I’ve only been in Florence for a week and I already want to live here for the rest of my life. The people, the city, and the lifestyle, all of it is wonderful! From the first day of living in this bustling city, I’ve noticed some very obvious cultural differences both great and a somewhat strange.
1. The biggest one I love is that no Italian walks and looks at their phone at the same time. In America, no matter where I’m at, the majority of people are staring down at their phones or making a call while walking. Everyone here is talking to one another or just looking straight ahead, no one is texting or searching the web while walking. Even I’m guilty of that!
2. When walking to my class I saw a McDonald’s. This was a shock to me because up to this point I had not seen one fast food restaurant, any processed foods or any chain restaurants. Italians and their culinary tastes are amazing that way. The fresh food is unbelievable and FRESH is the only option.
3. Dinner is from 7:30pm-9pm. If you show up to a restaurant at 6 o’clock, you will for sure be the only person in the restaurant. This causes the days to feel longer and is somewhat difficult the first week. But you get used to it and realize you would rather eat later than by yourself.
4. Some frustrating differences are pedestrians do NOT have the right of way. If you are at a cross walk, see a car somewhat close and still decide to cross thinking the car will slow down or stop, well it won’t. The drivers will get as close as possible to you until you move out of their way. It’s the scariest thing on these tiny streets, where you have to fear for your life and hope you don’t get hit by their mirrors!
5. Another related to the tiny streets is, because there are almost no sidewalks, people will walk straight at you assuming you are going to move rather than them moving out of the way. They will not budge, you’ll run right into them if you don’t move.
6. Smoking and smelling like smoke is a constant every day, no matter what time of the day occurrence. Once stepping outside you almost immediately smell like smoke. I am not used to people smoking like this so it’s very surprising and strange when everyone is allowed to smoke and everyone around you is smoking.
7. Something that I find odd but so unique are Italians dress for the season, not the weather. On the first sunny day since arriving, it was a warm 65 degrees; my roommates and I walked out with only our long sleeves and jeans. The rest of Florence was dressed in overcoats, boots, scarves, and beanies. The people here don’t care if it’s hot or cold, if it’s winter, they are going to wear their winter apparel!
8. It is also the hardest thing to find a bathroom outside of your apartment! There are almost no public restrooms anywhere, and if a restaurant or store has one (which is also rare) you are not allowed to use it unless you are buying something.
9. Drinking alcohol in public and walking down the street while holding it is allowed. It’s not uncommon to see younger kids holding a beer while walking down the street. This is really weird to see since it’s not allowed in the States.
10. Lastly, people do not eat on the go. If it is an outdoor/walk-up restaurant with no tables, people will be sitting on the sidewalk and eating. They don’t seem to order food to go or eat while walking. Mealtime and food is one of the most important things to Italians, so taking your time to eat is a must!
With all these difference Florence is still one of my favorite places in the world. It might take longer for me to get used to some cultural differences but nothing is big enough to keep me from loving this place!
Olivia is a current student at Baylor University studying at Florence University of the Arts (FUA) in Italy during the Spring 2016 term.