3 Things I’ve Learned From The First 3 Days in Italy

By Elizabeth MacDonald

If you’ve ever been out of your own country, you know there are culture barriers. Whether it be with meal etiquette, rules of the road, or simple language barriers, it’s common to feel out of place.

Before I left the U.S. for a semester in Florence, I read up on the culture differences to prepare myself for life in Europe for over 3 months. Reading blogs on Italian culture and actually living amongst Italians has proven to me that you must experience it for yourself to fully understand. I’ve been out of the U.S. a few times to vacation in Canada, Mexico and the Bahamas, but I can officially say the culture shock is much more apparent in Europe.


There are crosswalks, but beware.

In the U.S., pedestrians (for the most part) always have the right away. In Italy they most definitely do not. There are a few street corners that have light posts that pedestrians can signal a right of way, but otherwise, make way for mopeds, cars and bicyclers. I can’t say this “rule of the road” makes sense for cars and mopeds, but I can say that after my 3 roommates and I rode bikes around Florence, we understood the annoyance of pedestrians.

Dressing is strictly for dressing rooms.

In the U.S. when my mom and I go shopping, we often will try clothes on clothes in the isles. Articles of clothing that can be worn over other clothing such as a cardigan, scarves, hats, etc. Although it’s not something that is encouraged, it isn’t looked down upon but other Americans or store associates.

The first shopping experience in Italy was at a common U.S. store called H&M. I was with my roommates and I came across a cardigan that I wanted to try on. Deciding between a black or gray one, I tried them both on in front of a nearby mirror in the store. I was immediately greeted by a store associate. She spoke with a strong Italian accent, but she was clear on her message. She pointed to the dressing rooms and sternly suggested I go there to try anything on in the store. This was a very new concept to me. My only assumption as to why this act isn’t tolerated is because dressing, changing clothes is a more intimate act and the Italian culture is much more reserved when it comes to covering their bodies.

Machine-o Cappuccino’s

The title says it all. In the university buildings at FUA students and faculty can order a variety of caffe from vending machines. At first, I was skeptical because of the thought of milk being prepared in a vending machine, but I had to try this. Could you blame me?

I got a cappuccino and was not disappointed at all. Once you order the coffee you want, the cup pops into the chamber and fills with just the right amount of sugar, then espresso and finally the classic cappuccino foam to top it off. And these coffees are only € .70 compared to coffees from cafes that range from € 1 to € 3

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