The most frequent travel question

“Where are you from?”

I’m so used to hearing this question that sometimes I’m tempted to change my answer. Especially because my city is not very well-known around the world so it takes me always a couple of minutes to explain where I’m from.

Whenever we hear a place or a country we often associate it with facts or personal experiences. This association is what keeps the conversation going after asking, “Where are you from”. Whether we ask or we answer the question, sometimes the ideas that we have about places are distorted.

I happened to experience both: on the one hand I heard very strange things about my homeland and on the other I assumed unreal aspects of the countries I visited.

ITALY
This beautiful country is often stereotyped around the world. Many of these conventional ideas are correct. But there a few that are highly exaggerated.
It’s true that:
– Italians drink a lot of coffee at home or at a bar, it tastes good and it keeps you awake. My favorite: “caffè macchiato”;
– they love to scream in public places from the street to the airport, they aren’t ashamed of it and they aren’t completely aware of it;
– Italians moms are so overprotective that sometimes their “children” are still living with them at the age of forty.
These are some of the twisted beliefs I happened to deal with:
– many people reckon that every Italian is an artist or a musician. I think there’s the same percentage as in any other country;
– the mafia it’s not a movie, it’s a horrible reality. People should take it more seriously and it’s not funny to joke about it;
– Trentino-Alto Adige is a region in the north-east of Italy. Once some guys from Rome asked me and my girlfriends if there was an emperor in Trento (the region’s administrative city) and they congratulated us for speaking such a good Italian. It’s actually part of Italy and Italian is the official language.

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Otranto, Italy.

ARGENTINA
When I arrived in Córdoba (Argentina) I didn’t find what I had fantasized about.
Some of my expectations were:
– a high rate of indigenous population;
– to find in the local traditions some aspects similar to the Peruvian, Chilean or Bolivian cultures;
– that tango and football were part of the essence of Argentina.
What I actually experienced was that:
– almost everyone descends from Italians or Spanish and the population resembles them very much;
– there is a very active artistic life: many bars give room every night to live music, there are free photographic exhibitions around the city, contemporary and protest art is located in several open spaces;
– the architecture, the way of living and the food is much more similar to the Italian traditions than to those of the neighbor countries;
– apart from tango, there are other music genres that are even more popular (e.g. Rock Nacional, Folklore, Salsa & Cumbia). Tango is mainly widespread in Buenos Aires.

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Córdoba by night.

NORWAY
I started to be familiar with this country while working there in the tourism field. I love not only informing tourists about what I learnt during my time there but also answering their questions..
-“Excuse me I would love to see a troll, do you know where they live and if it’s possible to see one?”
-“Well, there’re some trolls sculptures around Norway or you can buy one of those small figures in the souvenir shops, but I don’t think you will be able to see an actual one.”

Throughout my experience I also realized that:
– not many Norwegians are blonde, they have blue or green eyes but their hair is usually dark;
– fjords contain saltwater and are directly connected to the ocean;
– the vikings were as cruel and rude as any other colonizers.

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Grotli, Norway. 1000 m.a.s.l., June.

What about your hometown: any rumors you want to invalidate? I would love to hear about them!

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