If you’ve never left the United States before, then you are going to be in for a bit of a culture shock when you arrive in Italy.
There are many things in Italy that shocked me when I first arrived. If you want to arrive a little bit more prepared than I was, check out the things that I found most shocking about the Italians.
They Don’t Follow Driving Laws
In high school, American students are taught all of the hundreds of laws that must be obeyed while driving. In Italy, the driving laws are more of…suggestions.
Mopeds and cars drive wherever they want and as a pedestrian, it’s kind of scary. After a while, my fellow students and I realized that we didn’t even have to follow the crosswalks. Most Romans just walk out in the middle of the road and between cars with no care in the world.
We eventually came to say just walk across because the cars can smell fear.
Just make sure that you are careful when crossing the street and paying attention to the crazy Italian drivers.
There is Graffiti Everywhere
In the United States, our society believes that if there is graffiti on the buildings then you are in a bad area. Well in Italy…there’s graffiti everywhere.
So if you see graffiti in a place that you’re in, don’t be afraid, you’re not in a bad place. It’s just everywhere. The Italians just really like putting graffiti on every building in the city.
They Eat at 7:30…Earliest
If you’re like me then you probably grew up eating dinner at 6/6:30 every day (and while I lived with my grandparents it was more like 5:30). Well in Italy…they don’t eat until 7:30/8 and they eat BIG dinners.
Most restaurants (that aren’t geared towards tourists) won’t open until 7 for dinner. And if you want to order a real Italian meal then you have to order an antipasto (appetizer), primo piatto (first plate-usually pasta), and a second piatto (second plate-usually meat or fish).
Personally, I usually ordered an antipasto and either a primo piatto or secondo piatto, but it is up to you what you want to do.
To this day though, I still don’t understand how the Italians eat so much for dinner.
If you need a snack to hold you over between lunch and dinner, check out this guide on the best snacks in Italy:
They Talk With Their Hands
As I mentioned in Speaking Italian to THE Italians, the stereotype is true, the Italians do actually speak with their hands. It takes a while to pick up on what each hand gesture means, but pay attention to them because most of them you really don’t want directed at you.
It’s also very entertaining to follow the drama of Italian families though through hand gestures (and is a great pastime).
They’re Really Relaxed
In the United States, most people expect to have things completed in a timely manner. Well in Italy…they’re a little more relaxed (that’s a slight understatement).
The Italians are in no rush to get anything done. Most stores close during the summer while all of the Italians take a long “holiday,” as well as in the middle of the day for their “fiesta,” or lunch break.
There were plenty of times when I wanted to run to the grocery store after class (about 2pm) and grab something quickly, and the grocery stores was closed for another two hours. It can be very aggravating.
If you’re going through the immigration office, it will take months before everything is officially done. I spent an entire day in the Immigration Office because the Italians did not care about actual appointment times.
Trust me, there will be many occasions when you just have to take a deep breath and love the Italians for their relaxed demeanor.
If you want to read more about weird Italian quirks, I HIGHLY recommend checking out the link below. I read this book before I left for Italy and it definitely helped with the culture shock. Check it out below: