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Bashaw Jul 25th, 2003 12:50 PM

How to not be rude in Italy
I'm travelling to Italy in September and would like to know what not to do! For example in the middle eastern countries the "ok" gesture is very obscene, and you should never touch a Japanese person on the head. What sort of things should I know about Italy? I know how to dress in a church, but beyond that? Any America-isims I shouldn't use? Gestures (yes, I'm smart enough not to use the middle finger!!!) Thanks in advance for your help!

elaine Jul 25th, 2003 12:59 PM

I wouldn't worry about it, in major cities and towns Italians are very familiar with other Western cultures.
I'd only be a little more polite wiht strangers, adding Signor or Signora or Signorina
to your Per Favore, Grazie, or Buongiorno.

Intrepid Jul 25th, 2003 01:00 PM

Ok is perfectly fine, if very American, in Italy. Personally, I wouldn't touch ANYONE I didn't know personally on the head in ANY coiuntry!

dln Jul 25th, 2003 01:35 PM

Here are two websites that you might find useful:, which has a small section on manners, and, which is chock full of everything you might want to know about travelling successfully in Italy. Good luck!

coco Jul 25th, 2003 02:10 PM

I have a wonderful book called "Dos and Taboos around the World"...very amusing AND somewhat useful.

Weadles Jul 25th, 2003 02:45 PM

Just got back from two weeks in Italy today. The main thing to remember, I think, is that Italians don't rush through their meals the way we do. When you eat at a restaurant, food is brought in a leisurely manner, salad is not served with the main course, ( in fact, I think it's considered rude to ask for it to be brought with your main course) and you can expect to wait some time for your bill. Also, although it's quite common in the United States, it can be considered impolite to ask new acquaintances what they do for a living.

Hope this helps! Good luck!

StCirq Jul 25th, 2003 03:03 PM

I wouldn't go making "the peace sign" there - it means something altogether different.

Other than that, I don't think you really need be concerned as long as you are polite and respectful.

cmt Jul 25th, 2003 03:21 PM

1. Do not get drunk. Traditional Italians think that drunkenness is disgraceful. They drink for the flavor and enjoyment, to enhance a meal, to relax after a meal, but not to get high and lose inhibitions. (This may not be true of nontrditional Italians.)

2. If you go to small isolated towns in the south, you should say hello to the people sitting in front of their houses or on benches in the square when you pass them. (Buon giorno before around 4 p.m., buona sera after that.) However, if you do this in big cities or possibly in some places in the north, people may think you're weird (or worse).

suze Jul 25th, 2003 04:35 PM

Don't squeeze & touch produce at an open air market or shop.

Don't open & read magazines at the newstand.

Grinisa Jul 25th, 2003 05:19 PM

Say Buon Giorno or Buona Sera upon entering a store and Arrivederci when leaving. It is very impolite just to walk into a store, look around and leave without acknowledging the store clerk in some way. Leave a small amount of wine in the carafe and don't order cappuccino after 11 am.

Bashaw Jul 25th, 2003 07:29 PM

This is great! I can figure out the common sense stuff, but the things unique to Italy are just what I wanted! Thanks!!!!!

dln Jul 25th, 2003 07:46 PM

Grinisa, I am intrigued about your comment regarding leaving a bit of wine in the carafe. I've never heard of that--what is the reasoning for it?

nocinonut Jul 25th, 2003 09:27 PM

Even if you know a person's name refer to them as Signor or Signora until you are very familiar with them or they call you by your name first. You will notice that they will call you Signor or Signora for a long time, days, weeks, after meeting you.
Don't call out a person's name loudly in a public place.

siena_us Jul 25th, 2003 11:20 PM

Couple of things salad is served as a vegetable side dish in every restaurant I have eaten at. A lot of times it is brought late because the waiters are behind but that is not a big deal.

Also,if you want a cappuccino after 11 or 10 or whatever, then drink it. No one will look down on you. Especially in the winter when many Italians drink cappuccini even in the afternoon to heat themselves up a bit.

Never use Ciao with someone you are not friends with. This to me is the rudest thing around.

The best thing you could take with you is a small phrasebook but even if you can't, never start a conversation in English. You can instead say something like, Mi scusi, non parlo Italiano or Mi scusi Lei parla Inglese? (Excuse me, I do not speak Italian or excuse me do you speak English to begin and then procede in English if possible.

Cristina in Siena

Grinisa Jul 26th, 2003 07:28 AM

The little bit of wine left in the carafe goes back to the earlier comment that public drunkeness is frowned on in Italy and by leaving some wine, you are showing that you've had enough and aren't looking for more.
Certainly, many tourists order cappucinno at any time of day, but it is traditionally only a morning beverage and my warning stems from an experience my husband and I had once at Cafe San Eustachio in Rome. We were standing at the bar at about 4 pm on a November day which was a bit chilly. Two American women come in and go up to the barrista and ask for "due cappuccino". "Due cappuccini"? He replies. They smile and nod. "No. No cappuccini. Solo en la mattina" (or something like that). He stands there and stares at them and they are so rattled they leave. When they are gone, he and the men at the bar (all drinking cafe coretto)laugh at the Americana wanting cappuccino at that hour.

Statia Jul 26th, 2003 09:11 AM

I had previously read that it's impolite to say "ciao" to someone you are not friends with, so my husband and I didn't do that on our recent trip to Florence and Venice.

We found, however, that many shopkeepers said "ciao" to us upon entering or leaving their store. Many when it was our first time there, as well.

ira Jul 26th, 2003 09:19 AM

Hi Statia,

Just the general lessening of standards. Pretty soon Europeans will start addressing strangers by their first names.

Lorac1127 Jul 26th, 2003 09:22 AM

Grinisia's comments on the cappuccino just goes to show us that anyone can be rude at any time, anywhere...even Italy.

I'd like to think that scenario is more the exception than the rule since I usually have on my rose-colored glasses when it comes to Italy.

RufusTFirefly Jul 26th, 2003 12:10 PM

siena_us--In most of Europe, the salad course is traditionally served after the main course. It is a palate clearing and mouth cooling prelude to the dessert course.

Californiagirl Jul 26th, 2003 12:31 PM

On our recent month+ trip to Europe, we were mortified by the number of Americans who just walked up to people and started speaking English, with zero attempt at even an Italian greeting. It clearly irritated waiters, shopkeepers, etc. -- even if that person did speak perfectly good English. All you have to do is say "Bongiorno. Parla inglese?" It's not hard. Also, many, many people don't speak English, so you can't assume that they will magically understand you. My advice is definitely to get a simple phrasebook, spend some time on your flight over there reading it and learning to count, and just be friendly and humble in your dealings with people.

As for the other stuff (when to eat salad, when to drink cappucino, etc.), I say, forget about trying to look as if you are Italian. They won't fall for it anyway. Try to "do as the Romans do" but you don't have to be rigid about it.

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