study abroad: cultural differences between america and italy

Study Abroad Florence Italy

WED. JULY 1: Day 23
Hi there! In this post, I’ll be covering a wider range of differences that I have noticed while being here. This will be my last post dedicated to simply comparing the cultures of Italy and The States, so I hope you enjoy!

Have you read my post on the concept of time in Italy vs the US? You can check it out here.

Study Abroad Florence Italy


1. I’m going to generalize. Please don’t leave a comment saying, “Not everyone is like this.” Trust me, I know. I’m not writing about every single human being in both countries. There are many, many, many exceptions; to assume everyone fits neatly into one category is a grave mistake.

2. As with all cultural differences, it is important to remember that different does not equal bad. Different is different; it requires an adjustment. There are pros and cons to both sides. These are just differences I have noticed.

Are we on the same page? Awesome! Let’s dig in!

Study Abroad Florence Italy

America: Things are made so that things can be done as efficiently as possible.

Italy: Don’t expect it. Trains go on strike often because people “just don’t feel like working.” Things will stop working and it will take a long time for someone to fix it. Things are slow, so my best advice is to take a deep breath and go with the flow.

Study Abroad Florence Italy

America: There’s a joke in Italy that you can spot an American by their shoes. In the US, it isn’t uncommon to see people shopping in sweat pants or people going about their day-to-day lives in leggings and a shirt.

Italy: Everyone always looks put-together, even when they’re just heading to the grocery store. I mean, why wouldn’t you wear a pair of stilettos even if you’re just taking out the trash?

Study Abroad Florence Italy
Even in my best outfit, I felt inadequate next to the impossibly chic Italians, though I was looked at, talked to, and treated with much more respect and was mistaken as a local when I dressed to impress.

Study Abroad Florence Italy

This is part of La Bella Figura (the beautiful figure), which is the idea of maintaining a good public image. It is a a way of life that emphasizes aesthetics and good behavior. It means to make a good impression in every aspect of your life and how you present yourself.

America: Independence is one of the our most valuable qualities. A “needy” person or person who “asks too much” from a partner or family is considered bad.

Italy: In most Italian families, independence isn’t pushed; “needing” ones family is normal and healthy. Family comes first no matter what. Living at home with your parents after you turn 40 makes perfect sense because “the cost of living is way too high”.

Study Abroad Florence Italy

America:  People seem more tied to their age and give in to the dull expectations of what a 40-year-old should or shouldn’t do. We tend to go crazy in our 20s because “we won’t be able to have this much fun forever.”

Italy: There aren’t a lot of expectations that come with age in terms of what you “should” be doing anymore. People of all ages go out, go drinking, and stay in motion and active. Age difference isn’t a big deal. A few of my friends here are 15 years older than me, but it is considered totally normal to go out and grab a bite to eat together, for example.

Study Abroad Florence Italy

America: Big cars, big houses, big yards, and about two feet of space between themselves and other people all the time.

Italy: Small cars, small apartments, and no privacy bubble.  They stand very close to each other and don’t mind if they are touching someone else. The streets are small and when people touch you, they don’t bother to say “sorry” or “excuse me.” I realized that it’s because there is simply nothing to be sorry for. Sometimes you touch other people and it’s no big deal.

Study Abroad Florence Italy

People kiss each others cheeks as a greeting and goodbye, they grab each others arms when they get really into a conversation, they all sit very close together, etc.

Walking arm in arm down the street or in a park as you chat is common among same sex platonic friends. It’s so nice and I love the intimacy of Europe. You never feel alone.

America: If an American has to wait more than ten minutes to order, he’s going to burn down the restaurant. Everything seems like the end of the world.

They get stressed out over the smallest, most minuscule things. Americans pent up all of their emotions until they eventually snap and lose their minds.

Study Abroad Florence Italy

Italy: Italian culture is so calm compared to American culture. Nothing ever seems like a big deal. Things that would send a typical American into cardiac arrest usually won’t get more than a shrug from an Italian. Italy really understands the concept of accepting setbacks as the normal course of life.


America: Weight is a really sensitive subject. Don’t talk about it. Don’t mention it. Don’t offend anyone. If I told a friend, “Oh! You gained a little weight!” she’d probably punch me in the face. In American grocery stores, you will find every kind of diet food imaginable.

Italy: It’s insanely common for friends, family, (and even strangers) to comment on weight. Diet food does not exist. Even the women that feel they need to lose a few pounds are out on the beach in their bikinis having fun. No one is wearing a one piece or covering up with a towel.

Study Abroad Florence Italy

America: We have a horrible tendency to equate someone’s opinion with their worth, especially if we strongly disagree with them.

Italy: No matter how differing two peoples’ beliefs may be, they always end the conversation with a hug or a pat on the back. Opinions do not determine their relationships.

Study Abroad Florence Italy

America: We spend millions of dollars to entertain ourselves (theme parks, the latest gadgets, concerts, video games, etc.), and yet, we still aren’t satisfied.

Italy: People are happy just being with each other. No one is ever on their phones when with their friends because friends are treasured above all else. Passeggiata, the art of taking a walk in the evening, is an Italian social ritual. Many people weave their way to piazzas for conversation or a gelato.

Study Abroad Florence Italy

Part of the great communal feel of Italy comes from the fact that people tend to congregate outdoors, which produces a lively atmosphere.

Whenever my friends made plans with me, it involved going to the beach, sitting on a bench and watching the sun set, or taking a walk around the city. So simple, cash-free, and unbelievably fulfilling.

Study Abroad Florence Italy

Some more points for Italy:

the people.
Within the first week, I realized that it must be impossible for one to feel lonely in Italy with all these loving, giving, caring and hospitable people surrounding them.

I have felt a different kind of love while being here. It is so exceptional that I can’t think of a word to accurately describe it.

Study Abroad Florence Italy

I know that if I were to be kicked out of my apartment,  I wouldn’t have to worry about being homeless for the night because a nice Italian family would scoop me up and show me love.

the love.
The Italian passion makes me sweat thinking about it. Italians just love better and stronger. When I see PDA here (public display of affection is a frequent occurrence), I don’t even get grossed out. The romance is fantastic.

Study Abroad Florence Italy

Do you want to love like an Italian? Ladies, even if you don’t score an Italian man with a passionate soul to sweep you off your feet, you can still apply the same principles they do.

Quite simply, fall in love just a little bit more.

Italians love with all they’ve got. Even if you’re thinking, “I’m ALREADY in love with him/her!” The trick is to KEEP loving them and to keep the passion alive even after the “honeymoon period.”

Study Abroad Florence Italy

I know when the day comes for me to leave Italy, I will feel as if I am leaving my home behind rather than going back to it. My love for this country is cinematic.

Study Abroad Florence Italy

I must return to Italy to live here, to learn the language and figure out how to live la bella vita. The most I can do right now is enlighten my fellow Americans on this well-loved and envied culture.

Study Abroad Florence Italy

Hopefully we can all be inspired!

Laurie Hamame

Ball of sunshine. Chronic giggler. A lover of all things sweet potato. An overly friendly, world traveling, body positive warrior. Avid bookworm. Self-proclaimed chef and spiritually Italian. Promotor of daily walks, coffee dates and 30-second dance parties.

You might also like

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Laurie Hamame

Ball of sunshine. Chronic giggler. A lover of all things sweet potato. An overly friendly, world traveling, body positive warrior. Avid bookworm. Self-proclaimed chef and spiritually Italian. Promotor of daily walks, coffee dates and 30-second dance parties.

Read more





currently reading