So you like Italy? The food, the cities, the gelato — how could you not? Well I’m here today to help you Italianize yourself. From our culture, to etiquette, and a few true stereotypes, here is my guide to help you embrace the Italian lifestyle.
1. Think Outside The Box
When a new and unexpected problem arises, don’t wait for some expert to fix it for you — get creative and fix it yourself. Don’t know how? Improvise! Are you already aware of a standard solution? Come up with ten alternatives! Even if you lack the right tools and expertise, devising your own wonky and eccentric DIY solutions is much more satisfying than going by the book. Perform such experiments with a confident, winning smile and no one will even realize that you’re making it up as you go along.
2. Drive Like It’s A Formula 1 Track
Who are you when you get behind the wheel of a car? Another anonymous commuter letting your life slip away as you sit in traffic? Some timid schmuck waiting for permission to pass? No! You are a celebrity racecar driver and everyone else on the road is in your way. Be impatient, proud, rude and, most importantly, fast. And when you reach your destination, don’t waste time looking for a place to park — use rule #1 to invent your own parking spot.
3. Talk With Your Hands
This is probably Italian stereotype numero uno, but guess what? This one is definitely true. Hand gestures are such a central part of speech for us that legendary Italian artist and designer Bruno Munari even catalogued the different gestures in a visual dictionary, Speak Italian: The Fine Art of the Gesture. Speaking Italian with your hands stiffly at your sides is like speaking with tape over your mouth — let your hands join in on the conversation!
4. Don’t Just Speak, Sing
To many non-Italians, our spoken language sounds like music. It’s true, that along with expressive gestures, our words are augmented with a rising and falling musical inflection. I guess it’s no surprise that Italians invented opera.
5. Completely Ignore Language Barriers
Did you know that every Italian is a polyglot? OK, so that’s not completely true, but that shouldn’t stop you from believing it’s true. The next time you are visiting a non-Italian-speaking country, talk to the locals in Italian. If they don’t understand at first, speak more loudly and use bigger hand gestures. In the face of such loud, expressive Italian, every language barrier will collapse, and you’ll be able to communicate with whomever you want. My mother uses this technique every time she travels, and it always works!
6. Be A Fashion Victim
If there is one issue on which Italians are not willing to compromise, it is style. Do as the Italians do, and then, even at your least stylish, you will still probably look better than everyone else. What can I say? Good taste comes naturally to us!
7. Find Something New To Complain About Every Day
We Italians tend to complain about everything. Any topic might get our blood boiling: government misdeeds, crooked politicians, local gossip, the weather. And when it does, we can become passionately angry, demanding strikes and demonstrations… until the next day when something else happens and we easily drop yesterday’s indignations for a new cause.
8. Know Who The Best Cooks Are
To truly embrace the Italian lifestyle, you must believe — deep in your heart — that no one can cook a better meal than your mother or grandmother. But a warning to men: don’t let this love of good home cooking turn you into a mammone (“mama’s boy”) who never moves out because he’s got it so good.
9. Accept Any Criticism About Italy, If It Comes From An Italian
As mentioned in point #7, criticizing things is a national pastime, but criticizing Italy is a right reserved for us and us alone. When a non-Italian criticizes Italy in front of me, a strange thing happens. Even if I agree with them 100%, some proud, patriotic impulse comes out of nowhere and compels me to vehemently defend my quirky, imperfect country.
10. Know Your Food Rules
There are certain things that you should never ever do with your food:
- Never eat spaghetti with a spoon
- Never put pesto in a sandwich (use fresh basil instead)
- Never drink coffee with milk after lunch
- Never get your coffee to go, drink it “al banco” (standing up at the bar)
- Never eat seafood with cheese (does such a taboo even need to be explained?!)
So now that you’re equipped with the basic steps, go on and embrace the Italian lifestyle — I promise it’s lots of fun.