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Comparisons of life in Italy

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Comparisons of life in Italy

On January 31, 2016, Posted by , In Living in Italy, By , With 49 Comments

There are number of things that you may experience in Italy that you may not have experienced in your previous homeland. The greatest of these for me must be the summer time. This is a very infectious and energetic time. In the UK I was very used to coming home after a long day and doing one of two things:


a. Opening a bottle of wine and cooking with my wife; ortv


b. Having a couple of beers (or opening a bottle of wine) and sitting on my arse in front of the TV


This differs tremendously  from my life in Italy as I find myself in the evenings strangely having my 2nd shower of the day as I get ready to got out and hit the town! Although this is still quite foreign to me its pretty common for Italians. Italians love to get out in the evenings either to partake of an ‘aperitivo’ (a small drink and possibly some nibbles before dinner, or an after dinner drink) or a ‘passagiata’ (a stroll with or without an ice cream). I find it quite refreshing and enlightening to partake in casual conversation and to ‘people watch’; it beats sitting on front of the box every night and general the drama that unfolds before your eyes is far superior than any soap opera script I’ve came across. Luigi screaming to Guiseppi about how crap his football team and the signs and verbal abuse that ensues; or Carmela shouting at her useless cretin husband (‘cretino inutile’)  Stefano (according to her) in front of everyone is a sight to behold.


siestaGenerally speaking life is slower here. That’s not to say that Italians do any less work than the rest of the world. The 9 to 5 grind is pretty much the same all over the world, particularly in the bigger cities and with those who want to get ahead. Although many Italian business close for a couple of hours over lunch (as family time is sacred and especially time eating with family) unless they are transacting with foreign markets; they make up for it elsewhere, generally office hours are from 8am till 1pm and 3pm till 7pm. The siesta is not really common here anymore.


So during the day its business as usual but at nights  and during the weekends the pace is less frenetic. You learn to live with this or adapt. Guess what? I don’t need my groceries delivered anymore during a specific time slot (and God help them if they are 5 minutes late!). I also don’t need the latest iPhone or gadget delivered next day;  if it comes the day after, that is also ok. I’m starting to realise that focusing on the more important things in life and less about what we think is important but isn’t really, means that I probably won’t die from a heart attack or stress which may have been the case if I continued my busy lifestyle in the UK.


Back to focusing on the more important things in life (Italian style) such as whether the olives or grapes are getting enough water/rain this year because not only does this have an impact people’s livelihood but also on the general mood within the village for the next year. So putting things into perspective, I’d gladly give up my next day delivery of the latest gadget to have everyone around me happy.


Summer and the pace of life here compared to ‘back home’ are not the only things that I find myself comparing. A few other things that spring to mind are:


a. In the UK the pedestrian is king – good luck with that in Italy!!


b. Italians drive on the wrong side of the road (and I’m not saying that because I’m used to drivers driving on the left in the UK). Honestly, I experience this most on our mountain roads, Italian drivers on my side of the road!


c. They don’t go out in the rain. Can you imagine this in Scotland…the whole country would come to a standstill?


d. There are certain things Italians live by:

  •         ” Don’t swim for 3 hours after eating
  •          Don’t eat ice cubes, they are not good for your insides
  •          Always dry your hair after a shower before you go out otherwise you will die of pneumonia”


e. When you ask an Italian if he would like a coffee he will always look at his phone before telling you; we don’t.


f. Also on the topic of coffee, if he has already had 2 in a day he would NEVER have a 3rd, its just not done. I on the other hand have as many as I feel like. Italians don’t understand thiscappucino concept. I should be ‘following the rules’! “Hell, this has worked for centuries so why break the rules?” they say.


g. Still on coffee. No cappuccinos after 10.30am. Starbucks would go out of business! By the way, cappucinos in Italy have about 85ml of milk in them (and there is normally only one size on offer) compared to their British or American counterparts which seems to be somewhere between half a litre and a litre of milk depending on the size ordered.  Also, if Italians add anything to their coffees other than sugar it is generally a grappa or some other alcohol; no such things as shots of vanilla syrup, caramel syrup or hazelnut drizzle.


h. Brits and Americans are very polite. Especially the Brits when it comes to driving. However don’t expect an Italian to allow you to cut in during traffic and if you let her in don’t expect a ‘thanks’.


i. Italians love food and they have healthy appetites. They will generally consume a large amount of this over a nice relaxing 3 hour lunch. In the UK and US the same amount of food is generally crammed between a hamburger bun or roll and the same amount of food is consumed within 45 minutes (unless there is a t-shirt to be won for finishing this in 15 minutes!).


j. Italians are passionate people and will hurl abuse at their friends, storm out and you will find them sitting at the some table the next night with the same set of friends as if nothing had happened the night before ready for another episode. This can go on every night for weeks. We don’t understand this. In the UK this argument would probably have been fuelled by too much alcohol and would result in some sort of physical violence which would mean a night in jail for one or both parties.  In America the same behaviour would result in a drive-by shooting the following day!


k. Elsewhere in the world we are generally subtle about a persons appearance or will partake in telling the odd ‘white lie’. Not in Italy, no holds barred. If you look like shit they will tell you. They may not call you ‘fatty’ but will certainly comment on you ‘robustness’ (robusto).


l. Italians love to dress up and so it is very rare that you would see a mother at the school in a tracksuit or without make-up (unless its us!). The same can’t be said in the UK. Many of us have just climbed out of bed two minutes beforehand.women
m. Family comes first! I’ve never experienced anything abroad to the same extent.


n. Respect for the ‘oldies’ or OAP (Old Aged Pensioners). The young have in-depth conversations with the older generation here. The nonno’s and nonna’s (grandparents) are treated like demi-gods here in some circles. In the UK these two groups don’t mix ever, unless under duress. Respect is gone.


o. Italy reeks of culture. The UK is close. The US has gun culture and rap culture!


p. On the topic of driving Italians seem to get a bad rap but I think this is a generalisation. Rome and Naples may be a bit crazy but in most places I’ve driven in Italy I’ve never experienced italian carroad-rage like I have in the UK, US or during my time in South Africa. In the UK things are a little more orderly on the roads granted but you will hear the horn or clacson honking a lot more in the UK than you will in Italy. In Italy anything goes on the road but so long as you know what to expect, I think its cool. I quite like the fact that there isn’t a nanny state as such and that the rules are bent slightly….the fact that a vehicle isn’t within the lines when parking or someone double parks works both ways. We will at some point in our lives find ourselves in a situation where you just need a loaf of bread or a bag of sugar 2 minutes to closing and can never find parking; this is where this abandonment of the laws comes in useful…I say, ‘if the shoe fits, wear it’!


These are just some of the comparisons in life between Italy and the UK, US or other cultures I’ve experienced. If I’ve missed any, let me know.


49 Comments so far:

  1. Jovo says:

    Hi, I really love your text about Italy and Italians. I am in love with the country. Many of your remarks about habits and way of behavior there I have seen and experienced in many occasions. They have the best coffee for sure, but it is so small amount. Passion is something like a synonym when you think about Italians, you are right about it. Man thanks, I really enjoyed your text.

    • Brendan says:

      Hi Jovo,

      I’m glad you enjoyed it. Its hard not to fall in love with Italy. I’m getting used to the size of the coffees having been exposed to Starbucks and some of the other coffee chains over the years. I think what I’m starting to appreciate is the flavour now. Previously I would finish a Starbucks Vento so quickly that I’s forgotten I’d even ordered one. Drinking and eating slower is definitely making me more appreciative.

  2. Tyler Redlev says:

    Great article! I enjoyed reading it very much.

    I’m Turkish and i can actually approve this. Our cultural mentality is almost the same. I adore that Italians have been enlightened about the real meaning of life.

    I see that you guys don’t care about the capitalistic aspect of life, which is great. Your initial happiness is what really matters.

    I also am in love with your food!!!

  3. Daniella says:

    Hi Brendan,

    I really like your site as well as Italy! This country is one of my favorites ones, I put it on my list for a future planning holiday with my family. I had many friends from Italy few years ago and I just love their mentality. Some were from Sicily and some from Tuscany. I was living in Belgium and they were a lot of Italian people who resided there. Many of them were owning an Italian restaurant and I still remember the taste of the food. It was absolutely delicious. They also make the best ice cream in the world and this is not just my personal opinion, many people think the same way.
    However, I will never hesitate to travel in Italy, I know I won’t regret it!
    The only thing I would like to know is when would it be the best time to go in Italy?
    Thank you very much.

    • Brendan says:

      Grazie Daniella. I agree with all your comments, they are good people.

      When is the best time? For me its always summer as the country comes alive. This doesn’t always suit everyone as it is then hot and busy depending on where you are. Where we are in North Tuscany you can escape the crowds and just spend lazy days by the pool and visit Florence, Lucca, Bologna, Parma and Pisa in the evenings or head down to the coast.

  4. Paula says:

    The life in Italy you are describing sounds utterly blissful. From the sunshine to the coffee, the life that exists in the evenings after work and the idea of everybody being happy.
    It is really as we get older that we realise what is important and happiness and coffee are both high on my list!
    My own mother would never let me leave the house with wet hair.
    Enjoy your wonderful life.

    • Brendan says:

      Hi Paula,

      I still; have convincing the Italians that a cold or flu is a virus and does not come via one’s hair follicles!!

  5. Boyo says:

    Hi Brendan,
    I enjoyed reading this article and found myself laughing as I read. You’ve hit the nail on the head with many of your observations.
    We spend around 7/8 weeks a year in the Northern part of Italy and we just love it. It’s probably the only time our teenage children aren’t too bothered about not having wi-fi – the reception is atrocious up the mountain where we stay.
    Like you say the pace of life is slower. The Italians certainly take their time and enjoy life more than we do. Family meal times are a fantastic example. I just love the way that they sit around the table and eat as a family. I’ve never seen anyone have a TV dinner over there!

    I also think the less said about the driving the better! 😉

    • Brendan says:

      Hi Boyo,

      Grazie mille for taking the time to comment. Where in North Italy do you go to?

      You are quite right about mealtimes…did you know Italians don’t actually have a word for ‘TV dinner’, as it doesn’t exist…they also don’t have one for ‘hangover’; not surprising!

  6. Holly says:

    Oh my gosh Brendan – you lucky thing living in Italy! Whereabouts do you live may I ask?

    I have always wanted to go to Italy – I love the Italian culture, the general way Italians are and of course the food & weather! I have many Italian friends and clients and get on with them so well. The slower way of life I can imagine though would be difficult to adjust to initially but compared to what I am used to in London… it would’t take me long to adapt. I dream of this kind of lifestyle. Did you find it difficult to adjust initially?

    • Brendan says:

      Hi Holly,

      We are in North Tuscany. we have the mountains on one side and the sea on the other.

      You are right about the adjustment, it took a while…all of 5 minutes! My days are still pretty crammed and I still feel like I’m in the UK but the evenings and weekends are much better. If you have a plan in place then adjustment and transition is somewhat easier I find.

  7. Dyl says:

    This is a great article and it makes me want to move to italy! It is true when they say, you are effected by your surroundings (being your friends and your atmosphere). I really enjoyed this article and I will be sure to revisit this site in the near future

  8. Alex says:

    Italy reminds me a lot of Serbia, my home country. Reading your post the comparisons are only larger in number. Driving especially looks really similar to the one in Serbia. But I guess fashion isn’t that popular here as it is in Italy, which is probably fashion center of the world.

  9. Chris says:

    I’ve only been out of the country one time in my whole life. It was when I went to the islands. Italy really seems like an interesting spot to live in though. Those three rules that they live by were pretty funny also because I didn’t know that ice cubes could be so bad for your insides I’ll have to look that up later haha.

    Nice page!


    • Brendan says:

      Hi Chris,

      Yes I despair sometimes! but I guess every culture have their idiosyncrasies and peculiarities, so we ‘ll give them these three.

  10. Margaret says:

    I spent a little time in Italy a few years ago and saw some of what you said in your article. To me they seemed to always be drinking little cups of very black strong coffee.
    I did not hear any arguing that you mentioned. I was amazed at the way they drove and how they parked their cars. There was a lot of tooting of horns but this seemed more a way of saying ‘look out, I’m here’ than an act of aggression as it is in most English speaking countries. I totally agree that English speaking countries have lost all respect for the elderly.

  11. Nick Rose says:

    This was easily the best time I have had reading another persons experiences. I love how you bolded the core words when comparing cultures, as it really showed how unique Italia really is. The level of engagement I had with this site already is amazing. Thank you for a delightful read.

  12. Matteo says:

    This is one of my favorite posts, I am Italian myself and the information you provide is the type of stuff me and my family get up to, Italian food is the best! I love the pictures and the layout of the post is really good too and easy to navigate, I look forward to more posts from you.

  13. Ian says:

    Wow, this is a great overview of the main features of Italian culture.

    I have many Italian friends in the US and it’s amazing to me that the culture remains such a strong undercurrent that it defines you.

    I’ve also read that languages that use a lot of gesturing is the sign of higher intelligence which is interesting.

    • Brendan says:

      HI Ian,

      I don’t know where you read about language that use a lot of gesturing being a sign of higher intelligence. Where I grew up in Glasgow there was a lot of hand gesturing going on between rival football fans and I wouldn’t go so far to say that they were the brightest!

  14. Evan says:

    This is an awesome post! I have been to Italy a few times and I have to say that I am in love with their way of life! I feel like everyone’s values are on the right things like family and culture. In the western society we are all too obsessed with material possessions and put way to much emphasis on our jobs.

    • Brendan says:

      Hi Evan,

      I would agree that material possessions and careers can be very important in many cultures I found this both in the US and the UK and in many parts of Europe, particularly Germany. Because Italy is not blessed with low unemployment they do hold onto a job when it comes up. So their job is definitely not the most importatn part of their lives – family and food definitely rank higher.

  15. Surrounding Beauty says:

    Hi there!

    Love the comparisons listed down. It makes me understand Italy and Italians better as I have never experienced habits and behaviour mentioned since I have never been to Italy. Definitely a place I would love to visit someday!

    I personally find c and e very interesting. How do you managed to come to those two conclusions?

    • Brendan says:

      As I’ve said before its definitely one for the bucket list.

      Italians have this fear of rain believing that it leads to either a cold, flu or pneumonia.

      They also have been brought up to drink coffee only at certain times of the day and so if you offer them one outside of these ‘windows of opportunity’ then the answer is always no. I won’t let them look at their watches but they won’t (or can’t) answer till they look at the watch.

  16. John says:

    Lol! What a great and funny and TRUE description of the Italian lifestyle! I am half Spanish and I can tell that it is very similar to the Spanish lifestyle. Everything is so relaxed and I totally agree on everything you say here, right now I am living in Sweden and this text made me miss the mediterainian lifestyle a lot! Thanks for reminding me, and put a smile on my face 🙂

  17. Molly says:

    I think you have covered everything very well. I too know both the UK and the Italian culture, and I had to smile when I read what you said about traffic and pedestrians. Anyone thinking about walking out in front of oncoming cars in the expectation they will wait for you needs to have signed a will! Even so, the climate is so pleasant, I love a holiday there.

    • Brendan says:

      Hi Molly,

      Thanks for the comments. I like that ‘needs to have signed a will’ – can I use it ?

      I hope next time you are coming on holiday you look us up!

  18. EllieCommunicates says:

    Thank you for your post. It was really fun for me to read it.
    I love Italy and, as I come from a southern country as well, I understand their way of living.
    In your post you say that italians do enjoy their food. Please share with us some of the most popular recipes in the area where you live, maybe a pasta recipe.
    I would love to learn more about this country so I would definitely come back to your site.
    All the best

  19. Helen says:

    Hi there!

    Great article on Italy. I love the way you brought it forth. You present it as if you are just talking to a friend, so casual and that is what I like most.

    I have never been to Italy but I could see in movies that family is very important to italians as well as their lunches with family.

    Thanks for sharing this information. Your article just makes me want to visit Italy so I better start saving.


    • Brendan says:

      Hi Helen,

      Thanks for the kind words. I’m delighted that you lke the style of writing, that is exatly what I was trying to achieve.

  20. Stephen K says:

    I’ve always wanted to go to Italy.
    This is an absolutely perfect little guide for what I have in store for me!
    I personally love a quiet, slow environment where I can sit peacefully and have a glass of wine.

    Great Blog, Great Content!

    Keep up the good work 🙂

    • Brendan says:

      Hi Stephen,

      As far as I’m concerned there is no better place than Italy to sit back, enjoy a glass of wine and watch the world go by!

  21. Tara says:

    Sounds tempting my husband is from italy and he has been trying to get me to go there on vacation for 10 years, If I wasn’t afraid of flying I would go every summer.

    Maybe when we retire we will move there a laid back aproach on life is what we all need thanks great reading.

    • Brendan says:

      Hi Tara,

      That’s a pity! Maybe we can look into recommending a hypnotherapist for those who would love to visit Italy but have a fear of flying. There’s always the boat! In the meantime I hope my site will give you somethng to hang onto so you don’t feel that you are missing out completely.

  22. Liz Martin says:

    Hello Brendan, we drive from Scotland to Italy and choose a different route each time. You can take the train or ferry and visit many countries on the way through. Train is also an option. Give it ago! Today its a bit dreary and wet in Licciana Nardi and we had a choice of heading down the coast where it would have been a few degrees warmer and may even have caught some sunshine. Instead we headed up to the mountains and through some crisp snow. Either way driving for about 45 mins we can change the scenery completely. I just love the contrast.

  23. Farhan says:

    Hi Brendan!

    Great article man. I enjoyed reading it very much, and to hear all your personal experiences makes it much more worthwhile. It is awesome that you have the opportunity to be able to move out of the busy UK, and into a quieter life in Italy.

    It sounds like Italy is a great place to settle down, especially when you get older. I myself, being a young adult, have become tired of seeing people constantly getting dragged into the “rat race”. Nobody, ever seems to even try to enjoy any aspect of life or relationships.

    And values such as respect for elderly, exclusive appreciation for family, are things that are dying out in the modern culture that most parts of the world are experiencing now. Reading your article makes me want to visit Italy someday!

    What do you think about the financial situation there? Is there a high cost of living as compared to the other places that you have been to?

    Thanks for the great article, and your input!

    • Brendan says:

      Thanks for you input. Italy certainly is a great place to settle for a number of reasons, as mentioned in the article. Financially Italy is in a far better place than it was in the depression and there are lots of opportunities, especially for those who want to work.

      I think the cost of living is comparable to most places in Europe but certainly cheaper than the UK I find.

  24. Destin says:

    Italy seems to be really intriguing. At night they go for a small drink and possibly some nibbles before dinner, or an after dinner drink or a passagiata which is a stroll with or without an ice cream. The slower lifestyle seems to be what I’m looking for in Italy. I like that businesses shut down for a little while for lunch so they can spend time with their family.

    • Brendan says:

      Hi Destin,

      You are quite right family time is very important here and so is food and relaxation. so if these can be combined in one event then all the better. I find this more and more often in Italy that the family unit is crucial and what better way to enjoy this than through a good meal!

  25. Charlotte says:

    I admire anyone who has taken the plunge and emigrated. I also love Italy and am incredibly jealous of your new lifestyle.
    I have been tempted many times to go an live somewhere which seems to me so much more civilised.
    Thank you for your comparisons, I now need to book a holiday if nothing else!

    • Brendan says:

      Hi Charlotte,

      Emigrating wasn’t as hard as I thought. We are lucky in that already living in Europe gives us the freedom to move where we wish in Europe. The language wasn’t as difficult to master as we first thought so it all worked out quite well. If you need any help with your holiday drop me a line.

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