Your First 5 Steps to Becoming Italian

Bari Pearlman is a student at the University of Nebraska and an ISA Featured Blogger. She studied abroad with ISA in Rome, Italy.

1. Lock away your gym clothes.

Okay, I along with everyone else love my favorite oversized t-shirt and ratty old cheer shorts, but if you want to blend in, put them away. Fashion is an art here in Rome and everyone knows it. The only people who you see walking around in gym clothes are tourists-tourists who stick out like a sore thumb. While in the U.S. workout clothes are comfortable and even fashionable at times; it’s not okay here. If you want to be mistaken for a local, swap the oversized shirts for a fun blouse and the shorts for nice flowy pants or colored skinny jeans… unless you’re climbing a volcano.

2. Leave the selfie sticks at home.

Yes, I used to own a selfie stick. No, I did not bring it with me. Besides wearing gym clothes, the most obvious way to spot tourists and foreigners is by looking to see if they’re waving a huge long stick with a phone attached to the end of it. While it might be cool to get a super wide selfie with the whole Rome skyline in the background, it is not the way to become Italian. I’ll even let you in on a little secret: you won’t be able to bring it in to most museums. Save yourself the trouble and leave it at home.

3. Dine later.

In Italy, you don’t have lunches until around 1 or 3 pm and you don’t eat dinner until around 8 or 9 pm. Italians spread out their meals and opt for a small appetizer when Americans typically eat dinner. Don’t get me wrong, restaurants are open all day and almost all night and the waiters will serve you. But believe me, if you eat dinner around 6 pm, you’ll probably be the only one in the restaurant. You traveled to Italy to experience their way of life, that means adjusting to their customs. Don’t worry, your stomach will get used to it!

4. Don’t ask for your food to go.

In Italy, meals are meant to be enjoyed with friends and family. That means that the meals last a long time and you sit down while eating. This rule doesn’t just apply to meals, but coffee and small snacks as well. I tried to get a croissant to take to class and the waiter thought I was crazy. Eat at the restaurant or café and save yourself the weird looks.

5. Learn how to dodge traffic.

I have tried so many times to try to describe the driving here in Italy to my friends and family, but it’s impossible. Roads don’t have lanes, I have yet to see a speed limit sign, and regular road rules don’t apply to vespa scooters. In short, the roads here can be intimidating. There are some scary drivers. Waiting around for the driver to let you cross isn’t going to happen. Pay attention to cars, don’t hesitate, walk with a purpose, and learn how to weave through the cars. That is the only way (and the safest way) to efficiently cross the road.

The world awaits…discover it.

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