The best thing about travel is discovering the differences in culture. Loving a destination from afar is great, but it’s not the same as living in it day to day. My month of wandering has taken me back to Italy, and after a couple of weeks here, I thought I’d share a few things that may be helpful on your next trip.
- Never use an ATM that’s not connected to a bank. The fees are outrageous
- Always decline the “conversion charge”, it’s just an added fee to do extra, unnecessary math
Business & Shopping
- For small privately owned shops, the hours posted online may not match the hours they are actually open. Allow about a 30-minute variance for opening times and be mindful of any local holidays that may limit hours or cause closures.
- Italians do not follow the American philosophy of customer service, and they have zero interest in doing it our way. You won’t change Italy, so adjusting expectations and being adaptable is your best bet. Remember, the Italian way isn’t rude, it’s just different.
Meals & Restaurants
- Italians know the American culture is to tip, so their cultural expectations have evolved. Ignore any advice you’ve received to not tip when sitting at a table and receiving full service at a restaurant. You may see a line item on your receipt that says “coperto” or “coperta”. That’s a cover charge that goes straight to the business, not the staff. It’s essentially the fee for sitting at the table. If paying by card, the receipt will not have a line to add a tip, so have some cash on hand.
- When dining with a friend, don’t order one dish and split it (or ask to split it). The expectation is that if two people are seated, two meals will be ordered. You can share your meal, but you each need to order something (example – if you order the pizza and your friend gets a salad, it’s okay to share because you have two meals).
- Pepperoni pizza as we know it does not exist in Italy. If you order pepperoni, you’ll get a pizza topped with peppers. The closest they have to pepperoni is diavola, which is a spicy salami.
- Pizza in Italy is eaten with a knife and fork when served uncut.
- Sandwiches are generally served dry – no mayo, mustard, or other sauce. If you need it, ask at the counter, and add it yourself. It’ll likely be in a packet like we normally get ketchup.
- The only salad dressing Italians use is olive oil. No ranch, no thousand island, no Caesar, no vinaigrette. They also have no idea what Americans mean when they ask for “Italian dressing”. Save that for your salads at home.