Italians are very personable, loud and enthusiastic by nature. Don’t be shocked when they seem like they’re screaming in anger. They’re probably just being theatrical storytellers.
Slow Down: Italians love socializing and being out and about. Getting an iced coffee to go is not the best way to immerse yourself in the Italian culture. My all- time- favorite thing to do is enjoy a coffee at a bar in the morning. That’s a good first way to take on your Italian adventures. Embrace the “dolce far niente” (the sweetness of doing nothing) moment in your day.
*Tip: don’t be intimidated by the busy bar counter. As soon as you walk in, go to the cashier and order “un cappuccino ed un cornetto (a yummy breakfast pastry/crossiant) al banco, per favore”. Take your receipt and slyly place it on the bar counter, leaving a 20 cent tip and repeat by saying “un cappuccino ed un cornetto” per favore. It’s likely the barista will indicate to where you can get the cornetto on your own, otherwise he will ask you what flavor.
Personal Space: (or lack thereof rather…) sense of personal space is also a cultural concept. The Italian concept is much different than the American. Italians have no problem talking very close to your face, whereas Americans have more of a “personal bubble.” Greeting people is also quite different. Americans, as many other anglo-saxon cultures, greet commonly with a hand shake. In Italia, the double cheek kiss is the tradition greeting.
Italian Style: Chances are it will take you very little time to realize that Italians don’t dress for the actual temperature outside, but rather for the season. That means that if it is a warm day in March, you will never see Italians in shorts and a t-shirt. Chances are they will be wearing a scarf and jacket until April. Furthermore, Italians dress conservatively, not revealing too much skin. This is probably a result of the strong Catholic presence in the country’s culture. (That goes without saying: be sure to cover knees and shoulders in churches).
– Jessica Lagomarsino (Rome Assistant Program Coordinator)