1. Drinking hot “coffee-based” drinks in take-away cups: I only drink the three essentials here in Italy- caffè, caffè macchiato, and cappuccino, and the latter only before mid-day for fear of being ridiculed behind my back. It’s almost impossible to find flavoured lattes here and you’ll have struck a goldmine if you find somewhere that offers take-away cups. The places that do toot their horns as “American bars” make an awful cup of American-style coffee or if they attempt a flavoured hot drink, they usually over-exaggerate with the whipping cream. I learnt to stick with what’s good.
2. Standing in line: Lines don’t exist in Italy, it’s survival of the fittest so I had to learn to push, shove and give evil, lingering glares at those trying to get ahead of me. In Canada, people will gesture for you to go ahead, even if they got there before you. In Italy, you make a run for any open cashier unapologetically and never look back to pity the others who were just not as attentive as you were. They deserved it.
3. Wine without a reason at home: I used to drink a glass of wine while watching The Bachelor, just because. This is very unusual here. Wine is for accompanying a meal in the home setting, not for just drinking like so (evidently it is also frowned upon to sip from the bottle, who knew?). Wine should always have a reason- for example, you can have a prosecco for an aperitivo but if your Italian boyfriend finds you downing a glass of red pre-dinner, this is apparently sinful and oh-so wrong on “so many levels”.
4. Drying clothes in a dryer: Not sure if anyone has a dryer here and also not sure where this lack of love for clothes dryers comes from but it’s a mandatory practice of Italians to hang clothes to dry. I have frequently brainstormed why this is the case and so far come up with the fact that it saves energy (expensive here) and preserves fit and colors of clothes that are so very important here. That or the Italians are exhibitionists and like to show off their undergarments to the neighbours?
5. Smiling at everyone: In Canada, we smile at everyone that we pass. This is also usually accompanied by a friendly “hello, nice day out eh?”. I have stopped this practice after being looked at strangely by everyone except the odd Italian male. Beware, they may interpret your smiling as a come-hither prelude to much more. The exception to this rule is in residential areas, most people will salute you around the neighbourhood.
6. Moving out of the way to let others pass: You know when you’re walking along the street and you see a group of people walking towards you and in most situations, someone would move aside to prevent a full-frontal bodily collision? Wishful thinking. It’s like people are adverse to going off-course for two seconds. I’ve literally shoulder tackled Italians who refused to move an inch to the left. Odd indeed and perhaps just a Milan thing.
7. Savoury breakfasts: I’ve had to give up my beloved bacon and eggs (and pancakes on the weekends). It’s just not done here. The Italians prefer cakes and sweet noshes to the salty, savoury deliciousness that is the typical Canadian breakfast. My Italian fiancé even scoffs at my cornflakes.
8. Counting calories: It’s not that I was an obsessive calorie counter back home but I definitely thought much more about what I was eating and how much exercise I’d have to do to burn it off. That’s no longer the case. Being in Italy and surrounded by lovers of good food, it’s nearly impossible to think to order a salad while everyone else is slurping up bucatini all’amatriciana. The wonderful thing is that no one judges you for having a full-blown five course meal on a weekday. They almost get disappointed if you refuse a gelato to top it all off. A good appetite is something to be revered here and eating is one of life’s greatest pleasures so why deny ourselves?
9. Going to the grocery store in sweatpants: The Italian teenagers can get away with it, but if you’re over twenty-five, best put on a decent outfit before going grocery shopping. In Canada, sweatpants and Uggs were a perfectly acceptable weekend outfit. In Italy, it’s a perfectly acceptable puttering-around-the-house outfit.
10. Eating at 6pm and going out dancing at 10pm: Add about two to three hours onto the Canadian times for socializing and you’ll get the Italian equivalent. My evenings in Italy start later and last so much longer that I’ve had to get accustomed to not falling asleep before making it to the discotheque.
11. Drinking pop: Also rather frowned upon because having a Coca-Cola with your meal obviously messes up the wonderful, dynamic flavours of the actual dish. I only allow myself one with pizza every now and then because if you don’t drink wine or water with your dinner, you’re ruining all the chef’s efforts.
12. Being punctual: Better to be later than early because chances are, your train is running late and if you arrive on time, you’re going to be stuck twiddling your thumbs on the platform in the rain. If you’re meeting Italian friends, no need to rush, they will almost always be late and blame it on a significant other or parking.
13. Enjoying a sauna-like house: Canada is cold, especially during winter and we keep our houses very warm. I was used to walking through the door and feeling that ‘whoosh’ of hot air and then walking around in shorts and barefeet. Not so here in Italy, my first winter here was filled with intense suffering from lack of heating in the houses. They like to keep the temperature low and wear more layers. I can honestly say I was often frozen and would take hot showers multiple times a day to warm up!
14. Super-sized everything: North America is known for inflating sizes for everything. I had to get used to seeing little skinny cans of Coke and one size of popcorn only at the movies. Everything in Italy is smaller (probably a more appropriate size) and hence, kinder to waistlines as well.