Sorry for the late post, I forgot it was Wednesday (pitfall of relaxed summer schedules)!
Of all the European countries I’ve visited, Italy probably had the biggest culture shock for me. I think part of what made it such a shock is that it was unexpected. It was a mistake on my part to think that just because I had experiences in other countries that I would just coast on through Italy. Italy has is own quirks and characteristics that make it unique and wonderful to visit! Here are some things that I learned/experienced to hopefully mitigate the culture shock should you go to Italy.
- Toilet seats – In Naples and Rome, just about all of the women’s restrooms (even in the restaurants) lacked toilet seats. Not a huge deal, but not something I was expecting. Also pretty much throughout the country there is no regard paid to the gender sign on the door. Everyone goes to the next available stall regardless of gender.
- Heat – Italy is freaking hot in July and humid! While I expected this, I did not expect it to play such a role in our daily lives. If traveling in July, incorporate time to go back to the hotel/B&B/apartment in the late afternoon to shower off the sweat of the day. It willl make the evenings more enjoyable if you have a moment to cool off first. Also know that the heat will slow you down and in a lot of the ancient sites (Roman Forum, Pompeii, etc.) shade is minimal.
- Water – Water is expensive. Water is also free. There are fountains all over that are constantly flowing with cool water. Bring a reusable water bottle with you – the water is fine and you’ll appreciate the savings.
- Time – Time in Italy is totally different than in the U.S. Things go slower, don’t always start on time, and can change at a moment’s notice. Confirm at the station when the last train is leaving, show up on time and expect to wait, and let it go.
- Waiters – Eating in restaurants in Italy is a different experience from restaurants in the U.S. Waiters aren’t expecting a tip (they are paid a salary) and so they don’t spend a lot of extra time “serving” you. This means that they are unlikely to come to your table unless you get their attention. Even when paying the bill. They also work in teams so you don’t have to find your waiter, just find a waiter.
These were the big things that I had to adjust to while on our trip. If I come up with more tips or culture shocks, I will let you know.