Quirky Italian Habits that Don’t Work Well Here

Subtle changes in one’s behavior while living in a new country are part of a process called acculturation. Here are a few habits that my raise eyebrows if you bring them back to the U.S.


Kissing everybody goodbye
If you’ve spent more few weeks in Italy, you’ll likely will find yourself automatically leaning in to give friends and family members a couple of pecks on the cheek when it’s time to say goodbye. This can lead to some awkward moments if you continue this back home, but it is far more acceptable for Italian Americans than with most other cultures.

Not tipping
While in other countries it is common to add a certain percentage of the bill as a tip. In Italy you just round up to the nearest euro, or if the bill is really large, the nearest five euros. There is not a strong tipping culture in Italy – and it’s a bit of a touristy thing to do.

Eating Late
In many countries, eating late is associated with a poor diet regimen (and weight gain), but in Italy the idea of sitting down to dinner at 6pm is laughable. Lunch tends to be the largest meal of the day in Italy and typically dinner is not until 9:00 pm. There may be something to this habit. It can help regulate your blood sugar and keep hunger at bay. It’s certainly better than snacking on junk food in bed later on while watching Jimmy Kimmel

Counting differently
When counting using their hand, Italians usually start with counting from one at the thumb, rather than the American practice of starting our count with the index finger. It’s not likely to cause a social disruption if you count in this manner, but it may cause a double take from some.

Feeling the weather
Italians are a weather-sensitive bunch. Heavy rain is enough to cancel a social engagement and once the thermometer dips into the 60’s, a coat and even a scarf and gloves are common apparel. This may befuddle your friends who will be feel that a sweater is fine on a slightly chilly evening.

Having strict rules about food and drink
Anyone who’s spent time in Italy will know that there should be no Parmesan cheese with fish dishes and no cappuccino at mealtimes. Italians They waste no time telling friends wrong they are in their consumption of Italian food. A prime example is pointing out how different pasta shapes are better suited to different types of sauces.

Hand signals
Italians gesture more than most other cultures and after spending some time in Italy it’s likely that you have adopted at least one of the 250 gestures in common usage. Italians like to say that a gesture is more valuable than a thousand words. For example:

What do you want (Ma che vuio)? Is expressed with the hand held upward and the fingers held together and the hand moved up and down.

I couldn’t care less (Non me va) If you are having a heated discussion, you might end it using this gesture. The fingertips of one hand are placed under the chin pointing toward the neck, then swiftly flicked outward towards the person being argued with.
Some of these gestures are highly infectious. If that is the case following your time spent in Italy then acculturation is well underway.

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