Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Two Interviews on the Importance of Being Cute


Interviewer :  Gabriella
Interviewee : Angela

 G. Okay Angela, during an English lesson at University we students had to interview each other about an event that we experienced personally. While this time I would like to interview you about the topic “The importance of being cute”. I read also an article about this subject and I learnt the different use of the word “cute” between American people and British.
During the year in which I studied in Spain, in Valladolid, one of my flat mates was American: she is a photo model in Washington. And I remember that she always used the word “cute” for a new dress, for a cake, for a new hairstyle, for everything. But by reading this article I understood that, in general, the word “cute” has a lot of meanings like: charismatic, appealing, satisfying, beautiful, tender like new babies could be identified like “cute”.
In general, “cute”, I think, is a gratification that the speaker wants to give; of course, a President or an actor can be cute not only for the physical aspect but also for the character. One sentence of the article that made me reflect about is: (I’m reading the article) “And if you’re cute enough, you can have anything ”.
What do you think about it? Could this be true or is it just a tale?
A. Well, since I look at it, I think is true. Being cute open doors makes people stop and listen to you but actually to have success there has to be something more than the fact of being cute.
G. Uhm, uhm. Yes, I think it’s true and apart from that in the article that I read said that for British people the importance of being cute is dimly perceived. As we know, the appearance, unfortunately or luckily, depending on the points of view, is so important but of course “it is possible to be well known and successful without being cute ” I think….
According to you is the “cuteness-factor ” so important as they explained in the text?
A. As I previously said it is important up a certain point. Today a lot of attention is given to this fact of being cute, but today society is orientated to certain people that are open, open physically, having a good appearance and also mentally.
G. Maybe because of also TV programs like “Big Brother” that for me is totally a bad thing.
A. Obviously, it’s the today’s standard as every century has its standard. If you go back to the medieval times perhaps women were fatter, rounder. There was a different standard of appearance than there is today. But as I said before I think it’s true up to a certain point then you have to have something inside of you as cute people have as far as physical appearance is concerned. Internally you can be a cute person which means you’re open; you’re easy to be with others, to understand them, and this is the kind of charisma that gives the example to have a chance: it is the only base that you can have in an immediate approach that it is superficial in your appearance.
G. Yes yes. This article underlines the difference between Americans and British people with this sentence that I will read : “If cuteness fills Ameri-hearts with optimism, so does coziness arouse self-esteem in Brits.
Can you explain this subject better than me? I mean, the article focuses on the idea that: “Brits see themselves as well-behaved people, honorable, fair minded and moderate”. Could you add anything?
A. Well, I’m not a Brit and I am not an American, I’m an Australian, and as I see it … okay … English people are very conservative so they are very careful about the fair, about the impact ... queuing up and things like that. The Americans as I see them as being wild, wild not to be offensive, but they are wild because they had to conquer the territory in their space, they have to make plans. So instead, for my point of view as Australian: Australians are like free, free is different from being wild or being conservative and we also give the idea of being cute like the Americans, more like the Americans than the Brits but we take a bit from each as Brits we use it to say that it is fair and at the same time as Americans to say that something is pretty not in the way that we like looking at.
G. So, don’t you use the word cute like Americans? Do you use that word less or more?
A. Uhm. Let’s say a bit less than Americans, a bit less … well … I don’t know, in general we are more moderate, we’re in between them as I said before ... and we take a bit from both sides but we are in between.
G. Okay.. Thank you a lot for your interview. It was a pleasure for me doing it. Thank you.
A. Thank you for have listened to me and you’re welcome, no problem!


Interviewer :  Gabriella
Interviewee : Biorn

G.   Okay Biorn, at the University I had to interview other students like me about an event that we experienced personally. But the last interview that we had to do is about “The importance of being cute”.
I read an article about this subject too: it said that American people use a lot the word “cute” also to describe a new hairstyle or a cake or newborn babies and of course to give the idea of something or someone that is appealing, tender, beautiful, charismatic. And I remember that I had also a flat mate that she is ... she comes from Washington that she always used the word “cute” and I think that it is quite an exaggeration. But in the article there is ... there was a sentence that made me reflect. I’m reading the same words of the article, it said: “And if you’re cute enough you can have anything”. This sentence … well I have already interviewed an Australian woman about this subject and she explained to me that nowadays the appearance is so important even if it is not everything because, if you want to be successful you cannot be beautiful but stupid, and I totally agree with this idea. So the cuteness-factor is quite relevant and she added that Australian people use the word “cute” less than Americans but more than Brits.
And you, Biorn, being Danish could you explain to me how you use the word “cute” ?
B. Well, in Denmark since we are child we are used to see ... watch movies in original language and most of them are of course American movies. In fact if you go to the cinema often you can see the film in the original language with local subtitles. (Most movies come from America), so we often listen to the American language and American accent, for this reason we use quite often the word “cute” but maybe fewer than Americans. When I was a child my parents, even if they have Italian roots, sent me in an English school, so for this reason I do speak English, Danish and Italian.
G. Okay, by considering that in Denmark there are a lot of beautiful girls, and I think that in your country the beauty is a “must”. I mean it seems that Danish girls want to appear always perfect or so it seems.
What do you think about the “cuteness-factor” in general and in particular in your country too?
B. Well, nowadays being cute is more or less a “must”. In fact, if you are cute enough you can have more chances than an ugly person. I want to add that like the Americans, we use “cute” also to describe someone or something that is appealing or charismatic. But I have to say that the cuteness-factor in Denmark is quite relevant: in fact, girls start using make up or dressing up since they are little. I think we have a different mentality because in Denmark the cuteness-factor can often became a business. For example in my country there are a lot of models who start their career at the tender age of 14 years. By having Italian parents I can see the different approach to the body that Danish people and the Italians have: in fact there, it is quite normal that a woman of forty years is a very thin and beautiful lady, while in Italy the majority of women of that age don’t take care of themselves as Danish people do, as Danish women do. To conclude I want to tell that I don’t like the idea that the cuteness-factor is such an important thing but it is one of the most important. It is one of the important characteristics that a person should have!
G. Thank you Biorn, for your interview. You have satisfied my curiosity about the Danish mentality, about cuteness because I think that Denmark is the “beauty-country”. Well, I don’t know how to say it.
Thank you!!
B. Thank you Gabriella, thank you!
Gabriella Denaro

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Interview on British and American (and Canadian) Food and Eating Habits

Three weeks ago, we students were told to interview an American or British person on a particular topic, after talking about the differences there are between these two cultures. The topics we were supposed to discuss were various; each of us were given a chapter belonging to our Professor’s book, which dealt with them.
The one I chose is that dealing with food. As we know, food is one of those things that, in a way, makes us notice the differences there are between USA and Great Britain, and these concern not only the way they eat, but also the way they relate with food, that is, the relationship they have with it.
Unfortunately, I could not find an American or British person to interview. I’ve lost all the contacts with the few I had known some time ago.
However, what I could do, was to interview a co-worker, that in spite of living in Italy now, was born and lived, until he was twelve, in Canada, and precisely, in Montreal.
Consequently, I thought he would be a good option for my interview, since Canadian culture is, somewhat close, probably, to the American one, especially for what concerns food.
By living in Canada, he obviously had the opportunity to experience the way Canadians conceive food, what they think about British and American way of eating, and also, in which of these two cultures they feel closer.

After reading the chapter that was given to me, I asked him what was his point of view, and, in particular, if he agreed with the author about some considerations he/she gave us in his book.


C.: Hi, Giuseppe!
G.: Hi!
C.: So, in the article we’ve just read, the author makes a detailed description on how British people and American people eat. The first thing we notice is that there is a huge difference between these two cultures, not only in the way of eating, but even in the way of conceiving and experiencing food. As you were just telling us, you were born and lived for many years in Canada, until you were twelve. So, even though Canada is not the USA or Great Britain, do you agree with the author, that is, do you really think there’s a big difference in the way of eating, between British people and American people?
G.: Sure, there is a lot of difference, because in America, or in Canada, where I used to live, there’re a lot of people that love to eat fast food, even though they know that it’s not good for their health, but they like to eat it because there’s a lot of difference between the money and it’s good because it’s Junk food and I don’t know what they put in there, but it’s very good!
C.: Ok. In the article, at a certain point, we see that the author says that the British have a kind of prejudice against foreign food. Is it the same for Canadians? Or are they experimental about food?
G.: Well, the difference is that, let me make an example, the British, they make the tea-time, so once a day they make the tea. In Canada, some people like to do it, but some people don’t. So, I don’t know if it’s a prejudice, this thing, but there’re a lot of difference, the mentality is different between British and Canadians, I think this is the difference.
C.: So, is there something in particular Canadians like to eat?
G.: Well, as I was saying in your first question, Canadians like to eat a lot of fast-foods. A lot of people, they go out of the school and go to these fast- foods because it’s quick, good, and they don’t spend a lot of money.
C.: In the second part of the article, where we find the part dedicated to American people, we read that they have simple tastes and are open-minded about combinations. Americans not only eat; they merge themselves with food. In which of the two cultures do you think Canadians are reflected on? Are they open-minded, like American people, or have they prejudices like British?
G.: No. no, they’re open-minded, it’s not that the problem, because I don’t think that everyone eats the same things, at the same time every day. A lot of people like to change, they like to eat maybe something else, I don’t know something like pasta, like Italians do; I come from an Italian family, I was a child and I used to eat everything. A lot of Canadians, because they’re bound over there and they live over there, they like to taste everything, but they prefer Junk food.
C.: In the last part of the article, there’s a chapter dedicated to “the importance of sharing”. It’s stated that American people have a sort of philosophy, if we want to call it so, in the way of approaching with food. They have a custom: they glance at your plate and ask you if they can taste what you’re eating, as if they wanted to share food, even though you’re a stranger. British people see that as an invasion of privacy, as something quite out of place and disgusting as well. What is your opinion? I mean, do you think this is true? What is Canadian’s point of view? Do they love to “share” or not?
G.: Well, I can make an example on my own skin, ok? If somebody wants to taste my plate, that is tasting my food, touching it, it’s not really nice. I don’t like it; but maybe there’s some people that want to share, they want to taste it! You know, there’re different opinions. I can’t say about Canadians because every mind can change; I can say that I would be very angry, I don’t like it, I want nobody to touch my plate.
C.: Or maybe, only with people you know…
G.: Oh, yes, sure! Only with people I know and I trust.
C.: Ok. So, the last question.
In the very end of the article, there’s a description on the way American and British children eat. The author says that American children from their earliest infancy visit restaurants, and at the age of six eat more than their mothers. The British ones are supposed to eat differently from adults. They eat food composed by carbohydrates and no protein. So according to you is it true? What is the relationship that children have with food in Canada?
G.: Well, children, when they go out of the school, like I was saying earlier, they go and play and they love junk food, they go and they don’t spend a lot of money. So they prefer junk food; a lot! That’s for sure. But for their health it’s not good, I know! But you can do nothing, you can’t change their mind.
C.: Ok, anything to add?
G.: Well, I hope I’ve been clear, and that you could understand how Canadians think about it.
C.: Ok, Thank you very much.
G.: Thank you so much. Bye, bye!
Cristina La Rosa

The Children … Baby-Brit, Baby-Yank

No doubt that Americans and British people have different ways of making friends, finding jobs; people talk different languages in the general tone and meaning. There are tremendous cultural differences between the US and the UK. I would like to touch another interesting point – the differences in the way parents bring up their children. I am going to interview Mrs. Flora Prestileo, American-Italian, who was an English teacher at the University of Messina and who has also two children.

-                      The first and I think the most general question: “Are there really so many differences in the way children are brought up?”
-                      I don’t think that there are many differences, but I can’t say much about the British. My impression is that the Americans are more casual in the attitude to their children whereas the British are more formal. This is probably the most general difference that I can see.

-                      The author of the book “Ameri-think and Brit-think” insists that one of the differences is in the way of thinking about this process. “America is the land of Opportunity where any kid can grow up to be President”. So, Ameri-parents do everything to help a child get the jump on others, to achieve the best education (from the preschool to the university), to be a winner and to go forward. Can you comment on this?
-                      Well, I agree with this. I think that American parents teach their children that everything is possible. In fact, one of the proverbs is “Where there is the will, there is a way”, which means that if there is something that you would like to achieve in life, you can do it if you really want to. So, they give a lot of value to education especially university education. American universities are very, very expensive and parents try to put their children in college or university which will some day give them the opportunity in finding a good job and success.

-                      Is it really important for Americans to have a prestigious and successful life and to transmit this desire to their children?
-                      I think so, yes. I think that they have an American Dream which means to be successful in life. Yes, I agree with this.

-                      Another aspect is that Brit-parents think that too much praise isn’t good for children considering that modesty and humility are virtues. Do Americans exaggerate in always giving complements or providing encouragement to their children, even if they don’t deserve them?
-                      Yes, well, Americans do this. And I think one of the reasons for Americans is self-confidence that is very important. It’s not enough to be intelligent but you have to present yourself to others. And if you have a lot of self-confidence, you are able to show, you know, that you are worth something in life. So, one of the ways of building up this self-confidence is by complementing children and making them think that they are very good. It’s exaggerated, I think. It’s exaggerated, but so it is.

-                      So we can’t say the same thing about Brit-parents?
-                      I don’t think so, but as I’ve said before I don’t have much experience with the British. I have some British friends but they have smaller children, and I don’t know honestly about the British so much.

-                      Is it possible to say that American kids are more spoilt that their counterparts from Britain?
-                      Yes, I think so. I think you can make the difference between American kids and European children. Because America is a consumer society, where everything is based on having more and giving more and so, I think their children tend to be spoilt because they can get what they want because that’s how the society is.

-                      Do you really agree that Ameri-parents spend on their children enormous amounts of time, energy and money? And if so, what do they focus on in particular?
-                      I don’t know how much time Americans spend with their children, but they do focus on sports a lot. They make their children do a lot of sports. So if boy’s playing in a baseball team, the father has to bring him or a mother. In that sense they spend a lot of time and then, of course, the fact that not so many American grandparents baby-sit. So, parents are often forced to take their children with them, it’s not like in Italy. Yes, they spend time with their children. I don’t know if it’s exaggerated or a normalcy especially if both parents work and if they find a time.

-                      And what about money?
-                      Do they spend too much money? Oh, yeah, yes, definitely.

-                      It is said that on the contrary, the British usually  pay more attention to good table manners and the right accent?
-                      Yes, because I’ve said before, I think the British tend to be very formal, so they teach them good manners, whereas American parents, yes, they try to teach their children manners but maybe not in such an exaggerated way.

-                      Ok. Do you know how Americans usually spend time with their kids?
-                      As I’ve said before maybe by doing sports and vacation. Of course, they take their children on vacation with them. And the impression I got that more to sports and taking them to the movies.

-                      Is it right that American parents take their offsprings everywhere and that they like to “expose” them to everything?
-                      Yes, I think so, but probably one of the reasons is that grandparents are not willing to baby-sit. (Smiles)

-                      This is a personal question. How did you bring up your children using the Italian or American style?
-                      I tried to take the best of both. I tried to teach my children that material things aren’t so important. What’s important is the person you are. Maybe I tried to teach them that it’s always good to be humble.

-                      But was it difficult to combine European and American styles together?
-                      It was, for example, I sent my children to study in the North and then to America and a lot of my friends said that I was crazy and asked why I was sending my children away when they were so young. Because my older son was only seventeen when he left Messina, but I knew that they will become more mature if they were on their own instead of staying in Messina.

-                      What about the names? What names do Americans usually choose for their children?
-                      Well, the boys usually get the father’s name. the first boy usually is named after his father. And I think they like short names too, because they aren’t very complicated and they like nicknames. I don’t know in particular.

-                      Brits take names very seriously according to the traditions of class and family, while Americans are more casual.
-                      Yes, I have a British friend who has four names whereas in America they tend to give you first name and the middle name. Yes, they are more casual, this is in general.

-                      There is another problem – nicknames. Brits try to give first names which can’t be shortened to show their respect while Americans use nicknames to show their liking to the person. Is it right?
-                      It’s right. Of course, yes, it is. They give them a short nickname or add some kind of syllable to it. Yes, that’s true.

-                      And they also use the nicknames when the children become adults?
-                      Yes, of course. Some nicknames could be initials, you know. I don’t know – Tom which is short for Thomas. A lot of names are shortened – Joe for Joseph.

-                      How can you comment the fact that American people put the ee-sound at the end of their names to produce Dickey, Jamie, Katie? Is it really so widespread in the US?
-                      It was so. I don’t know how widespread it is today, but it was once. And as I said it’s a sign of affection, I think. 

-                      So, British people don’t do it?
-                      Let me think, no, no. The friends that I have don’t shorten their children’s names, the British friends I have, no.

-                      Another surprise for me was that such names as Robin, Leslie, Jamie in America are girls’ names whereas in Britain these are boys’ names.
-                      Yes, that’s true. Even if sometimes we do get as we get Robin Williams or Leslie Nilsson. Jamie is a girl’s name in America. You know, I guess, it’s just now accustomed usage.

-                      So, would you like to add something?
-                      In general? What can I say personally, I tried to take the best possible characteristics from both the Italian and the American society. And I don’t know what else? You mean for the names or in general?
-                      I think in general.
-                      To be honest, one of the things that I hate about Americans is the fact that the American society is such a consumerist society that disturbs me a lot. That’s one of the things. And as far as children I like the idea that, you know, children can dream of being successful one day whereas I think in Italy, for example, it’s just the opposite for children today. If I were a parent today of a young child I would feel very pessimistic about his future. So, that’s one of the good things about American society that you can dream whereas here you can’t.

-                      Do you think there are differences in a way of behavior of children outside or with other children?
-                      Oh, yes, indeed. American children may be spoilt for material things whereas Italian children are spoilt in their taking the things, they think they can do what they want to do. Whereas in America – no. A child is taught that he has to behave in a certain way. He may want and maybe his parents buy him all – the toys, gadgets – whatever he wants. Materially speaking he gets, but I think he is taught better manners than Italian children. In my opinion, Italian children have bad manners, they show no respect for anybody.
-                      Yes, but that is another topic. Thank you very much.
-                      You are welcome.

It’s not enough to give birth to children, raising a child is the hardest, most responsible and satisfying task a human being can face. Therefore, the parents need to create for their kids a suitable environment full of love, respect, knowledge and values. The Koran says “Childhood is a symbol of the future and the hope of all victories to come”. To sum up, it doesn’t matter what country are you from, the most important thing is – to be your own parent. 
Dina Chashchinova