This is a continuation from my first blog post, which I wrote two weeks into my time here. Now that I’ve reached the two-month mark (which obviously means I can call myself a true Italian now, right?) I thought I would make another post about cultural differences I’ve noticed. On a side note, I’m really not excited to trade in this glimpse into “la dolce vita,” my language learning and time at the Institute, carb and gelato diet, along with the beautiful sights that Florence has offered me, for life back in Canada. I’m just not ready! But alas, tis life. And who says I won’t be back? As far as I know, Firenze isn’t going anywhere.
1. Public bathrooms are NOT free here
This one really, really irks me. I mean paying anywhere in between 0.50 to 1 euro to use the bathroom!? Come on Italy, this should be a plain right. I have never, ever had to pay to use public bathrooms back home in Canada. This one has been quite a strange adjustment for me. In fact, there was one bathroom I came across in the Pisa train station that was free. My face lit up and I told my friend “wow, we finally found a free bathroom!” Until we walked in and found that the whole “toilet” part was obsolete, it was merely a hole in the ground. We laughed at our realization that this was the only reason this bathroom was free.
2. Drinking a cappuccino after 11 a.m. is sort of an Italian sin
Trying to blend in as a fellow Italian here has been a bit tough since I really don’t like coffee, and I especially don’t like espresso. However, I definitely don’t mind a nice cappuccino or caffé latte. This sad reality hit me hard when I learned that locals or Italians in general, abide by this rule. I mean, what’s wrong with a little bit of milk at any time of the day? Anyways, I have most certainly committed this sin more than a few times, but you do what you have to do. The barista will most likely just know you’re not un vero Italiano.
3. Dining out and what is expected as “tip” is very different here
In North American culture, it’s considered “rude” not to leave at least a 15% tip while eating out in a restaurant. But here in Italy, this isn’t expected. Most of the time there will be a coperto charge already included in your bill. This is like a tip but not considered an actual tip- it’s like a cover charge. However, usually the coperto charge is only a few dollars per person. I usually leave a few more dollars on top of the coperto, but if you don’t, this isn’t necessarily considered rude or means that you didn’t enjoy the meal. If I’m paying with card, I’ve never been handed the machine and have seen the option for a 15%, 18% or 20% tip, which is the norm in Canada.
4. “Tranquilla” your rushed lifestyle will be thrown out the window
The Italian culture is so different in this regard in contrast to North America. You’ll find this more so in the smaller cities, of course Florence is considered one of the “bigger cities” but still even here, many restaurants and certain shops close mid-afternoon for riposo. It’s a time to slow down, take a break, and rest. But I haven’t only noticed this with closures in the afternoons- while eating, or talking over coffee- no one is rushing or gulping their latte down their throat like I see in Toronto. Food and drink is to be enjoyed here, especially in the company of friends and family.
5. Are you a dog lover? Then welcome to heaven: dogs are allowed EVERYWHERE
And I’m talking- everywhere. In Florence at least, dogs are treated like a part of the family. I’ll never forget the first week I was here in a restaurant with friends and I heard a dog bark. Naturally I was a bit startled, I had never seen a dog allowed in a restaurant before. But after that first time, I’ve seen it everywhere! It’s such a parallel to Canada- so it’s been funny to me, seeing little tails wag in most restaurants I go to. Back home, it’s very rare to find even a store where you can bring your dog!