Italian vs. American Customs

My Italian friend Angela visited the United States for the first time this past week. From her first day here, there were so many American foods and customs she didn’t understand.

I could relate. When I arrived in Italy this time last year, there were many things that had me shaking my head.

Here are some American things Angela found strange:

Italians like spicy food, except Buffalo chicken. Although invented in Buffalo, N.Y. by Italian-American Teressa Bellissimo, fried chicken marinated in hot sauce will never be an acceptable meal for real Italians.

They don’t eat bagels. I was confused when Angela pulled out a bagel and asked me in Italian if I wanted le ciambelle [translated to doughnuts (with holes) in English].

What’s a cupcake? In Italy they don’t take desserts and make them tiny

Perchė cani caldi [Why hot dogs]?

On Angela’s last day here we ate at Ben’s Chili Bowl. Intimidated by the chili, she settled with a plain hot dog and potato salad proclaiming that if she ate like this every day she’d be dead soon.

She then asked me the etymology of the word hot dog. After some research I learned that hot dogs were suspected of to be made with dog meat in the 1800’s (maybe that’s why they’re not popular in Italy).

The “popping of the toast” doesn’t exist

Americans have it easy. In Italy, you need to pull your toast out of the toaster.

You can’t hail a taxi in the street or have fun in church

I’m not sure we Americans could function very well if we had to do like the Italians and go to an assigned stop every time we wanted to take a taxi (especially on a Saturday night).

On Sunday we went to mass at a Catholic Church near the U-Street Corridor (NW Washington, DC) to see the choir. The priest gave a lighthearted sermon-causing the parishioners to laugh.

Angela leaned over to me, smiled and said, “you don’t laugh in church in Italy.”

And of course there’s the Italian customs I could never get used to:

Where’s the milk?

In Italian supermarkets, milk and eggs are kept on the shelf and not in a refrigerator.  Why Italy!? Why?

Are you sick? Take a number please!

 In Italy, you take a paper number for just about everything including the hospital.

La banana fila [The banana line]

Italians can’t make a straight line. Maybe that’s why you take a number for everything.

No coffee cup to go

If you ever order a Café Americano in Italy, you’ll get an espresso with a glass of hot water.

Despite the culture shock we experienced in each other’s countries, Angela and I share a love for being abroad. She knows that I’d rather do my shopping at an outdoor market than a grocery store and I know that she’d take a cup of American coffee over an espresso any day.

Written by OSIA National Office Intern, Carol Cummings. Cummings is a senior at American University, majoring in print journalism and minoring in Italian.

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