Fitting-In as a Florentine
This is your first time in Florence and intense exhilaration is running through your mind. There is so much to see and so much to do. Cafe and gelato places are everywhere, tourists as far as the eye can see, bikes coming and going from all directions, where do you even begin to wrap your head around this new atmosphere? How do you fit-in in Florence? Wouldn’t you like to become a Florentine? It is helpful to know about the culture. Italian culture is different than what you may be used to but don’t worry, we will fill you in on the tips.
Okay students, it’s time to put aside your skin-tight leggings and t-shirts, basketball shorts with socks and sandals, booty shorts, and baseball caps. You’re not in America anymore, what you wear really does make an impression. I know you say you don’t care what people think about your clothes or how you dress but if you would like to go along with the Florentine culture, you don’t want to make a fashion statement screaming, “American!” No, you want people to approach you speaking in Italian, thinking you were born and raised in Italy. The Italians dress simple yet sophisticated. They look their best without looking overdressed. The Italians also don’t really care for bright and flashy colors. If you notice the locals walking throughout Florence, you will see that the general color scheme is neutral colors such as black, brown, tan, grey, and green. They prefer softer, earthy tones. Men tend to dress nicer as well.
Ladies, you will notice this, I mean, who doesn’t love a well-dressed gentleman? They wear clothes that are more fitted to their bodies such as joggers and tighter pants. Young adults may be seen wearing converse or casual shoes but never sneakers. Flip Flops are not worn outside of the house so ladies, don’t even bother. Uggs are also not worn regularly. Not every girl wears the same hoodie, leggings and uggs outfit in the fall. In Italy, scarves are not only a female accessory. Guys look great in them and wear them often when the weather is chilly. Now ladies, it may be okay to wear shorter dresses and low cut shirts in America, but this is not the Italian way to dress. Italian women prefer to dress classy not trashy. They wear higher cut shirts and lower cut skirts. By revealing more skin, you may attract unwanted attention from the Italian men.
Another tip: if you are planning to visit churches in Florence, you will need to cover up. Some churches will not let you enter in the church if you are showing your shoulders and your knees. It is also just a sign of respect when you are entering a holy atmosphere. So make sure you have a scarf handy to cover your shoulders and pants to cover your knees and you’re all set. Another thing to avoid is selfie sticks. You can be spotted as a tourist just by holding one in your hand. Even if you look the part, a selfie stick will blow your cover. As tempting as they may be, try to re-frame from such touristy merchandise. If you are really lost on what to wear and what not to wear, take note of what the locals wear and how they present themselves. You will learn a great deal simply by being observant.
So you’re all dressed up now and looking very Italian. Now what? Well here are some helpful tips about Italians. Italians are usually never on time. Punctuality is not taken as seriously as it may in other countries. You might not notice this as you are sprinting your way to class, but Italians are quite laid back. Stated by an International Studies Abroad website about Italian culture, “Italians do not like to stress over things, but rather tend to relax and enjoy life to the fullest with a slower pace.” Along with this relaxed culture, you will notice that eating times are later in the day. For example, Italians don’t eat dinner until about 20:00 (8:00 pm) unlike Americans who eat dinner as early as 17:30 (5:30 pm). Within the restaurants and local shops, you may also observe that they are not open between the hours 14:30 to 19:00 (2:30–7:00 pm) for a time of “siesta” which is dedicated to going home to eat lunch and resting. It can be frustrating at times when you are in need of a place to eat or want to shop but find the stores closed, but it is comforting to know that, while it is inconvenient to us, the workers get a break to eat and rest. To adjust, simply find out the hours that the restaurant or store is open and keep a mental note so that you go during open hours.
Cafes are extremely popular in Florence and can be found on almost every corner. In addition to the cafes, Italy is known for their extensive coffee drinking. The most common of the drinks are espresso and cappuccinos which are frequently consumed at the standing bar within the café. If you don’t like coffee, just wait until you’ve had a fresh cup of warm cappuccino. You will turn into an Italian before you know it.
Family is a significant part of culture as well; the Italians spend a great deal of time around their family. Most Italians typically live at home for a longer period than Americans, as International Studies Abroad states, “The majority of young adults move out of the family homes very late (in their 30's), partly because of unbearably high living expenses, and partly due to strong sentimental attachments to the family.” So ladies, don’t be alarmed if you find out he still lives with his parents, it’s normal. On another note, another way students can be spotted by the Italians is drinking. It is understandable to think that since wine is a big part of Italian culture that Italians get drunk all the time. That is not the case, Italians drink wine with their meals to complement the food. If you see drunkards among the streets of Florence, it is most likely abroad students and according to International Studies Abroad, Italians drink, “with moderation, not in order to get drunk. In fact, the quickest way to lose the respect of your Italian friends and neighbors is to get drunk in public.” While you are abroad, please do not forget who you are representing; as Americans, we do not have the best reputation. Go ahead and enjoy the tasty wine just make sure you use your judgement in respect of the culture. Now that you have insight of how Italians live, go prove to the Italians that you can be a part of their culture and not stick out as a tourist.
Ahrendt, Eric. “Masterpiece Overload.” ShootWrite. N.p., n.d. Web. 26 Oct. 2015. <http://shoot-write.com/masterpiece-overload/>.
Baumeister, Roy F. “Do You Want a Meaningful or a Happy Life? — Roy F Baumeister — Aeon.” Aeon Magazine. Aeon Media Ltd. 2015, n.d. Web. 27 Oct. 2015. <http://aeon.co/magazine/psychology/do-you-want-a-meaningful-life-or-a-happy-one/>.
Bramblett, Reid. “Open Hours in Italy.” Reidsitaly. Reid Bramblett, n.d. Web. 24 Oct. 2015. <http://www.reidsitaly.com/planning/comm/open_hours.html>.
Bryant, Anthony. “How to Dress like an Italian Man.” The Gentlemen’s Ledger. N.p., n.d. Web. <http://thegentlemensledger.com/how-to-dress-like-an-italian-man/>.
“Eating the Italian Way.” Study in Italy. MIUR, n.d. Web. 23 Oct. 2015. <http://www.study-in-italy.it/about/eating.html>.
“How Real Italians Live — A Guide for Everyone.” How Real Italians Live — A Guide for Everyone. Tumbler, n.d. Web. 26 Oct. 2015. <http://fyhowrealitalianslive.tumblr.com/>.
“ISA — Florence, Italy Cultural Highlights.” Florence, Italy Cultural Highlights. International Studies Abroad, n.d. Web. 20 Oct. 2015. <http://studiesabroad.com/programs/country/italy/city/florence/cultureCorner/culturalHighlights.html>.