Sud con quella del Nord. Precisamente, cosa intende lei per “ignorance”? Una persona non istruita può essere ugualmente ignorante. Per quanto riguarda l’istruzione, forse lei intendeva utilizzare i termini “education”, o “schooling”. Anche in questo caso, mi duole comunicarle che l’analfabetismo è quasi assente in tutto il Paese, e che oggigiorno si parla in tutta Italia (ma non solo) di “analfabetismo funzionale” che, ripeto, colpisce i laureati come i non.
     L’uso del titolo del paragrafo <>.
    E’ solo dal mio umile punto di vista di bilingue italiano-napoletana, ma per quello che mi riguarda posso ricalcare le sue parole: <>. E non lo dico senza ragione di causa, conosco abbastanza bene l’acquisizione linguistica per poter affermare senza troppa paura che è normale percepire come “strano” ciò che un parlante nativo non è abituato a sentire fin da piccolo. Quando un Italiano del Sud parla italiano – senza aver svolto esercizi mirati di dizione – è spesso convinto di stare parlando con un accento neutro, e così per un italiano del Nord quando non è assolutamente vero. Anche per me voi suonate “orribili”, innaturali. Quello che voglio dire è che usare i termini “barbarian, horrible” offre una connotazione negativa di ciò che accade (che è peraltro assolutamente normale) anche tra un americano ed un britannico. Ascoltare un certo accento in tv, peraltro, è dovuto spesso alla collocazione degli studi televisivi (Milanese per la Mediaset, Roma e Napoli per la Rai). L’accento “standard” non è del Nord, ma in verità proviene dall’area laziale, mentre invece per via anche dello sviluppo economico si sta diffondendo la sonorizzazione della /s/ intervocale tipica della Lombardia. Infatti, come lei ha citato nell’articolo, poiché il Nord è economicamente più avanzato del Sud, i meridionali devono lottare “culturalmente” per essere accettati, e non è strano che adottino l’accento settentrionale per raggiungere lo scopo. Stessa cosa capita con gli immigrati di qualunque Paese. Io vivo in Giappone e so di che cosa sto parlando.
     Inoltre, io non ho vissuto al Nord per lungo tempo e non posso giudicare assolutamente il quadro che lei ha ritratto dei suoi conterranei. Tuttavia, visto da una meridionale, il paragone che lei attua tra italiani del Nord e del Sud mi sembra quantomai sbilanciato. Dipingere i settentrionali come “hard workers” (ovvero con una connotazione prevalentemente positiva), e i settentrionali come “lazy” (connotazione negativa) non fornisce un quadro reale della situazione. Non è vero che i settentrionali sono generalmente lazy, così come non è detto che stare in ufficio 8 ore significhi automaticamente essere un hard worker. In Giappone, la gente lavora fino alle 22, i giapponesi dicono che tutti gli italiani sono sfaticati perché non lavorano tanto quanto loro… ma andiamo a valutare la qualità e non la quantità del lavoro? Se analizziamo quanto effettivamente lavorano i giapponesi, scopriamo che in soldoni fanno poco ed anche male.
    Ripeto, sono consapevole che lei non sta scrivendo con cattive intenzioni, come lei stessa ha messo in chiaro nell’articolo. Tuttavia, ritengo che la scelta delle parole usate in alcuni punti sia da rivedere, semplicemente perché si tende a delineare un quadro che probabilmente nemmeno lei ha intenzione di mostrare.

    Le auguro di continuare con la sua opera di scrittura, con la speranza che la mia risposta le sia da incoraggiamento a far conoscere sempre meglio il nostro Bel Paese.

    Vincenza Maione.

  2. Vincenza Maione April 10, 2018 at 6:25 am - Reply

    Mi sono resa conto che le citazioni non sono comparse, provo a ri-postarle.
    1) Burden – (…) The economy of the Southern Italy mainly consists of agriculture and tourism, so it(‘)s rather seasonal. So, the whole Southern Italy is like the drag or burden for the rest of the (C)ountry.
    2) Some Southern Italians remain highly ignorant still today.
    3) Barbarian pronunciation.
    4) NORTH pronunciation of Italian language is something of horrible to SOUTH Italian ear. Even to mine is.

    Buona giornata, Vincenza Maione.

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