Sociology has the answer: part II- Symbolic Interactionism and the story with a lady living in Italy


In the mid November of 2014 I had the chance to travel to Italy. After a couple of weeks I had to go back home, therefore I have decided that the best way to do so is by taking a bus. The bus was full of Romanians who were working in Italy, but since the Christmas holiday was quite close they have decided to come home for just a few weeks. I was surprised about the fact that these people had a strange attitude that I was not able to understand at that time. But there was a lady who stood out from my point of view. This lady sat on the front seat the entire road back home. As she started to talk with another man near her, she sounded very superior in her talking just because she was living in Italy, even though she was taking care of an old lady, therefore her job was not such an excellent one. She was talking more in Italian as if this language was a real achievement for her and she was the only Romanian that knew it. Sometimes she sounded like a pretender as she was saying that she doesn`t remember different Romanian words based on the idea that she was working already for five years in Italy. Then I started to think why is she behaving like that, considering the idea that even that bus was full of people that were in the same situation is her. Therefore she was not that unique and she didn`t have reasons to be that proud.  As a paradox, another lady who sat near me was always making mock of the other lady by telling that she was already living for ten years in Italy and she didn`t forget Romanian. Also she was telling me that the other lady doesn`t even know what she talks, and as far as I understand Italian she was right. Then my mind came back to other situations that I know where people feel quite superior just because they live in another country and now they can afford a car or a more comfortable life than before.

According to sociological theories, we can analyze the behavior of these people based on the symbolic interaction theory that was coined first by Max Weber and then by George Herbert Mead. Therefore this theory states that people tend to have a behavior that will reflect what they believe, even though their thoughts may not be always the right ones. This behavior has its roots in the environment that a person takes contact with. These facts lead to interpretation as a person can feel free to have his or her own opinion about a certain situation. The form of interpretation is also called “definition of the situation.’ Therefore our story has this lady who was feeling superior because she was working in Italy. Based on her thoughts and social interactions she was feeling that her behavior is the right one by considering the fact that maybe she was earning more money than in Romania or considering the fact that her life has changed in a better one once she left the country.  On the same time, Italy was a different environment for her so she was influenced in her behavior of this idea too. For instance Italians use to be quite proud of their heritages and values. According to the studies made, Italy is a top touristic choice for landmarks and history from all over the world. This could be the same story of many other countries and capitals of the world where a large number of Romanians use to work.

In fact the symbolic interactionist theory states that the whole world is a stage where people get the chance to perform different roles. This means that the lady in my story had her well defined role based on her experiences and her beliefs. In general, this could be the answer for any person that has a radical change after moving to a foreign country. ..or for a person who gets vegetarian. . .or for a person who takes an aesthetic surgery. .or for a person who quits her job.  .or for me.. .or for you. . .

Written by Crina Molnar



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