As it is with many countries in Europe, Italy culture plays an important role in the lifestyle you’ll lead should you choose to retire in this fantastic foreign location. Perhaps more so than any other country in the European Union, understanding the local culture is very important to blending in and feeling comfortable and welcome here. Arguably, the number one value of the Italian culture is the family unit.
Family is the strong stabilizing unit of the social structure, providing both financial and emotional support for each other. In the northern part of the country, typically only the nuclear family is in a single household.
However, in the south, you’ll find that many extended family members may live under the same roof.
In tune with family values is the strong sense of religion and faith. While you may not be Roman Catholic and no Italian is going to berate you for that, the influence of the church in daily life is very high. Every day of the year has at least one patron saint, and children are often named after these. While Italy culture has evolved so that church attendance is relatively low, relationships in Italy follow traditional religious beliefs.
One thing that I’ve learned from experience is that style and appearance matter a great deal in Italy culture.
In this country, your first impression will be the lasting one, as Italians tend to assess your age and social standing based on your appearance, including your demeanor and projection or confidence, within the first few minutes of meeting you.
As a retiree in the country, you don’t have to try to dress like a teenager, but rather you should project confidence and strive to be well-dressed and observe and follow at least some of the local fashion trends.
Note also that Italy culture involves a lot of proper etiquette. For example, upon making a new acquaintance, greetings should be friendly, with a bright smile and firm handshake. When greeting a friend or relative, a hug and kiss on the cheek is the norm. If you attend dinner at someone’s house, punctuality is not necessary – arrive between 15 and 30 minutes late as per the culture. Bring gift-wrapped chocolates or wine with you as well. Always remain standing until invited to sit, and take small amounts of food for a first helping so that the host can talk you into a second helping.
These are just a few hints at the best way to quickly fit into the culture in Italy. As you become more accustomed to the country and its people, you’ll learn to enjoy your new life even more.
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