You are here

How to Survive in Italy: 101

28 Sep 2016

Although I have not been feeling the effects of culture shock too much, there are obviously many differences between Italy and the United States. During the past month, I have stumbled into quite a few sticky situations, many of which have involved melting gelato. But that’s all part of the learning experience, and with a few tips you’ll be ready to tackle anything as soon as you step off the plane!

I’ve created a list of 25 things to expect when in Italy that can help you prepare if studying abroad or traveling in this incredible country.

  1. 80% of people you will see walking around the streets have a gelato in hand, similar to how people carry coffee cups in the U.S. Locals eat gelato at any time of day and the fact that there’s a gelateria (store that sells only gelato) on every corner makes it pretty accessible…and very tempting *insert sticky situation*. 
  2. No one carries refillable water bottles. However, if you do need to refill, look for the green dragons that are all over the city. It's safe to drink this water. 
  3. Italians are very conscientious about the environment, meaning there is a very specific way to throw things away. It's worth your time to learn how to separate every piece of your trash because there’s always a possibility that someone is watching and will charge you a hefty fine if you do it wrong. 
  4. Big breakfasts (omelette, pancakes, waffles, etc.) are not a thing unfortunately. Breakfast usually consists of a "caffe" and brioche (croissant). 
  5. Which leads to my next point, carbs are your friend. Since portions are smaller, it’s important to fill up and you’ll be walking around so much that there’s no reason to worry about eating too much pasta and pizza. 
  6. A bar is not like a bar where you go to get drinks at night. Bars are quick stop shops that are all over the city where you can run in to get a fast coffee and/or pastry. 
  7. If you order a “caffe” in a bar, thinking you will receive a coffee like what you get in America, don’t be surprised when you are given an espresso shot. Order a “caffe americano” if you’re craving a Starbucks-like coffee. 
  8. Take advantage of “aperitivo”. Many restaurants offer it in the evening and it's where you buy a drink that could be anywhere from 7-12 euros, giving you access to an unlimited buffet. It’s especially popular among college students and a cheap alternative for dinner. 
  9. Everything is closed on Sundays. 
  10. Learn to talk with your hands. Gestures are a critical part of the Italian language, especially when you’re trying to communicate and don’t know how to say something. Speaking Italian requires using your entire body. 
  11. The concept of personal space doesn’t exist in Italy, not even in the language so get comfortable with being uncomfortable. 
  12. Italians are extremely friendly and always willing to assist you with anything so don’t be afraid to say hello to people or ask for help! It’s also a great opportunity to practice speaking Italian. 
  13. The pace of life is much slower so get used to Italian time, which means that nothing really ever starts on time. 
  14. You will quickly become very familiar with the Italian philosophy, “Suffering is a part of life”.
  15. When buying fruit/vegetables at a supermarket, make sure to weigh it and get a sticker with the price before going to check out because the cashier won’t do it for you. 
  16. Non-smoking zones do not exist. 
  17. Milan has many universities and the city offers a lot of student discounts. Download the app ‘EasyMi’ to find anything from coffee shops to theaters, and the app will also give you any coupons that can be used at some of these places. 
  18. Add yourself to Milan Facebook pages so you can stay up to date with events that are happening around the city. Keep an eye out for free entry to museums because it happens often. 
  19. Milan = fashion capitol. Always try to look put together, never go to class in sweatpants and avoid walking around the city in workout clothing unless going to the gym. 
  20. If you need an ATM look for a “Bancomat”. If you ask for an ATM, you will be sent to the metro since that is what they call the public transport system (Azienda Trasporti Milanesi).
  21. Always carry cash, especially when traveling to other areas in Italy. Even in Milan many places won’t accept credit/debit cards. 
  22. Have your passport with you whenever you travel, even in Italy because usually the hotel will ask for it upon arrival (lesson learned). 
  23. If staying for an extended period of time, join a gym/yoga studio because it's a great way to expand your Italian vocabulary, meet new people and continue to do any hobbies that you normally do at home. 
  24. Always look both ways before crossing the street so you don’t get hit by a vespa. 
  25. Don’t always do what the tourists are doing. Sometimes the best adventures lie off the beaten path and with this mindset you will soon start living like a local. :) 

Viva l'Italia!


From Our Blogs

Jan 19 3:23am

Top 10 Study Abroad Instagram Photos from December 2017 & January 2018

by Natasha Brower

During the past two months, our students (both past and present) have been reflecting on their incredible experiences while studying abroad.

Learn more
Jan 17 1:12pm

What does prepping look like?

by Adaoma Ogbonnaya

Preparing to leave the country for a semester can be hard and stressful. We all deal with that stress in different ways. What to pack is always a tough question because you're not only packing physical things like clothes and products, but also prior knowledge.

Learn more
Jan 16 5:27pm

Here's Good Luck & Away We Go

by Hannah Geller

A sense of familiarity before inevitable uncertainty.

Learn more
Jan 16 3:12pm

Exploring Ireland from East to West

by Madison Weaver

There are two things that I underestimated when I arrived in Ireland: just how much tea the Irish drink, and just how easy it is to travel around the country!

Learn more
Jan 16 2:43pm

So Many Sights In So Little Time

by Peyton

It’s been a little over a week since I first arrived in Quito, and there have already been too many sights and experiences to count. Every Ecuadorian I’ve met so far has been incredibly kind and welcoming, and I can already feel myself falling in love with the culture.

Learn more
Jan 16 10:23am

Research and Passports and Visas, oh my!

by Sarah Craig

Tips and hints about how to approach researching programs, getting a passport, and applying for a visa without your parent's help!

Learn more