Are English speakers more likely to be scammed in Italy?

Another expat here in Italy recently told me a harrowing story from one of her friends who was taken advantage of by a local contractor.She felt she was being significantly overcharged for the work she did and wondered if others had similar experiences. Stories that tourists and residents were deceivedthe reader probably guesses that this must be a common occurrence.

Obviously, generalizations are dangerous. Different regions. Cities and towns are different. People are different. In any country or culture, you will encounter scammers, petty thieves, or simply dishonest people.

For hundreds of years, the Italian peninsula has been flooded with waves of tourists and newcomers from countries considered wealthy. In fact, it was a prime destination for aristocratic men and women taking part in the Grand Tour of the continent. For the past 60 years, young people in wealthy countries have independently performed a low-budget version of this rite of passage. Every city, big or small, sees a backpacker traveling in her shorts and hiking boots.

Whenever newcomers are seen showing off their money – paying for coffee with a credit card, buying expensive watches and shoes, Eating at an expensive tourist restaurant –Someone sees them as easy picking.

Indeed, there is no shortage of scams on all scales.There are small annoyances like Roman men dressed as gladiators Just asking for 10 euros for the privilege even though they want to take a picture with you. There are also online listings of homes that do not disclose the extent of earthquake damage and want the highest possible price.

Read also: How to avoid hidden traps when buying old properties in Italy

Tourists are the easiest mark. We know that thieves and crooks are more likely to get away before they are spotted. Or victims don’t know how to find and report to the police. Worse, the police just shrug their shoulders.

One episode of the Netflix series, Master of None, captures this interaction beautifully. The Carabinieri were more interested in the fragrant dishes prepared by the thief’s mama than in solving crimes.

But when someone chooses to live in an Italian town, the dynamics are different. Many Italians are used to foreigners coming in certain seasons to escape the unfavorable weather in their own country and disappear for months.

The locals of our region have a specific, even somewhat derisive term for such people. pendry, like a pendulum swinging back and forth. It took a whole year for our neighbors to convince us that we would stay.

One obvious problem that creates suspicion of malice and deception is unfamiliarity with various practices.

For example, as part of the primary contract, it is not common for contractors to clean up the worksite after project completion. This is common practice in the US, but in Italy it may be handled through a separate contract with another company. So if a foreigner expected a service and it didn’t happen, he could feel tricked into paying more.

Cheap Italian real estate isn’t always what unsuspecting buyers want. Photo courtesy Ehud Neuhaus upon unsplash

Another problem is that many English speakers choose to form relationships only with other English-speaking foreigners. Worse still, some show entitlement and superiority towards service industry workers, bureaucrats and shopkeepers. The word spreads quickly, especially in small towns.

Read also: From bureaucracy to bidets: the most confusing things about living in Italy

There is also the almost inevitable fact that foreigners are wealthier than locals. Having a second home in Italy is a symbol of wealth. Indeed, a large villa with a large pool and gated entrance is a total giveaway. Again, the word spread quickly, sometimes even to criminals. I have a friend who came back from vacation to find that everything in his house was demolished, including the heating system. The thief pulled a big truck and went unhindered into town.

For newcomers, building relationships with locals is very important. Of course, that means learning a language. Not necessarily all verb conjugations, but enough to create social connections. In a small alley with a dozen houses, everyone looks after each other. It would be very difficult for a stranger to pull off anything.

In our five years living in this village of 1,400 people, we have never felt taken advantage of.

We know that we are recognized as “wealthy Americans” in the city. You can’t avoid it. We once lived in a house where he had two large families. It has a panoramic view that everyone comments on. We receive a lot of packages, and the delivery person asks shopkeepers and passers-by where we live. they all know

According to ISTAT, the median household income in Italy is just over €30,000 per year. And it very often has multiple people working. So by Italian standards we don’t consider ourselves wealthy, but we are wealthy. (In some places in the United States, our income is considered close to poverty level.) So relatively wealthy Americans can’t help but stand out.

Read also: “How I got a selective residence visa to retire in Italy”

We haven’t been victimized, but I’m sure expats in other towns have been.

It may be more common in parts of Italy with more seasonal tourists. Foreigners don’t understand the language and are careless when it comes to showing signs of wealth, so they might be considered an easy mark.

It seems that some people fall for scams. I have repeatedly seen tourists robbed of their money for playing with shellfish from high-rise windows.

It was like a bizarre play, with cherry blossoms planted in the audience to “win” the game. Within minutes, a lightning-fast shuffle robbed an unsuspecting player of hundreds of euros.

Mocked up ‘shell game’: one way unsuspecting tourists part with their money in Italy.Photo: Mark Hinshaw

Unfortunately, as a foreigner you can be welcomed by some and taken advantage of by others. But it’s happened to me in New York, San Francisco, and Chicago — places I’m familiar with in my own country. Or delusional.

Mark Hinshaw is a retired urban planner who lives with his wife in Le Marche. He is a former columnist for the Seattle He Times and has written for magazines, books and other publications. Are English speakers more likely to be scammed in Italy?

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