8 Italian Travel Tips for Visiting America

istock
istock

If the world was high school, America would be the big, dumb jock—at least according to many of the travel sites that advise people of other nationalities what to do when they get stateside. So it’s nice to find a people, who, according to the travel advice they give their own countrymen, don’t seem bothered by American peculiarities. That nation is Italy.

1. AMERICANS WILL EAT ANYWHERE.

In America, eating etiquette is less strict than in most other countries, according to Marco Scandali at his blog, Un Italiano negli USA. Particularly, it is acceptable to eat anywhere, even during a business meeting. Though Scandali lauds the American tendency to only use first names in the workplace, “Their meetings are often a torture,” he writes, “since eating inside the conference room is universally accepted. I, however, cannot discuss work with someone who licks dirty smelly sauces off his fingers. We are not at an actual table, dammit!”

Also, since Americans tend to eat one handed, you will find it perfectly acceptable to eat with your left hand in your lap under the table. This, according to the advice website Tropiland, “is a custom derived from the Wild West, when the hidden hand was ready to grab the revolver.”

2. MEN'S BATHROOMS HAVE NO RULES.

According to Scandali, in men’s bathrooms anything is permitted, including smelly flatulence and loud dropping into the urinal, regardless of the victim at the next urinal. Take no prisoners.

3. AMERICANS DON'T REALLY CARE HOW YOU ARE.

Scandali tries to explain to his countrymen that Americans don’t want an honest answer when they ask you how you are. Honesty equals whining to Americans:

Americans ask me how I am ("How are you today" or "How do you do"): It is actually an expression of greeting, nothing more: he does not care how you are really, and even expects that you will lie about your problems. You will understand, we Italians have the opposite nature; we are whiners and we cannot wait for someone who is willing to listen to us complain a little bit.

Tropiland reminds readers that this surreal fake intimacy extends to any non-specific invitation, too: “The invitation to the house is almost always a pro forma and therefore you should not give it great weight.”

4. BUT AMERICANS ARE EXTREMELY SINCERE WHEN TALKING ABOUT MONEY.

“Don’t be surprised if you come to hear someone ask what you earn, even though you just met,” warns the Pianeta Donna blog. Money matters to American culture. You can see it in their coffee, according to Scandali. “[Good coffee] is not cheap…but it's the price you pay for access to a kind of exclusive club,” he writes. These are the rules of the market, and in America the law of consumerism is worth even more than the official legislation. It is their pride, after all.” 

See Also: 11 French Travel Tips for Visiting America

5. KISSING AND PETTING OTHER PEOPLE IS NOT OK IN AMERICA. 

Pianeta Donna explains there are certain behaviors that will cause American grooviness to grind to a halt. Touching strangers' children, for instance: “Generally, in the United States of America men avoid petting the children of strangers on the street, or even when invited into a home.” In fact, rein in the physical affection a bit altogether. No kissing people you’re not immediately related to—just handshakes.

6. UNDERAGE DRINKING IS ALSO NOT OK.

Like many other nations, Italy is perplexed by America’s attitude toward underage drinking. According to the travel information site America4you, Americans will take every opportunity to separate a boy and his booze:

In America you can safely buy a gun and carry it around, but regarding alcohol, no chance. If you go into a club, the man at the entrance will ask you for a document proving your age; same thing in a bar when you order a beer or even just in a supermarket!

But at least this explains the mystery of the bum-bottle. “Also it’s forbidden to drink alcohol in the street in most states,” the site notes. “[H]ere it is finally explained why in American movies people drink from bottles wrapped in paper.”

See Also: 8 German Travel Tips for Visiting America

7. DON'T HAVE EXTRAMARITAL RELATIONS (IN VIRGINIA).

Scandali warns, “Finally, remember that in Virginia he who has sex outside of marriage is severely punished by a fine.” Don’t think it’s a coincidence that state is named as it is.

8. AMERICANS ARE IGNORANT, BUT NICE. 

Of course not all Italians think Americans are nice. Yahoo poster bg says that “The average American has a low level culture and education, most only know English and that inadequately. With the excuse that they are the first country in the world, their arrogance does not allow them to recognize that there are other cultures. The strength of their culture is sports, junk food and Hollywood.”

But, as poster Alessandro notes, “The ignorant are everywhere, but at least in the U.S. they are friendly.”

Special Section: The Delightful Nuances of Hillbilly Talk

The website LaHoraDigital shows that little extra touch of bella vita that makes Italians so lovable. Sure, anyone can learn to speak English. But English with a Southern accent—that’s where it’s at. They give detailed instructions on how to turn plain Italian-accented English into a fantastic and disturbing hybrid of Italian and Yosemite Sam-accented English. “When I’m talking with a hillbilly,” says the author, “I already imagine the smell of home cooking. And if you want to talk with a southern accent, may be easier than you think.”

See Also: 10 Japanese Travel Tips for Visiting America

Hillbilly Talk Tips:

- Use "y'all" whenever you can. This term refers to a single person or a group of people. Never say "go,” replace with "fixin' to."

- Take the words, and add a few syllables. The "why" should be pronounced "waa" followed by "eye."

- Take the words of two syllables and reduce them to one, how to change the "tar."

- Use “Purdy” for appeal; “reckon” for recognize; the awfullest, gol darned horrible; critter rather than creature; breetches; and Tarnation.

What Do the Numbers and Letters on a Boarding Pass Mean?

iStock.com/Laurence Dutton
iStock.com/Laurence Dutton

Picture this: You're about to embark on a vacation or business trip, and you have to fly to reach your destination. You get to the airport, make it through the security checkpoint, and breathe a sigh of relief. What do you do next? After putting your shoes back on, you'll probably look at your boarding pass to double-check your gate number and boarding time. You might scan the information screen for your flight number to see if your plane will arrive on schedule, and at some point before boarding, you'll also probably check your zone and seat numbers.

Aside from these key nuggets of information, the other letters and numbers on your boarding pass might seem like gobbledygook. If you find this layout confusing, you're not the only one. Designer and creative director Tyler Thompson once commented that it was almost as if "someone put on a blindfold, drank a fifth of whiskey, spun around 100 times, got kicked in the face by a mule … and then just started puking numbers and letters onto the boarding pass at random."

Of course, these seemingly secret codes aren't exactly secret, and they aren't random either. So let's break it down, starting with the six-character code you'll see somewhere on your boarding pass. This is your Passenger Name Reference (or PNR for short). On some boarding passes—like the one shown below—it may be referred to as a record locator or reservation code.

A boarding pass
Piergiuliano Chesi, Wikimedia Commons // Public domain

These alphanumeric codes are randomly generated, but they're also unique to your personal travel itinerary. They give airlines access to key information about your contact information and reservation—even your meal preferences. This is why it's ill-advised to post a photo of your boarding pass to social media while waiting at your airport gate. A hacker could theoretically use that PNR to access your account, and from there they could claim your frequent flier miles, change your flight details, or cancel your trip altogether.

You might also see a random standalone letter on your boarding pass. This references your booking class. "A" and "F," for instance, are typically used for first-class seats. The letter "Y" generally stands for economy class, while "Q" is an economy ticket purchased at a discounted rate. If you see a "B" you might be in luck—it means you could be eligible for a seat upgrade.

There might be other letters, too. "S/O," which is short for stopover, means you have a layover that lasts longer than four hours in the U.S. or more than 24 hours in another country. Likewise, "STPC" means "stopover paid by carrier," so you'll likely be put up in a hotel free of charge. Score!

One code you probably don’t want to see is "SSSS," which means your chances of getting stopped by TSA agents for a "Secondary Security Screening Selection" are high. For whatever reason, you've been identified as a higher security risk. This could be because you've booked last-minute or international one-way flights, or perhaps you've traveled to a "high-risk country." It could also be completely random.

Still confused? For a visual of what that all these codes look like on a boarding pass, check out this helpful infographic published by Lifehacker.

Have you got a Big Question you'd like us to answer? If so, send it to bigquestions@mentalfloss.com.

Taco Bell is Opening a Taco-Themed Hotel in Palm Springs This Summer

Taco Bell Corp.
Taco Bell Corp.

For some, having a Taco Bell and its cheese-filled menu within driving distance is enough. For others, only a Taco Bell destination vacation will do. This August, the popular fast food chain is going to convert an existing Palm Springs, California, hotel into a burrito-filled Taco Bell getaway for a limited time.

The Bell Hotel will have all the usual amenities—rooms, food, gifts, and a salon—operating with a taco-themed cosmetic facelift. The nail salon, for example, will feature Taco Bell-inspired nail art. (Though we're not entirely sure what that consists of—possibly nails that resemble hot sauce packets.) The gift shop will feature Taco Bell apparel. Guests can also enjoy the standard variety of Taco Bell menu items. According to Thrillist, some new additions to their line-up are expected to be unveiled.

The as-yet-undisclosed hotel in Palm Springs will be operating as a Taco Bell partner for five nights total. As with pop-up stores and other publicity campaigns, the expectation is that guests will share their bizarre Taco Bell resort experience on social media and create some buzz around the brand. Taco Bell is no stranger to audacious marketing, as in the case of their Taco Bell Cantina in Las Vegas, which books weddings. Recently, the company also began making home deliveries via GrubHub.

The Bell Hotel website is now accepting sign-ups so fans can be notified when reservations open. The facility is expected to open August 9.

[h/t CNBC]

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