At John Cabot University, we have students from all over the world. When you choose to study at JCU, you choose to study in a multicultural environment. But, although you are surrounded daily by global nomads, you are still living in Italy. This means that your host culture will play a large role in shaping your college experience. You will earn an American degree, and make international friends, all while adapting to Italian cultural norms.
Here are 3 Italian cultural norms you will encounter in Rome:
1. Slow Pace of Life
It is pretty well-known that Italians enjoy a slower pace of life. They appreciate the small things, take their time, and find beauty in the everyday aspects of life. A family meal, a coffee with friends, or a leisurely passeggiata (stroll) are all to be cherished in the Italian culture. But this pace of life definitely takes some getting used to. New JCU students should keep in mind that some errands can take much longer in Italy than in America. Grocery shopping, paying bills, or mailing a letter at the post office might be longer tasks, since most people are not in a hurry.
Another thing to keep in mind is the daily riposo, or siesta. The riposo is like an extended lunch break every day from around 1 to 4 in the afternoon. During this time, many of your local businesses and shops will be closed. It’s important to plan ahead if you need to pick up something from the grocery store or run any other errands. In the same way, it is important to respect the quiet hours during this time, as it is customary for locals to rest, take an afternoon nap, or enjoy some quality family time.
Why rush through life when you can enjoy the beauty in your surroundings? When you study abroad in Italy, you will definitely learn to slow down.
The importance of food culture in Italy seems to go hand in hand with the importance of slowing down and enjoying life. A meal in Italy is never just food. It is an experience. When you move to Rome, don’t expect to head to a local restaurant for an early dinner, or a quick bite to eat. Dinner customarily starts around 8pm or later, and can go on for hours. Don’t expect to be done before 9pm! Also, Italians love taking their time to enjoy the flavors of every dish, and often enjoy multi-course meals. To them, the freshness and quality of each ingredient is important. You will even notice different specialties and dishes depending on the season, and on the region. Pairing the perfect wine to the main course, or the perfect sauce to a particular type of pasta is very serious business.
Along with the importance of food and rest comes the famous Italian “emotion”. Italians are known to express their emotions openly, and that covers all aspects of life throughout the country. This can be seen in something as simple as a friendly greeting. When you encounter a friend, relative, or acquaintance, you always greet one another with two kisses on the cheek. Just saying hi to someone you know with a wave or handshake is not the norm and may be seen as a little “cold”.
Another example is how Italians tend to express themselves, verbally or non-verbally. The stereotype you have heard about Italians talking with their hands is definitely true. Every hand gesture means something specific, and they are never used halfheartedly. In terms of verbal expression, what Italians consider a calm conversation may sound to an outsider like a heated argument with raised voices, talking over one another!