1. Try to compare us to the French.
Italians appreciate and hold in high regards a lot of the same aspects of life as the French, but we are very different. We both value culture, are naturally elegant, and love and have good food. But we fiercely compete on who has the most defining moments in art history, the best red wine or the best cheese. Italians are very proud of our unique traits and are positive we express them better.
And yes, Napoleon stole our art. Because he was jealous.
2. Think all we have to offer is pizza e gelato.
Italian pizza and gelato are the best in the world. But it’s the tip, of the tip, of the tip!, of the iceberg of the Italian food world. Don’t minimize one of Italians best qualities to those two. Have you ever had salama da sugo in Ferrara? Or swordfish in Calabria? Exactly.
3. Remind us we have to listen to our moms.
No matter how important family is here, Italians will huff and puff when they “have to” do something because their mother told them to. At any age. Yes, mothers know best. Yes, they will definitely tell you what to do. Yes, you are going to end up taking the windbreaker with you, even if there is no wind.
4. Una fazza una razza (one face, one race).
Yes, we are all Italians, north to south, east to west. But Italy is extremely varied and each region has unique traditions. The variety of culture in each region, when it comes to art, architecture, or food, is one of our prides. Foreigners don’t acknowledge these endless shades of variations.
Architecture in Trieste is different from in Gallipoli. Dialects can virtually be another language, because Italians themselves can’t understand Sicilian, for example. Two nearby cities might already have their own way of cooking a dish: cappelletti (also called anolini) in Parma are made differently from those in Cremona, and it’s less than an hour drive. The subtle differences are difficult to notice unless you don’t live there for years. Italians are proud, protective, and almost jealous of these differences.
5. On that same note, lump all ‘Mediterranean culture’ together.
As much as some of the Mediterranean countries share a few traits, such as the importance of family and an active social life, the number and diversity of Mediterranean cultures is astounding. Italy, Morocco, Turkey, to pick just a few, all lay around the Mediterranean Sea, but they couldn’t possibly be more different when it comes to architecture or food. Respect our uniqueness.
6. Eat something out of place.
You would never ask for a seafood dish while in the Alps, nor would you ask for a Florentina steak in Sicily. Every place has unique dishes. Seize the moment and enjoy something you can’t find anywhere else in the world.
7. Say the wrong thing when it comes to soccer.
Italian football, or soccer, or calcio, is more than our national sport, it’s a social environment, it’s passion and it’s history. From the living room, or a bar, or the stadium, rooting for the (right) team is as important and just as fun as the game itself. You don’t want to piss the curva nord (north end, where the hardcore fans go) off, for example, by saying that a foul in the other team’s favor was fair. Even if it was, better to keep your mouth shut.
8. Don’t make an effort to look good.
Elegance and taste permeates Italian culture. Even if we dress casual or for a workout, we are going to have clothes that fit well and that match. Also, Italians understand that you can underdress, but you can never overdress. Wearing a suit and tie at the pizzeria is totally fine, but don’t you dare wear a t-shirt, jeans, and sneakers to the opera (they might not even let you in).
Italians almost get offended if you dress badly, because we take it as if we are not worth your attention and care.