Culture Shock in Italy

Settling into a new country is often challenging, particularly when cultural differences are compounded with the difficulty of learning another language. Even seemingly simple transactions such as finding a house, doctor, dentist, school and bank can seem daunting and add to a new arrival’s sense of culture shock in Italy.

Meeting and greeting in Italy

Italians are more formal in addressing new acquaintances and colleagues than some expats might be used to. Someone using an informal greeting like “ciao” to someone they have just met will often be interpreted as rudeness rather than friendliness. When being introduced to an Italian, a person would say “buongiorno” (good day) and shake hands. Ciao is reserved for use among friends.

Titles are used when addressing people, particularly of an older generation. In the case of professionals, a director would be referred to as "direttore", a doctor is "dottore" while an architect would be called "architetto", and so on. When addressing someone without knowing their title, a man can be referred to as "signore" and a woman as "signora".

Bureaucracy in Italy

While expats often complain about the bureaucratic inefficiency they encounter in the country, Italy has a strong bureaucratic tradition. Italians are aware of the problem and public office is often associated with inefficiency, but paperwork is largely seen as a necessary, if unpleasant, part of life. Expats should expect paperwork and bureaucratic procedures to take some time.

Time in Italy

Italian time, which makes allowances for siestas, called riposo locally, means that banks are open in the mornings and shops are closed between 1pm and 3.30pm. During this time, many families take a nap and should not be disturbed by telephone calls.

Language in Italy

Italian is the official language of the country and is spoken by the vast majority of the country’s population. Italian is considered to be one of the most similar languages to Latin in terms of its vocabulary, however, dialects can differ vastly between regions.

There are many language schools throughout the country which provide memorable and useful insights into Italian culture. Alternatively, expats can enjoy private lessons with a hired tutor in the comfort of their own home or hotel.

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