4 Italian traditions that the rest of the world can’t understand

fruit italian why italians peel fruit orange italian habits face

Even the most seasoned travellers occasionally experience cultural shock: the way we experience a new Country is always conditioned both by our own cultural background and from the stereotypes we have inevitably been exposed to. While certain habits may be part of your Country’s culture to the point that you would never dream of questioning them, they might be exotic and outlandish in other parts of the world. This is definitely the case for Italians who, despite having one of the strongest and most colourful national stereotypes in existence, still manage to surprise international visitors with the simplest and most innocent of day-to-day gestures. Here are 4 fun facts about Italian culture that the rest of the world finds puzzling.’

4 Italian traditions that the rest of the world can’t understand

1. Peeling fruit before eating it

fruit italian why italians peel fruit orange pomigranateThis is not a universally adopted habit, but it is pretty common and most foreigners seem to find it puzzling. Most Italians will peel fruit like apples, pears and peaches and then eating it with a knife and fork, rather than just washing and biting into it. This is due to a heightened sense of what is considered healthy food: as most fruit is intensively grown and therefore treated with pesticides, that tend to seep into the peel and linger even after a piece of fruit has been washed. It is not uncommon for fruit and vegetable in Italian stores and markets to have labels stating clearly that those particular products have not been treated with pesticides and that they are organic, which means the peel is edible and can be also used in culinary preparations (such as citrus fruit peel and zest for cakes).

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2. The passing lane… is for passing

italian highway road driving in italyWe already featured a post about the dangers and wonders of driving in Italy, but it is only fair to acknowledge the one instance in which Italian drivers are more prudent than most of their international counterparts. In Italy you are not supposed to keep driving on the passing lane. After you have passed the vehicles you were intending to pass, you should slide back onto the normal driving lane. This is one infraction Italian drivers are rarely – if ever – guilty of. If you are not fast enough complying with this rule, the next driver will probably drastically reduce the distance between your vehicles and start flashing and honking, which admittedly doesn’t tie in well with the idea of Italian drivers being sticklers for driving regulations. However, this is a very effective technique: you will be sharply reminded that the passing lane is for passing other cars.

3. Breakfast is the most important meal of someone else’s day

italian breakfast eggs pan friedMost Italians would only considering eating a cooked breakfast while on holiday. It’s not so much the idea of eating eggs that we find unconscionable, but the idea of cooking them and then having to wash pans and plates. We will be perfectly fine with a cappuccino and a cornetto (croissant) thank you very much. This is consistent with the fact that lunch, in Italy, is not something you get over quickly by munching on a bagel on-the-go. It usually involves at least one cooked serving, heavy enough to require coffee in order to power through the rest of a working day. In order to make Italian breakfast work for you, in other words, you will need to give the whole Italian way of life a go!

4. Closing time is (almost) the rule

closed sign closing time closed italianEver heard of the 24/7 economy? We haven’t. Ok, that’s not true, we have, but we resist it politely. Don’t fret: you will always be able to find a 24/7 something, be it a deli or a gas station, if you find yourself in or near a city. If you are visiting a small town, however, prepare to explore it on a Sunday to find every single shop closed and only the local bar – by which we mean cafe – open to meet the basic chit-chat, coffee drinking and football-watching needs of the local community. With the exception of shopping malls and large supermarkets, most shops and stores also close down for lunch breaks. There are also specific closing days for specific types of shops: barbers and hairdressers, for instance, are never open on a Monday and groceries are generally closed on a Thursday afternoon.

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She is a part-time digital nomad. She would go full-time, if only she could stay away from Berlin for long enough without pining for a Pretzel. She was born in Italy and she enjoys life as an expat, but visits home often enough and can still remember how to bake a perfect lasagna. She is passionate about writing, marketing, languages and the systematic demolition of cultural stereotypes.

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