To start with, this should probably have a major subhead: “15 Strange Things Italians Do that are strange to Americans.” Because I’m sure they are not strange to any Italian or even other parts of the world. But to two Americans — well Paul was born here, so these are his observations after moving back to Italy — these are a few of the weird things we’ve noticed Italians do.
PLEASE NOTE: These are observations about Italians living IN ITALY, NOT Italian-Americans. A lot of folks seemed to be missing that point when this was first posted.
Know any others? Let us know in the comments. And don’t forget to share this with family and friends who might get a kick out of it.
1. They don’t like to wear seatbelts or use baby seats
To keep the car from beeping at them, they will either buckle the seatbelt behind them in the car. Or, they will actually carry around an extra buckle, just a buckle with maybe a little strap on it, so they can put that in the latch to stop the car from beeping.
It is against the law and you will get a ticket if you are stopped, so don’t try this when visiting.
Is this only a southern thing? Small town thing? Let us know in the comments.
When it comes to the kids, the children will actually sit in mom or dad’s lap while they are driving. Sometimes while the parent is also on the phone driving a stick shift. I know they don’t all do it, but we have seen it enough times to say a lot of them do.
This is definitely more a southern thing I think than northern. But littering here is just not looked at as a terrible thing like it is in the states.
I have watched someone literally clean out their car while driving down the road. Reaching down to throw out a plastic bottle, then some papers, etc.
You will never see an Italian bite into an apple or pear unpeeled, even if it is washed. That sucker has to be peeled before it passes those lips!
The new rule in Italy is that when purchasing fruit in a market, the display has to say if the peel is edible. If it is organic, the peel is edible. Perhaps this will change things?
This is strange to us but it is CORRECT. The passing lane should only be for passing. And while Italians do drive fast and like maniacs, they do strictly adhere to this rule.
So if you are driving in Italy, don’t stick around in the left lane. Pass someone and get back into the right-hand lane. Otherwise, you’ll have a lot of Italian drivers honking and flashing their lights at you.
5. They never go outside with wet hair
It goes back to colpo d’aria, the thought that a hit of cold air will cause sudden death. OK. Not sudden death, but pretty much every other malady out there. It’s also why they won’t drive with a window down, hate fans blowing directly on them, and wear scarves a lot (see #10 below).
You might have already greeted them at the gate. Or the room they are entering could be empty with the lights off.
Or the room they are entering could be empty, with the lights out, and not another person even around.
But when they enter the room, they will say, “Buon Giorno” or “Permesso?”
Polite? Probably. And just good manners. But to an American, it’s strange, especially when they say it to an empty room.
Today, most Americans probably have more in common with Italians in this regard. Today, American’s will grab a bowl of cereal or a cereal bar before running out the door and aren’t usually cooking up a batch of eggs.
However, you won’t see an Italian scrambling up some eggs and bacon for breakfast, even on the weekend. Italians are pretty consistent in their concept of breakfast, which usually consists of a coffee and a pastry. That’s it.
8. Non-gay Italians of the same sex will walk arm in arm or hand in hand
Italians are very affectionate and not afraid of physical contact. Male friends will even horse around grabbing each other by the groin. Women will walk hand in hand down the street.
It’s actually refreshing to see. Why can’t we show more affection to even just friends?
Strangers, no. But after meeting someone once or twice, you almost always greet them with a kiss.
Remember, always start on the left cheek. So your left cheek against theirs. Then, move to right cheek against their right cheek. A little crisscross dance if you will.
Whether you actually touch cheeks, making kissing sounds, or actually kiss each other’s cheek is all sort of a personal preference.
This goes back a bit to the colpo d’aira thing, as Italians seem to get afflicted all the time with cervicale. As near as we can tell, it’s sort of a stiff neck or neck ailment.
Paul also thinks this has to do with a bit of national pride. They must accessorize and be stylish. It’s just part of being Italian. Which leads to point #11.
You will never, ever see a “people of Walmart” post in Italy. Mainly because there are no Walmarts, but also because they would never be caught dead outside the house in pajamas, torn shirt, sweats, workout clothes, or even a slightly worn t-shirt.
For the women, this can be especially true.
The guys are obsessive about their shoes, though. Even sneakers. If they buy a new pair of tennis shoes and they come to visit us in the country, if you want to go for a walk they must change their shoes first. A scuff would be a mortal sin.
There is nothing wrong with this, in fact, it’s good they want to look nice and put their best foot forward.
Even in the car when driving by a religious spot, you’ll see them make the sign of the cross (head, chest, shoulder, shoulder) in the car.
It almost becomes a habitual thing. Like looking both ways before crossing the street.
As with all these points, there’s nothing wrong with this. It’s just not something you see often in the states.
13. They can have weird store hours
Want a 24/7 deli or gas station? Good luck with that.
Want to pick something up at the store on your way home for lunch? If it’s after 1 PM, good luck with that.
As we’ve talked about in the past, especially in small towns, everyone goes home for lunch. So from 1-4 PM you won’t find much open except the big huge supermarkets or department stores.
But they also have weird days where everything in town is closed. It’s part of a guild system. For example, no restaurant in Terlizzi is open 7 days a week. Not a one. And I believe all but one are closed on Monday, and then that restaurant is closed on Tuesday when the rest reopen.
Also, on Thursday night, every fruit and vegetable vendor in closed.
Why doesn’t someone break ranks and open on Thursday? They’d make a killing! Maybe that’s the greedy American talking, but it is strange to me.
NOTE: I’m sure this is mostly only in very small towns.
Paul believes some of the reason for this, besides the guild rules, is that a lot of these shops are Mom and Pop stores and they don’t trust anyone else at the register. Some of it also a way to protect their way of life. Everyone wants some time off.
In the end, it’s actually a good thing. They are going home to eat with their family. They are taking time off to enjoy life. It’s something we could all learn to do more often, but again, it’s just strange to American’s used to such a 24/7 economy.
You will hardly ever see an Italian walking down the street with a cup of coffee. You will also never see them driving while eating a sandwich.
Even at a rest stop. They will order their sandwich, then eat it at either the counter or a table in the rest stop.
15. They may ask you what you had for lunch
It always comes back to food, doesn’t it?
When a friend stops by for coffee in the afternoon, invariably after a nice “hello” and “how are you doing,” they will ask you what you had for lunch.
It’s the strangest thing. Except when someone is talking about an amazing meal they had a restaurant, when have you ever in your life asked someone what they had for lunch?
Good thing we always take a picture of what we’re eating so we can show them!
So, how’d we do? Any other strange things Italians do that we missed? Let us know below in the comments. And don’t forget to share this post with family and friends with the share buttons below.