8 Italian Travel Tips for Visiting America
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.”
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.”
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.”
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.
Disclaimer: I do not speak Italian. I use translation sites to interpret these webpages. Any Flosser who can provide better translation is welcome to do so in the comments.