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Etiquette & Behaviour


Being aware of a country's etiquette and behaviour is considered an asset for the traveller, as it not only shows respect for the locals' way of life, but it also helps the foreigner with interactions in everyday situations.

If you are planning a trip to Italy, here are some of the basics:

Introductions and Greetings

When it comes to introductions in Italy, Italians prefer to be introduced by a third party, if possible. When meeting people, it is proper to be introduced to women and older people first. It is the same protocol when introducing yourself to others.

Shake hands with everyone with a firm grip during introductions and departures. While doing this always say "buon giorno" during the day time or "buona sera" in the afternoon and evening. It is commons for Italians to greet people they know with a hug but it is not expected from a foreigner to the same gesture.

Conversations and Behaviour

Italians are known for using hand gestures when they are talking. It is their way of giving emphasis to their feelings or point.

It is common to see people walking hand in hand or having their arms linked together in public. This is normally seen in the evenings during strolls known as "passeggiata". An Italian's personal space is smaller than those of Northern Europeans or Americans. It is common for them to have a conversation that is much closer than what you are used to.

Eye contact is also very important to Italians, as it shows if you are interested in a person or not. Be aware that looking away may perceived to be a sign of boredom or of rudeness. Placing the hand on the stomach means dislike for another person.

Public Transportation and Gatherings

It is common courtesy for younger people to give up their seats to older people and for men to give up their seats to women. Always wait for your host to tell you where to sit.

Eating and Drinking

Cappuccinos should be taken only in the mornings while Espressos can be taken anytime. Italians normally stop and sit to eat. It is rare to see them eat while walking, however it is acceptable to walk and eat only if you are eating a gelato.


Always remember that when entering the workplace, restaurants, cafes, or stores to say the proper greetings, which are "buon giorno" (Good Morning) or "buona sera" (Good Afternoon /Evening) and "arrivaderci" (Goodbye) when departing.

When purchasing items where there is a line, it is common to see a person walk right to the front of the line and be served first because he or she has a good relationship with the seller. Queueing is not strict in Italy, in fact, Italians are very tolerant of queue barging!

It is rude to read through magazines when in front of a newsstand. Also, do not touch items that are on the window display. Instead, politely ask the seller for the item.

When shopping in Italy, do not assume that the sellers speak your language, as many Italians seldom do. It is best to learn a few phrases and make an effort to learn their language.

Rude Behaviour

It is deemed as a gesture of contempt if you rub your chin with the fingertips and propel them forward. Making a hand gesture that looks like the devil's horn pointed outward is an obscene gesture. The opposite direction means warding off evil. When you point with both your index and pinky fingers, it means you are wishing a person bad luck. It is considered very offensive if you slap a raised arm above the elbow and thumbing your nose. It is unacceptable to chew gum, lean or slouch in public.

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