Navigating Cultural Differences: My Observations in Italy

Living in a foreign country can be an exciting and enriching experience, but it can also expose you to cultural differences that can be both surprising and challenging. Some things I’ve notice while living in Italy that I find odd and interesting includes the following:

1. Recycling: Ok it’s not so strange because we do this in US too but, recycling here is extreme. In my apartment, there are different bins for every type of materials. For example, 1 for decompose which is called “organic”, 1 for plastic, 1 for paper & 1 for bottles. In addition, when you buy the plastic bags for replacement purposes they have different types of sizes for each type of materials too. It took me a while to figure out which ones I needed. A “large” size may not mean “large” for a taller sized bin.

2. Taxi: Ya can’t hail a cab here. You have to personally call them and request for one. So, if you stay after 2pm when the metro shuts down at midnight, you will have to find other means of transportation. Taxi is expensive and Uber does not exists. Apparently a bus runs late at night but, I’ve been told it’s dangerous. I’ve never taken one nor have I stayed late past midnight to find out.

3. Condiments Fee: Why does McDonalds charge for condiments here? WHY?

4. Drying Clothes: The process of it and having to schedule laundry base on the weather is odd. Because, it’s quicker to dry clothes on a sunny day vs when it’s raining. Ok!

5. Supermarkets: The big grocery stores are closed on Sundays…..eeek!

6. Apperitivo: I love apperitivo time. It’s like taking Happy Hour to the next level. What I found odd was having to pay first after you order and not after you’re done with your meal. What’s the difference? Is it because there are too many people who come at this time in the day and the waiters can’t keep tabs of who has or has not paid? Maybe?

streets of brera

7. Water: Is no where to be found in the school unless you pay for it. I’ve gotten used to bringing my own because as a student, I can’t afford to pay 1 euro every day. It all adds up eventually.

8. Mailbox: I’ve been informed that it is normal for mailboxes to be left unlocked. I guess privacy isn’t that big of deal here or at least in my building? No one in my apartment has access to the key whatsoever.

9. Receipts: It’s happened a few times now and I still don’t understand why I always get 2 different receipts whenever I buy something. It’s not very eco friendly.

10. Drivers: The drivers here are just as crazy as in L.A. They roll through turns or in general. I almost got hit by a car yesterday because a car was trying to make a turn while, I was crossing the street. Mid-way through the walk, he kept making the turn and then he realized I was already crossing in the middle of the street! It was my light and my turn. To this day, I’m still trying to figure out who has the right of way. No one seems to follow any rules whatsoever.

Duomo at night

It’s important to be open-minded and respectful of these cultural differences, as they are what make Italy unique and special. Ultimately, immersing yourself in the local culture can be a wonderful opportunity to learn and grow, both personally and professionally.


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