Things About Italians The Americans Will Never Understand
The Italian culture is strong, beautiful, and impressive, but it can sometimes be a little bit confusing to Americans. After all, the customs and traditions of the two countries are as far detached from each other as can be. Americans have a lot to learn from the Italian Bella Vita, but some things might take some serious work getting used to. Calling your mom daily or adhering to the strict pasta rules and regulations are only a few of the things required of an Italian. Can you master the craft of the beautiful life?
‘Piano, piano’ is the expression you might hear Italian using way too often. It means ‘slowly, slowly,’ and it is the perfect epitome of their outlook on life. Italians believe everything comes in due time, and everything can be postponed. Slowness is simply the way of nature, and the Italians are in no rush going against the flow.
Italy is one of the original fashion powerhouses, with its Fashion Week and designers dictating trends for the whole globe. This has had a tremendous effect on the way Italians consume and value fashion. Dressing up in quality clothes is a must for them, and leaving the house looking anything but perfect is unacceptable.
The Italians are known for their hand gesturing while they speak. Perhaps no other nation is more articulated in the way they use their hands to convey meaning and give emphasis to what they have to say. Keeping up with all the gestures the Italians use is simply impossible, but to really understand Italian, you might need to.
La Famiglia is what Italy is all about. The Italians form family bonds like no other nation, with multi-generational families often living together under one roof for years. They honor their roots and respect their elders, with family get-togethers being compulsory and frequent. Family first.
Italians don’t consider being loud as having bad manners. It’s simply a part of their culture. While Americans might often view their communication methods as a bit too out there, Italians never even realize they are being too noisy. Living in a large Italian household requires a lot of shouting after all. Otherwise, one is never heard.
Dinner is a big occasion for Italians. Unlike in the USA, in Italy, people take hours to eat the last meal of the day. The whole family often gathers together, and many courses are served. Conversation flows throughout the entire meal, and the dinner can stretch on for hours into the night.
Taking A Break
The Spanish are famous for coining the term Siesta and spreading the concept all over the world, but the Italians have their very own version. It’s called the Pennichella, and it usually takes place sometime between noon and 4 pm. When the heat is intense and the sun too scorching to be out, the Italians retire to their shaded homes to take a nap. And the world outside stops.
Coffee takes on an importance of another level in Italy. Starbuck is shunned, and small traditional cafes are supported by the coffee addict of the country. Drinking coffee in Italy is an almost holy time, and the people take it seriously. Their espressos are small, black, and best enjoyed standing behind the bar.
The Italians are big on celebrations. The many religious holidays in the country are always marked by a feast with the whole extended family, and fireworks and village parties take center stage. Americans might see this as too much extravagance, but the Italian culture is nothing if not over the top.
Superstitions are still going strong in Italy. The country is very traditional, and this means that people often still believe things Americans would never even consider. And it’s not just the usual black cat or number 13 run of the mill. The Italians believe in many other things that have been carried as myths through the centuries. Spilling salt or olive oil can’t mean anything good for sure.
The Bella Figura
Bella Figura translates to beautiful figure in English, but the term means so much more than that. Essentially, the Italians are all about putting on a good appearance and sticking to the proper etiquette. It makes them better citizens and better people. The importance of the Bella Figura concept is something that Americans rarely understand.
Italy is the land of sweets. The Italians are master bakers and chefs, and it shows in their diversity of desserts on offer. Anything from Tiramisu, Cannoli, Biscotti, to Panforte or Semifreddo will be regularly enjoyed by the Italian population almost on a daily basis, and there is no need to feel shame about the indulgence.
The greeting styles of Europeans can be somewhat confusing, and to American eyes, Italians greet as strangely as can be. Kissing on both cheeks is a common sight among them, even between strangers who are meeting for the first time. But the kiss is never a full kiss, but more of a brush, so there is no reason to fear it.
Taking Pride In Culture
Italy is the birthplace of opera and the patron of many other classical arts. The Italians are proud of the culture their country has produced over the centuries, and they are not afraid to show it. Attending operas, classical music performances, or ballets counts as entertainment. The Italians are simply more culturally and artistically inclined than most.
Strict Pasta Rules
Americans might think they have mastered the art of past preparation and consumption, but nothing can be further from the truth. Pasta culture is much richer and much more strictly organized than one would think. Pasta is only eaten with a fork, never with an additional spoon. The type of pasta dictates the sauce used for it. Pasta is never eaten with bread. And the list goes on.
Italians have a beautifully rich culture which has penetrated America in many ways. But there are still aspects of the Italian life which the Americans will never understand, or never adopt. Our differences, if accepted and celebrated, can be a wonderful gateway to respect and learning.
Sources: The Local, 40 Plus Style, Go Nomad, Iceberg Project, Culture Atlas, Speak Italian, Beyond Toscano, The Culture Trip, Life In Italy, Mici Italian, La Gazzetta Italiana, Ken’s Commentary, Tuscan Traveller, We The Italians, My Italian Link