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The 5 First Things an Italian Learns When They Move to the US

Italy United States Student Work
by Richard Bruschi Apr 20, 2015

1. Our intensity of discussion needs to come down a few notches.

Us Italians are hot-blooded people. We are more inclined to speak what’s going through our minds in a passionate way. Different opinions are just that, and we are not fighting when you hear a heated discussion. We are just talking. My roommate in the US used to think I was fighting with my mother all the time. We were actually just having good, fun conversations.

In the US, an opposite opinion and strong words is sometimes seen as having an aggressive stance. Americans are generally more composed, both in verbal language and body language. They are quieter in how they voice their thoughts and might not necessarily answer back if they disagree.

2. The US concept of dining out is totally different from ours.

For Italians, a meal out is time for good company on top of enjoying a great meal. You order something you wouldn’t probably prepare at home yourself, because you don’t go to a restaurant to have a green salad. Half an hour might go by just between sitting down and getting the first dish, which won’t often be the only one, because even if you are out just for pizza, the meal would probably consist of more than one course. Top that tris di tortelli with a homemade mascarpone al caffe’. The waiters don’t constantly bug you and they will never bring you the check unless you ask them – it would be considered rude.

Italians take their time eating, savoring food and drinks, and we hang out at the table long after the meal is over. You’ve been talking, laughing, joking, discussing for more than an hour now, you are happily full, and everybody is relaxed and enjoying life. Why interrupt such a moment to rush to the car?

3. Be right on time.

Italians are not necessarily late, but many of us have a ‘flexible buffer zone’ between the set time of the appointment and the actual time of arrival. Especially when the work day is over, waiting time is social, hangout time.

People in the US like to be right on time and like to get going. IF you are late, your friends might tell you the next meeting place and time, where to reach them. People have longer commutes, or plan to do more things in a row, so even a meeting with friends might be limited by other errands a person might have.

4. The idea of home as a base is different.

Italians have a strong sense of family and of place. We might relocate for work or family, and younger generations have started moving further away from home (UK, or Spain), but we will try make other options, closer to home, work first. Few people moved at all before attending the university. Half of my university class was from the same city, and a big number of the other half were from another city 30 minutes away.

In the US, many people relocate many times by the time they are teens, and people in their 30s and 40s easily relocate in a different state for work. People in the US always seem ready to move, and do it easily, at any moment.

5. Using a credit card regularly.

Italians rarely pay with a card. Maybe it’s because of mistrust, or because keeping track of expenses with paper money is easier, but we almost always pay with cash.

The US is the land of the card. I learned that many people in the states often don’t have cash with them at all. Here in the US, it’s all too easy to pick up the custom of just sliding the card.

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