Every country has its own unique culture. Although, I’m from Europe and we Europeans have a lot in common there are also a lot of differences. Some of them can be a bit annoying or difficult to understand but mostly they are interesting and keep my curiosity alive. I’ve been in Italy for two months so I’m definitely not an expert yet but I have already noticed some differences between Italians and other nations. So I gathered them and here they are:
- “Coffee to go”
While in most countries you see people running around with their paper coffee cups here in Italy you’ll rarely see anyone doing it. It’s one thing I love about Italy. People here appreciate their free time and stop to have a break. Even if it’s only for five minutes Italians will stop and enjoy their coffee, often standing at the bar, chatting with the barista. Oh, and I must mention the quality of the coffee. It’s sooo goood and strong! Just the way I like it. No offence but who invented Americano?!? And why? When you have espresso! I know not everyone shares my enthusiasm for strong coffee but it does effect the culture. Or maybe the culture effected the coffee… Anyway, I much prefer these short breaks than running around with a cup.
The other interesting thing is how you don’t pay util you finished your coffee and want to leave. Here’s how it works in an Italian cafe: You go up to the bar, order your coffee, wait for it (maybe chat with the barista if he/she is not too busy), get your coffee, drink it then pay before you leave. It’s somewhat annoying as you have to queue twice and the whole coffee buying process takes longer but it shows me that I need to slow down more.
- On the street
I wonder how Italians don’t bump into each other every second. When I walk down a street and there’s a group coming towards me they never move out of the way to let me pass. Even if I have nowhere to go they’ll come extremely close when I have to stop and then they realise that I can’t melt into the wall or jump over them and then (but only then) one of them will move out of my way and let me pass. It’s something that annoys me a lot but here it seems natural.
While the above behaviour is somewhat irritating it also helps me slow down. I’m a fast walker which is not bad when I’m running errands or going to work but I noticed that I tend to walk fast even when I have enough time to slow down.
I think we can agree that Italian cuisine is amazing. Italians surely agree because it’s not easy to find anything else here. OK, there are all kinds of restaurants but I don’t think I’ve been anywhere else where the local food was so popular. What I absolutely love about Italy is that you can easily buy fresh, local ingredients. Whenever I go to the supermarket I always find something new and interesting. My next project is to learn how to cook with flowers as they seem to be very popular here.
Italians love fashion. We all know that. And we envy them for looking stylish all the time. But would we dress like an Italian? I’m not so sure. What is fashionable here might look a bit extreme in other countries. I couldn’t imagine men showing off with their chest hair the way Italians do. It’s definitely something that makes me smile but then again it’s quite normal here.
I just love how Italians speak. I don’t know why but the mixture of the language and hand gestures make me smile all the time. It’s just very expressive. The other day, I overheard a man (very fashionable, with blond, wavy hair, bright blue designer sunglasses and deeply cut T-shirt for his prominent chest hair) talking to his mamma, who chose the wrong cheese and now the guy had to go back to change it. It was nothing special but the whole scene just made me smile.
The other thing I noticed is how Italians get very loud when in groups. And they tend to do everything in groups or pairs. There’s a real sense of community here. I can see old people sitting in cafes and parks chatting away. In our fast paced world we could really work on our relationships so it’s good to see that there are countries where people find the time to talk to each other, to be together.
I know that two months is not enough to get to know a culture but it’s enough to spot some of the differences. Like elsewhere, there are good things and bad, and things that make me think and question myself. That’s what I like about travelling. The constant learning and developing.