When visiting a foreign land, one of the most fascinating things to experience is the actual culture of the place you are visiting. But it is important to be a savvy and considerate traveller to ensure that you do not inadvertently offend the locals due to cultural differences. For example, in some countries, slurping your food is considered a sign that you are thoroughly enjoying your meal, whilst in other countries it is rude.
We thought we would help guide you through some of the ways you can be a smart traveller when visiting Italy. Here are a few tips that some of us foreign Artviva staff have learnt the hard way!
? Cappuccino is a breakfast drink, and some restaurants find it almost an offence to ‘ruin’ a meal with a heavy, milky coffee after a meal. Try an espresso or a ‘cafè macchiato’ (coffee ‘stained’ with a little milk) to end your meal like a true local.
? Don’t use a spoon to eat spaghetti! Use your fork, and the bottom of the plate to twist the spaghetti into delicate mouthfuls.
? Make sure you eat all you order. It is considered an offence if you don’t finish your meal. It is much better to ask for a smaller portion than to leave food on your plate. There is also no ‘doggy bag’ concept in Italy so whilst some places may accommodate you, it is generally not done take food away with you.
? Eat when you drink. Italians don’t drink without food. It is very important not to be drunk in public, so wine is always served with some nibbles, and if you’re having lunch at someone’s home, you will also find that the meal with end with a ‘digestive’ shot of grappa or limoncello, and the wine will be put away.
? Don’t even think about BYO! In the land where wine production has dated back throughout the centuries, the very idea of bringing your own wine to a restaurant is outrageous!
? Flip-flops are only for the beach or in the house. Once way to easily spot a tourist is by their footwear and clothing generally. Tuscans particularly are always very smartly dressed, even when wearing jeans and a t-shirt. They pride themselves on appearance and generally will not wear rubber flip-flops, except for in the house or when on the beach.
But what about the other side of the coin? What are some things those crazy Italians do that you may find offensive?
? Driving! Italians don’t stick to their lanes. They have more an attitude of who ever is in front, has right of way, and everyone else has to just look out. They switch lanes without indicating (or keep the indicator on for the next 20 kilometres straight!), or drive in the middle of both lanes at the same time. There is no right of way on roundabouts at all, and even the Prime Minister of Italy once famously said of the traffic lights that green means go, orange means go faster, and red is just a suggestion!
? Lining up in Italy and awaiting your turn is a totally alien concept. There is a fine line between being pushy and actually getting served! If you’re not sure, just sit back and watch the locals for a while until you figure it out. Not that Italians actually sit back whilst they have their coffee ? espresso is served to be thrown back quickly whilst standing a the bar counter.
? Pedestrian crossings are mere decoration in Italy. Don’t expect the traffic to stop. In fact, you may get beeped at if you even try to cross in front of an oncoming vehicle.
But the most important thing of all is to be respectful of the place you are visiting, the people who are welcoming you into their land, and to accept and enjoy the very cultural differences that make Italy exotic, fascinating, and thoroughly enjoyable!