Don't Be the Ugly American

Italy
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Italians are traditionally more loyal to their region, which makes countrywide culture claims difficult. Nevertheless, consider these helpful hints and avoid embarrassment as you're wending your way around the trattoria or piazza:

  • In a social situation, it's considered insulting to ask someone you've just met about their profession. Leave that to the business meeting.
  • It's 1430hr (2:30 p.m. in the States) and you want coffee to get you through the rest of the day. Do NOT order a cappuccino coffee. This is a breakfast drink only and at any other time is seen as the height of lameness—espressos all the way!
  • Starbucks might not charge extra to take over one of its tables and plop open your guidebooks and maps, but cafés in Italy do. Stand at the bar to avoid a surcharge. If you must sit, the sit-down supplement should be posted near the counter.
  • Attract the waiter's attention by calling him "cameriere," and her "Signorina" (if young) or "Signora" (if older). While waving or beckoning someone over is okay, NEVER whistle or snap your fingers.
  • Make "per favore" (please) and "grazie" (thank you) essential parts of your vocabulary.
  • Despite what your older brother might have told you, only shout "ciao bella" at attractive women if you want a rude look, and to perhaps incur the wrath of her boyfriend. A simple "Buon Giorno" is a pleasant way to start a conversation.


Published: 13 May 2005 | Last Updated: 7 Nov 2012
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication

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