What’s it like to be Italian-Canadian? What’s it like to date an Italian-Canadian or join their families? Turns out these are pretty frequent questions I’m hearing.

One of the more interesting aspects of keeping up this blog is seeing what people search (in Google, Yahoo or whatever) that gets them to An Italian-Canadian Life. There’s been quite a few people who search for Italian-Canadian “wedding” or  “dating.” It made me raise an eyebrow – it’s a topic I didn’t expect. Here’s a  sample of what people search for:

“italian canadian dating”
“italian love phrases”
“italian boyfriend family”
“italian breakup dating”
“what it means to be italian canadian”

I’ve also received emails from some readers who are looking to understand more about their boyfriend’s or girlfriend’s Italian-Canadian family. So what is it about dating an Italian-Canadian that is so darn interesting or confusing? While each family is unique, there’s certainly a few things I can recognize as typical of Italian-Canadians (as tongue-in-cheek as this is!)…here’s what you should know:

1. You won’t meet his or her family for a little while. Italian-Canadians generally don’t bring anyone home unless there’s something serious going on in the relationship. Plus, you don’t want to get an Italian mother’s hopes up that a marriage (or a grandkid) is close at hand. Too much excitement leads to  dashed hopes and eventually all kinds of guilt.

2. There will be family. Lots of family. When you do meet them, you won’t be able to keep them straight for some time. There’ll be more than one “Maria” or  more than one “Enzo.” If you can, do your best to keep mental notes of who is  who – it will come in handy when you run into them at the mall or bakery which  is bound to happen. And they will certainly remember you.

3. There will be food. Lots of food. Meals have multiple courses so pace yourself. Whatever you don’t eat, don’t worry, will be packed up for you to take home. Also, when you are asked if you want more, don’t bother saying “no thank you”, these words have been blocked out from all Italian’s ears – it’s a hereditary thing.

4.There are traditions and expectations. You don’t just miss cousin Francesca’s confirmation because you are busy. You make it there. You stay quiet during the church and you stuff yourself at the dinner. These are easy rules to follow and the dessert is usually the payoff. If you don’t make it, you risk your significant other (who will go) getting a thousand questions about where you are and what could be more important

5. If you’re dating an Italian-Canadians woman, expect someone head-strong, opinionated, busy, smart and generally two steps ahead of you. If you’re dating an Italian-Canadian man, expect chivalry, loyalty, soft spots for family, and maybe a bit of a temper. This is a generalization, obviously, and I’m open to other interpretations.

6. Life with an Italian-Canadian is busy, loud and sometimes overwhelming. Your Italian-Canadian significant other will always be running an errand for someone, dropping something off at a Zio’s house, or having to attend events. When you are finally introduced to the family, you’ll get swallowed whole into this too. There’s always something going on – a wedding, tomato season, Sunday dinner.

7. Based on that, know that being with family is about half of an Italian-Canadian’s social life. Sometimes there isn’t much room for anything else.

Did I miss anything? Did I mess anything up? Let me know in the comments! What advice can we give to people dating an Italian-Canadian?

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