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Italian Culture: Italians, the Good and Not So Good

Here’s a look at the heart of Italian culture – Italians and what this Englishman in Milan likes and doesn’t like about the people of Italy.

What I love about Italians:

They are friendly, hospitable, generous, intelligent, good humoured, gentle, well-dressed, tasteful, and family oriented. And they don’t get drunk and vulgar. There are also many other positive characteristics too.

What I don’t like about Italians:

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Stop reading, start speaking

Stop translating in your head and start speaking Italian for real with the only audio course that prompt you to speak.

Only one thing really, and that is they, not all, but many, lack consideration for anyone who is not a direct friend, contact or family. Here are some common everyday examples of this:

  • When driving: Not slowing down at pedestrian crossings. Driving too fast and not anticipating potential problems. Parking on sidewalks/pavements and not thinking about the elderly or young mothers with strollers/pushchairs.
  • Impatience – using the horn when someone hesitates at the traffic lights or at a stop sign for a few nanoseconds.
  • When strolling: Walking three abreast on narrow sidewalks/pavements, and not moving over for other pedestrians.
  • With dogs: Letting their dogs foul the sidewalks/pavements and not cleaning up the mess.
  • Queuing: Not standing one behind the other. Pushing in front or pushing into others.
  • When speaking: Talking over the top of others without letting them finish. Talking loudly, and almost shouting to each other when in groups – this is related to one person not letting another finish talking before starting to speak. (This is something which people from the US and UK find unusual and rather impolite, incidentally)
  • On public transport: Pushing and shoving.
  • Young people on public transport: Not getting up and offering seats to elderly people, mothers with young children, or pregnant women.
  • Swearing on a daily basis: Saying curse words is a part of Italian culture, the way Italians express their negative emotions.

Indeed, I put many of Italy’s problems down to this odd lack of respect for other people. And this aspect of Italian culture surprises me seeing as Italy is the headquarters of the Roman Catholic Church.

I hope I don’t offend any of my Italian readers with this post, and I would stress that not all Italians are inconsiderate. And maybe one or two other non-Italian readers would like to confirm or deny what I have written, which is purely the product of my own observations – after 20 years in Italy – and my English sensibilities.

You might also like to take a look at an older post I wrote way back in 2005 when Blog from Italy, now Italy Chronicles, first saw the light of the world wide web: The People

Further reading: For more insight into Italian culture, I’d recommend The Italians by John Hooper which I have read. Published in 2015, The Italians was written by a journalist who has spent many years in Italy.

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