Many people assume that since Italy is part of the “western” culture, the social norms are similar, if not the same, as those in America. I’d like to make it clear that this is simply not true. Every country or culture has different social expectations, and in Italy, and specifically Florence, there are different standards of what to wear, types of transportation, and how to have meals.
What to Wear:
Florentines are serious about their fashion. After a month of being in Florence, I have yet to see anyone wear athletic shorts, sweatpants, or even rundown t-shirts in public. The motto “dress to impress” is in full force here, and dressing nice is just normal for every day life.
Leather. Everyone wears leather in Florence. This makes sense since the region of Tuscany is famous for its “Italian-made” leather, but it was still an unexpected surprise to see many Florentines wearing leather jackets anytime throughout the day. Partly for tourism and partly because leather is trendy, there are leather shops, stores, and markets on every street in Florence. So, you better believe I got myself a leather jacket.
Types of Transportation:
The only time I have been inside a car in the last month was when my roommate and I took a taxi to the airport and back. There are a few people who drive cars around, but many of the cars are also taxis. I have not been on a public bus yet, but I do know this is a semi-popular option for locals to ride in and out of the city center. Many people ride bikes around the city. They are ridden on the same roads everyone drives and walks on, and they are used often. I’ve gotten quite used to the sound of a quick *ding*, a sound bicyclers use when they are going to pass people.
There are motorcycles everywhere. In the heart of Florence, it’s safe to say there are more motorcycles around than cars. Lining the street, there are rows and rows of tiny parking spaces meant for motorcycles. The most popular way of getting around the city, however, is walking. I think my calf muscles will be the strongest they have ever been by the time I go back home because we walk and hike everywhere.
How to Have Meals:
Meal times are much different in Florence due to a time in the afternoon reserved for resting. Most people eat lunch between 1:30pm and 3:30pm. Then, many restaurants and shops close for a few hours, and reopen around 7:30pm. Dinner then goes from 7:30pm to as late as 11:00pm. It is against the norm to have coffee (of most kinds) after lunchtime. Also, most meals are multiple courses, and it is expected for a customer to be at a restaurant for at least an hour or two.
The Florentine lifestyle is undoubtedly unique, and the differences between social expectations of cultures are what makes each of them remarkable in their own way.
The world awaits…discover it.