Ciao! I am a junior at North Carolina State University, and this spring semester I am studying abroad in Florence, Italy. Because I had never been to Europe, I wasn't sure what to expect. Nothing could prepare me for the different food, different styles, different languages, and different cultures. Throughout the next three months I will update about living abroad, travel tips, and much more.
Five things to know about the Italian culture:
1) Italians don't tip- It seems Americans are expected to tip everywhere (restaurants, taxis, etc). This is not the case in Italy. You simply pay for your food or service. People do not expect any extra.
2) Italians shop for only a few groceries at a time- Italians only shop for what they need that day or night. This means that the lines are much shorter at the grocery store. It is easy to spot an American that has 20 things on the conveyor belt, so be prepared for the locals to stare. Also, it is important to ask for a bag, or else they will not give you one.
3) Italians have a "siesta"- During the early afternoon hours, many businesses and shops close for "siesta." This break in the day allows store owners to rest. Many Americans assume that this would mean that shops would stay open later at night. However, this is not the case. Most shops reopen around 4 p.m. and stay open until only about 8 p.m.
4) Italians eat dinner much later- Most Americans eat dinner between 5 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. If you're traveling to Italy, be prepared to pack a few snacks. Most restaurants don't open their doors until 7 p.m. at the earliest, and most Italians gather to eat at 8 p.m. or later.
5) Italians drink socially- The "drinking culture" in Italy is much different from in the United States. The drinking age here is 16 years old. Italians embrace alcohol as part of their culture. A casual glass of wine with dinner or a drink at the bar with a friend is completely normal. Binge drinking and getting drunk is frowned upon.