How to Behave Like a Local: Cultural Differences in Italy

Cultural Differences in ItalyWhether they hail from the U.S., or one of the other 60+ countries represented at John Cabot University, students who study abroad in Rome are sure to encounter some fascinating (and perhaps unexpected) cultural differences. The opportunity to experience different viewpoints and customs is one of the most rewarding aspects of travel—and the more you can interact with locals, the more genuine the experience will be.

Situated in the heart of Rome, John Cabot University provides students with an authentic, immersive Italian experience. And to help newcomers get the most out of it, we’ve put together a few tips for adapting to life in the Eternal City – and blending in like a local.

Be Prepared for a Slower Pace of Life

Italy is the birthplace of world-renowned art, so it’s no surprise that Italians take pleasure in savoring the beauty of everyday life. Many locals will spend their free time people-watching in a piazza, or strolling along the riverside, enjoying the view and the company of friends. Some will sit at cafes for an entire afternoon or spend hours over a meal with family and friends.

For students coming from North America, this pace of life may be a bit of a shock. The American way of life is highly focused on speed and efficiency. In Rome, you definitely won’t find drive-through banks, or drive through fast food. But taking the time to enjoy the finer things in life might encourage students to slow down a bit themselves, and relish every moment of their time in Italy.

Study abroad in Rome Cultural Differences in Italy

Food and Meal Times

Meal time in Italy is a special ritual that might take some getting used to for new students. In Rome, dinner generally isn’t served until 8pm or later, and can sometimes start as late as 10pm. This means that many restaurants are closed from around 4pm-7pm, during the down time between meals.  Students attending university in Italy who are used to a 6pm dinner time will have to remember to schedule their restaurant outings a little later than usual.  But finding a snack outside peak hours is no problem – there are always cafes open at any time of the day. And don’t forget JCU’s very own Tiber Cafe, which serves dinner from 6 to 9 pm.

Customer Service

North Americans put a high priority on customer service. It’s normal to see “money back guaranteed” slogans plastered on every product, or to receive a free muffin if a server gets your coffee order wrong. Large North American companies like to maintain the policy that “the customer is always right” to keep people satisfied and earn repeat business. In Rome, customer service is defined a little differently – and is perhaps a little less influenced by expanding companies vying for customer loyalty. But, students who study in Italy can rest assured that despite a different take on customer relations, Italian store owners, landlords and hotel managers are on the whole extremely kind and polite.

City Transportation

As a major capital city, Rome provides citizens with a subway system, trams, and buses. However, despite these excellent systems, the narrow roads of Rome are prone to heavy congestion. Students should keep this in mind if they decide to use the bus at busy hours of the day. In other words, don’t wait till the last minute to jump on a bus to make your afternoon lecture – you may end up reaching campus long after class is over! Don’t forget that Rome is a great city for walking, especially in the historic center, where you’ll come across artistic masterpieces without even trying!

What are you most excited about experiencing while you study in Rome?

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