Living as an expat means I’m constantly noticing cultural differences between the United States and Italy! Here are a few I’ve noticed so far.
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I could already write a thesis on the 10,000 ways I’ve already noticed the cultural differences between the United States and Italy. Language barriers aside, there are so many small and big differences I run into on a daily basis in our town. Here are a few I thought I’d share today!
Restaurants and Food
- Coffee shops here are called bars, and they serve as cafes in the morning and bars in the evening. I kind of love the way they do both!
- The vegetables taste so much fresher than the average option in the US. This includes the veggies found in supermarkets as well as the weekly market stalls. I don’t know if this is related to pesticides, GMO use/disuse, the proximity of farms to stores, or the intense commitment to selling only seasonal vegetables, but it is working! The only downside is that they go bad crazy fast, but I’m willing to make that sacrifice for the flavor.
- Heading to the grocery store is an adventure unto itself. Even in the big supermarkets – set up like American ones, but much smaller – the ratio of fresh products (especially meats and cheeses) to prepackaged foods is WAY better than in the United States. The fresh meat section is at least three times bigger than the Walmart in our town in Oklahoma. And don’t even get me started on the difference in cheese selection. 😉
- Italians do as the Spanish do and take il
riposo. Businesses shut down in the afternoon from about 2-5 every afternoon. Not every single thing does – bigger grocery stores stay open – but most errands and shopping need to get done in the morning.
- There’s a weird push and pull between the cash situation and the ATMs here, at least for Americans. Many businesses feel strongly about using the smallest bill possible to pay for things. If you spend under 10€, you’d better have a 10€ and not pay with
card. If you try, they often won’t take it or give you an eye roll. It’s tough for Americans because we mostly get our money from ATMs (called Bancomats here). Bancomats regularly only give out 50€ or even 100€ bills. My guess is that Italians go to the bank on or around payday and get lots of small bills. So every time I get cash, I get hilariously strategic about shopping and spending.
- People LOVE Wedge. He gets “Che
bello!” – How handsome! – every single day. Little old ladies stop and pet him, the kinds of people who in the states would often be intimidated by his size.
- Speaking of size, I’m confident that he’s the biggest dog in our town. We joke that he’s the biggest dog in our region.
- Joking aside, Italians love dogs and are much more welcoming and generally comfortable with dogs than I’ve experienced in the States. If we sit at an outdoor table, passersby and waiters both will stop what they’re doing to pet him and talk to him.
- Everyone has opinions on EVERYTHING, and that includes Wedge. In two five-minute conversations, our dog sitter had ‘suggestions’ on food, leashes, collars, poop schedules, and even our choice of apartment. While it can feel overwhelming and/or annoying
inthe moment, a TON of it is helpful and I’m slowly learning the ins and outs of Italian dog ownership!
This isn’t nearly a comprehensive list – there are so many more cultural differences! They run the gamut from strange to funny, awesome to hard. You can also find more of our settling into Italy right here.
Want more cultural differences between the United States and Italy? I’ll try to keep recording them and keep sharing them if you let me know!