7 Ways You Will Annoy or Insult Someone in Italy

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

Don't annoy or insult someone in Italy by staying within normal social boundaries.
Image via Flickr by Thomas Hawk

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

Show good manners at the table so as not to annoy or insult anyone in Italy.
Image via Flickr by Dennis Wong

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

Alcohol is reserved for formal occasions and dinner. Don't annoy or insult someone in Italy by getting publicly intoxicated.
Image via Flickr by sfllaw

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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7 Ways You Will Annoy or Insult Someone in Italy

About the author

Jordan GreeneYou can call me Dan. I’m a backpacker and a self-taught cook. I’ve been to a few countries, mostly in Asia and Europe. I write articles as a part-time job. I have two lazy dogs, a pug (Bingo) and a husky (Reese).


P.S. You might also enjoy Lost in Translation Anecdotes: Humorous Stories About Mistranslations or 11 Travel Faux Pas to Avoid

3 thoughts on “7 Ways You Will Annoy or Insult Someone in Italy

  1. Good to know. Being late is very difficult for me. I am chronically early and that is just as much of a problem as being late, in any culture. lol Luckily, I haven’t made any of these faux pas in my three trips to Italy, but good to know for future trips.

    1. All people are different, but a few general tips are always good to keep in mind! And being chronically early is probably preferable to being chronically late 🙂 Glad to hear you haven’t made any faux pas in Italy, I hope everyone is as socially conscious as you!

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