Your experience of culture shock in Italy


Living in a foreign country implies to discover its culture, to learn and master the cultural codes.

How did you deal with that? Share with us your culture shock stories where you experienced a funny or awkward moment in Italy.

What is your advice regarding the don'ts and what would you recommend to avoid any mistake?

Thank you in advance for sharing your stories,


We've lived in the Veneto for 5 years, I am still frustrated how the Italian businesses take advantage of Americans, as if we all have too much money that these businesses seem to think they are entitled to. Several times it's happened to us that we've knowingly been overcharged at restaurants and coffee shops, even the markets, paying more than local citizens are paying. The same thing happens in Eastern Europe, but you'd expect it there, not so much in Italy. My advice would be 'buyer beware' try to know the prices before ordering or paying for goods.

I am ashamed to see your experiences in Italy though I have been here for years but never had such experiences or never heard like that over paying by fraud. I see in Italian supermarket absolutely NO way to charge extra the foreigners .But in restaurants etc things are a bit different but even so that happens by the single person as many Italians are practicing cheat in a very clever way. But normally in Italy they donot think about the Amerivans as the East Europeans think so.

I definitely agree that there is some different behavior towards Americans. Sometimes restaurants demand a reservation even while there are many empty tables. Things like that. I think it helps to know some Italian, for sure. Very surprised that Italians generally do not use air conditioners, in their homes and also in some restaurants! With the heat this summer, that was a surprise. Also, as we are now renting, most Italians don't use dryers, they like to air dry their clothes, then iron them. I'm not sure how you deal with towels when they are crunchy after air drying, but whatever! TV is definitely different and the internet is not great. I think the number one thing living in Italy for me is that it's not "Under the Tuscan Sun", it's like living anywhere on a day-to-day basis, just in a different language.

Well, the experience of our friend Carolecat is not a big surprise. To me there is no difference of way of life between Italian and the other western countries like USr, Germany, Uk etc. In fact it is more or less the same. It is the question of expenses so the restaurants donot use the air condition but in the Metro, Bus , Tram etc ate air conditioned.So it is not likeing or not liking but it is the question of money. The same for drying the clothes as it is free of cost ...hahahaha... May be in Italy  some people live on daily basis . But anyway once agian there is no  difference in terms of way of living in Italy and USA etc.

Yes, I totally agree. We were also told that Italians believe that going from air conditioning to regular air can make you sick.

Well hav not been in Italy yet.And I know that one of the basic thing that one has to adapt to is culture.And this will make you indicted to such a culture that is been practice there.

Sorry for the mistakes of my last reply. Anyway to me air conditioning , air dry etc  are related with the cost rather than those theories that are wondering here and there in Italy. May be big city like Milan is different than those of small cities, villages etc so my experiences in Milan may differ with the others about Italian way of life.
Have a nice day.

We are now living in Italy, near Rome. Life is very different here. We have been here for 10 months. The Internet or WiFi is horrible here in Italy. Businesses  have so called "air-conditioner" but it is only a few degrees different from the outside. Most places also keep the door opened with the air-conditioner on. That I do not understand. It just makes the air-conditioner work harder. They also think drinking cold water, or iced drinks make your stomach hurt. We live in the south in the USA and we feel like we cannot get anything cold enough to drink. We are very used to ice, here in Italy there is no ice in your drinks, only at McDonald's, and then they give you very little.Also about McDonald's, they charge 25 cents for a pack of Ketchup for your french fries (potatoes).Washer last sometimes up to  3 hours to wash clothes, and they tell me that a clothes dryer lasts as long. The clothes come out a little stiff after drying them outside the window on a clothes line.

@Savina Billiot...Nice to see your experiences in Rome. Well, I was saying about Milan. I am astonished to see that in Rome the Internet, Wifi is horrible. But in Milan it is quite fast and not bothering at all. In Milan there are so many wifi centers  for free of cost installated by the Comune (Municipality ) authority. I am using this wifi in the public library , other open places for 10 hours per day(when I have free day). Well, I was nerver in Rome. The Mcdonlad is charging for ketchup but years before it was free of cost. I see I can ask ice as much as I need in a bar , restarurant etc in Milan.I see in a place like Public Library etc etc etc the air contion facility is quite ok and rather it makes feeling cold after remaining for a longer period there. There are planty of Ice Cream  shops In Milan(too much like here and there). I cannot understand the strange experiences of US people in Italy. I was in the other EU countries and I find no differences at all between Italy and those other EU countries. Well, I was NEVER in the USA so really I cannot compare all of these stuffs between Italy and USA. Have  a nice day!

To comment made by Savina.
I have live in various major cities and burbs of large cities  in the  US as well as I lived both in Italy and Switzerland (not counting the many countries I visited ), and I am always surprised to people expectations. We leave the US and assume that everything should be as homogeneous as in the US , a MacDonald and a Starbucks  on each corner  and , English (American ) spoken by everyone ( maybe not in Miami or any large spanish/asian  sections of any large city). And, then wonder why Americans bother to travel abroad. Aren't we travelling to other countries to experience  their customs and traditions, eat their specialties and enjoy their beautiful sites? Or is the expectation to find another corner of the US (which by the way is not as homogeneous as people think) ? To the latter, I suggest  staying home or, if you need to travel abroad or other US cities,  be adventurous,  enjoy what the new country/ US city has to offer by downplaying the shortcomings. In my experience, there isn't a perfect place.


I have been traveling to Italy for over 20 years now and I am married to an Italian.  Yes, I agree that some Italians think that Americans have the money and they try to charge them more than the local Italian.  This has happened even to my husband.  They think that he is working now in the States and that he has plenty of money.

But on the otherhand, Tourist here in the States get ripped off by Merchants too.  Here in NYC they tried and succeed in charging the tourist double the prices for many items or not informing them of the discount that is clearly displayed.  Their excuse is that "this item is not on sale".  I have been there and called out the merchant in favor of the poor Tourist.  I even threatened to call the Police on them.  The merchant gave in and offered them the advertised discount.

So it works both way.  Remember:  Buyer beware!

To toocooks comment:  yes. totally in agreement. I had a similar situation in NYC (then again,  some of NYC merchants don't discriminate between foreign or US tourists. They try to take advantage of anyone) and in another US city.   
And, to be fair,  I encountered a somewhat similar situation in Gucci in Florence where the Italian saleslady said to her colleague in Italian " watch these fat Americans, they look like cows grazing " to which I responded that if it wasn't for these "fat Americans" she would never have a job. Needless to say, she ran out crying.
Let's face it , these situations are not limited to the US or Italy. It happens in almost all cities in every country  where tourists abound.

Well, people around the world looks in a different way to the other nationalities. It is a common character of human being.Sometimes Italians are funny and want to show their easy way of thinking . The world ususally  considers the Italians as  not a serious one. That is the point.

Hello, air conditioning, heating, etc.  This was the subject of my blog last week. **
Dave Lester

Moderated by kenjee 8 years ago
Reason : Sharing of external links / groups / websites not allowed.

Italians are so nice to everyone. In small cities, at least. After a life in Russia, that was a shock =)

You mentioned McDonalds charging money for a tiny packet of ketchup....Well, now other restaurants are doing the same.  Wild West for one!  Figure out how many of these little packets would be found in a bottle of ketchup and you will realize what a bunch of robbers these corporate ladri are!
I threaten to bring my own ketchup bottle, but my Italian wife refuses to let me.
Italians are so NOT into sauces....they are what I call Naturalists. 
And heaven forbid something spicy... The northern Italian, for the most part, do not appreciate heat.
Even the Chinese restaraunts here tone down their known dishes that use spice elsewhere.  Things found piccante, are so mild! 
These kinds of things will be a subject on my blog in the near future.

Consider visiting southern Italy and Sardinia, plenty of very spicy food here!

I live outside of Padova, in Due Carrare. Maybe we should talk.
I am also America.

Moderated by kenjee 8 years ago
Reason : Sharing of external links / groups / websites not allowed.
Painterdave wrote:

I live outside of Padova, in Due Carrare. Maybe we should talk.
I am also America.

Hi Dave! PM me the link, surely would like to chat.

Dave, I keep getting blown away by some of the comments in this blog. Heating, AC , Mc Donald , Chinese restaurants, ect. And I keep asking myself the question: why on earth would I move to a place where I dislike everything about it.
In addition to Italy and Switzerland, I have lived in 6 different sates in the US and , other than McDonald and  its like,  the homogeneity that we Americans come to expect is not really totally possible even in our US. From a culture standpoint, the southern cities I have lived have a lot to catch up to their northern counterparts. Even apartment rental agreement differ from state to state. And, talking about Chinese food and any other Ethnic food for that matter, my experience has been that Chinese food in the Chinatowns of  NY is different than what is offered in San Francisco or Chicago and non existent in Atlanta and any other city as they try to accommodate the flavors to the population. In regards to heat and ac , the apartment I had in Verona had both and never had an issue.
My point is that I am not trying to defend Italy (God knows I have my own issue with it) but , if I am to move to a country or city,  I will make sure that I will do everything possible to adjust to its customs and, if I end up not to like it as I did and do now, I will pack and move asap.

Hey Lomek...I didnot understand good . It seems to me for you Russia was a hell??? Let us explain more about Russia and life in small city in Italy. Wishing you  a nice day from Milan.

sohelsaheen wrote:

Hey Lomek...I didnot understand good . It seems to me for you Russia was a hell??? Let us explain more about Russia and life in small city in Italy. Wishing you  a nice day from Milan.

Hi sohelsaheen! Thanks, good day to you too!
Well, while I was living in Russia it seemed okay but when I landed on Sardinia I truly learned the difference. I was getting on the bus and there were a few teenagers who entered the bus with me. Then something incredible happened - they greeted the bus driver, and he greeted them back. I absolutely can't imagine somethig like this happening in Russia. First thing you expect from someone you don't know is a threat: the person in trouble is too often a decoy for a robbery, someone who ask you for a direction is likely to just draw your attention off your belongings etc. And police is so corrupted and untouchable that often people don't file a claim because of fear of being locked up themselves. Russian police is a bunch of actual thugs who don't give a second thought to torture a witness with champange bottle in the rectum (this is actually happened couple of years ago and the person died, cops recieved formal sentences due to scandal but already free). They did it for no apparent reason, just by the mood swing and because they could.

Worst thing that this is considered normal and no big deal, and media is telling russians that this is the case all around the globe. Russian tv shows every US school shooting and similar shit all the time, so people are manipulated to a state of inertia and acceptance. I believe that our "culture" in some sense made it very difficult for us russians to ask for help. We don't really believe that anybody would want to sincerely help us because we wouldn't do it ourselves. And asking for help is "humiliating" and "weak".

So while living in Russia, you have to be in a state of awareness to repel an agression - constantly. Being nice is a flaw, because that way you are considered weak and taken advantage of. For example, a friend of mine returned a wallet he found on the street to a guy - and was blamed for stealing the money out of it. Other one protected a woman being beaten on the street by a drunk - and the woman called the police on him, because he hit the guy and that was her husband. Now they know better and don't get involved, ever. Here... It is not another country, it's actually another planet. It was incredible to feel the crust coming off me after a couple of months of living here, when I realised how much I needed this level of civilization in my life. To be able to smile to people on the street, and small talk to them. To help old ladies in the shop to get their bags off, and recieve sincere gratitude instead of suspicion. I thought I was freeing Putin's regime but it turned out that a reason I didn't even seriously consider was a life-changer.

People who visit Russia as a tourist for a couple of moths won't usually agree with everything I wrote. Foreigners in Russia mostly see what they're being shown, and russians are experts in blowing the dust into one's eyes. It's not like there's a conspiracy, russians are genuinely friendly with someone who they let into their comfort zone, like invited guest. It's outside of comfort zone where the problem starts, and that's right behind the apartment's door. If you lived in Russia for half a year or more, went outside late evening alone, used the post office, hospital or any government office, public or private transport, fought (actually) for a parking spot and been robbed, you would understand.

I don't think that people  were saying they dislike Italy.  For me, I love Italy, however, I think that I was clear about the corporate greed in charging 20 cents for a tiny packet of ketchup.  McDonalds started the trend and others see them getting away with it.
Back in Colorado, you get all the ketcup you need. 
As far as air conditioning, in my blog I was only  pointing out that Italians put up with lack of...while I am used to the convenience and was dying in the train car where no one would open a window and it was over 100 degrees. 
The bus drivers who have the only window that opens.......and it is hot and muggy...and no one complains or even acts like it bothers them to sit and sweat and be uncomfortable.  These are real differences between our cultures.
I would like people who have been fed the romantic ideas of Italy to find some reality.  Hollywood has done much to ruin both our views, Italian seeing America, and America seeing Italy.