Italians are a fiery race at the best of times. The people of this Mediterranean nation have several customs which are different to those of their European neighbours. It’s these sorts of social manners which can cause offence if not adhered to. Today, we’re going to run through seven ways you will annoy or insult someone in Italy.
1. Greeting Strangers
It’s become something of a cliché to picture people from Southern Europe greeting each other with a series of kisses on either cheek. In reality, this is a welcome withheld for close friends and family alone. A handshake is what’s required for people you’re less familiar with. Similarly, refrain from saying “Ciao” to someone you don’t really know. The correct address is buon giorno during the day, and buona sera in the evening.\
2. Church Clothing
In a nation which still champions the concept of organised religion, it’s perhaps little surprise you run the risk of offending people when acting inappropriately at church. A staggering 88.6% of the Italian population are Catholic, so make sure you don’t insult them by baring your shoulders inside a holy building. Even if it’s baking hot, take something with you to cover them up.
3. Table Manners
You’re going to annoy a lot of people if you start acting poorly while at the dinner table. This is true in most countries across the world. The Italians are particularly judgmental of people who yell out across the room, and are also not ones to share food from their own plates. It could insult someone to ask to try their meal.
4. Thumbs Up
It might seem like one of the most positive actions imaginable, but, in the Italian culture, giving someone a thumbs up is akin to a raised middle finger in ours. This was perhaps no more perfectly demonstrated than by the classic “do you bite your thumb at me sir” argument from Romeo and Juliet.
5. Public Drinking
The concept of making yourself ridiculously drunk in public is a very British thing. In most of Europe this sort of behaviour is looked down upon. Italy is no different. Drinking is something reserved for dinner time alone, and not a pastime which in itself should count as a hobby.
6. Learn the Language
While nobody expects you to become fluent in a foreign language, it would make things better for everyone involved if you pick up at least few key phrases and words. It’s a mark of respect for the local customs and culture, and goes a long way to staying in the good books of those you’re temporarily living near.
7. Arrive Late
You might think getting somewhere bang on time is the best way to make a good impression on your Italian hosts. In reality, you’ll want to turn up 15-30 minutes late. This gives them the chance to make sure all their preparations are finalised for the evening. If they themselves are running late, this gives them an extra chance to make sure everything is in order.
Avoid making these social faux pas and you’ll be able to get through your stay in Italy without insulting or annoying anyone.
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P.S. You might also enjoy Lost in Translation Anecdotes: Humorous Stories About Mistranslations or 11 Travel Faux Pas to Avoid