Italian Etiquette: How to Avoid Looking Like an Ugly Foreigner


The Italians are warm and inviting people, but mess up their customs and you’ll just be another ugly foreigner without manners to them. Maybe it’s judgemental, or maybe they have a point since you have enough money to come to Italy but not enough to take a moment to find out what is proper on their turf.

So when in Italy, do as the Italians do. Here’s a quick guide to help you become a welcome visitor to Italy.

  1. Learn a little Italian

Likely, you don’t have time to master the language, but that’s just fine. What you should do is learn some of the basic phrases for salutations and politeness. Get a language app to help you with the rest. You don’t need to be fluent, but making an effort really makes Italians happy.

  1. Shake hands with new people

In the movies, you see a lot of kissing on the cheek in Italy. That kind of greeting is reserved for people you’re friends with. For new people you meet, don’t kiss them on the cheek. A handshake is perfectly appropriate.

  1. Dress appropriately, even when sightseeing

Italians take fashion very seriously. And they consider it very rude to walk into places like churches with bare shoulders. There are many churches that you’ll likely visit when you sightsee and while in the colder months it’s no problem, in the summer when it is warmer, take along a light sweater to cover up your shoulders when you go inside.

  1. No eating, drinking, or ringing in churches either

Churches are taken very seriously here. Do not eat anything, or even sip from a water bottle inside a church. Ringing cell phones are the height of rude as well. It’s best to make sure you have it on silent before you begin your sightseeing.

  1. Observe proper table manners

Meals in Italy are important and always require formal manners. The alcohol culture is different here, regarded as something that is complementary to a meal, not something one does before or after a meal, so watch how you handle your alcohol. Being drunk in public is considered sloppy and rude. Take your time and cherish the entire meal. That’s the Italian way.

  1. Business is business

Dress the part and show up on time if you’re traveling on business in Italy. Keep things formal with greetings unless you are instructed otherwise.

Italy is a lot like the old-school manners your grandpa tried to instill within you when you were a kid. When in doubt, be as polite as possible and it will go a long way in Italy.


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