Bev notable cultural differences between Italy and California living ~ Romancing Italy

Dec 20, 2008

Bev notable cultural differences between Italy and California living

This list includes all those nice little things I've come to take for granted in the States and I notice do not exist in Italy. Although it's not complete, I'm sure it will be growing as time goes by. I am sure I am not alone in many respects - let me know what you've experienced.

For the holidays, I've come back to California to spend it with my folk. This also means that I've stepped back into the stone age - otherwise known as "dial up". Hmm, in many ways they are just like many Italians I know.

The Bev list:

1. Back in the land of DRYERS!!

The first big difference I noticed. Thank goodness in Italy we live in the middle of nowhere and outside a rather small town. After hanging out my laundry for the world to see in all kinds of weather and sometimes waiting for DAYS for a T-shirt to dry, I have a greater appreciation for this invention. Not to mention, I now iron when I was able to get away without this little pleasure before.

2. Traffic laws -- Red light? No problem, go ahead and turn right.

Well, I won't go into the whole Italian driving thing. But this one I love to do and it was weird at first, making the turn on the red when I got back to CA. I felt I was breaking the law! That feeling quickly faded as I left the line of cars still waiting to go straight or left.

3. Vege and fruit perv

It's so normal in the States to reach out and touch your produce, fingering it to make sure it's not bruised or spoiling, maybe gently squeezing to make sure it's a nice young thing.

Well, I almost had my hand amputated at a small grocer's when I thought I'd choose my own food. You are safe if you go to the supermarkets, just put on one of those plastic gloves so you don't contaminate all the fruit you leave behind. Personally, I prefer the small grocer - it is one of the romances with Italy that I have, all the little family owned shops. Now if I could only get used to the....

4. Working hours

I am still in that adjustment mode where I just can't remember that stores in Italy close at noon for a long lunch and then open until later in the day. I'll be caught running an errand around noon right when stores are shutting down or already closed. Interestingly, just the other day in CA, I realized I had to call a business about my car and it was a few minutes after 5pm. They were already closed. I heard myself saying "If we were in Italy, they'd still be open". ( difficult to please me)

5. Gas stations with service attendants, gasp, at 10pm

It Italy, the latest I've seen attendants manning a station is around 7pm but that is only ONE service station. The others close much earlier. Thankfully, on our way home from the airport in California, we needed to stop for directions - and there was no better place than the good ole' station, with goodies for sale in the Food Mart to help out. At 9:45pm, directions and a bag of chips is a comfort.

6. Gas station service. Period.

Okay, so they close early in Italy, but I have to say this girl didn't have to pump gas, didn't even have to leave the car for over a year when I needed gas. I admit I had to pause to think "Do I know how to do this?" when I had to fill up my car in CA. It's a no brainer in Italy - stop, say how much fuel you want, pay the attendent and off you go. In CA, unless you go to a full service station (almost completely extinct now), you have to also figure out if you pay first at the booth, pay by credit card right at the machine by your car or if you can pump first and pay after (a RARITY these days). Oregon might still have good ole service. Anyone know?

7. The medicine man

Bleeding Espresso expressed her feelings about the difference between the pharmacies in both countries in her blog post. You can properly drug yourself with over the counter drugs in the States, but you have to talk to a doctor at the "farmacia" in order to buy some of the most mundane medicine, including cough syrup. Seems like a drag?

8. The medicine man again

I think the States has the key to bleeding you dry when it comes to health care. One nice difference I ran across was when I needed to refill my contact lens prescription. Now, I know that in the states, I would have to take another eye exam after a period of time, so after two years, I was sure I'd have to sit for an optometrist. In Italy, imagine my surprise when the doctor took my glasses, read the strength from a machine and proceeded to give me a couple months supply - no test, no hassle, nothing. And being the responsible person I am, I will of course go for an exam when I can't see a thing any more....

9. Size - Roads, cars, houses...

It goes without saying that with all those nice, narrow roads found frequently in Europe, the cars will be made to match...or rather a smaller car would be a popular buy. On a short errand to the grocery with my folk, as I waited in the car, each vehicle that passed by was a pick up and each one seemed to loom larger and larger. Surely it was primarily because my folk live near Salinas which is mostly agricultural, so the pick-up truck ratio is definitely higher....along with the truck itself.

If you are ever in the Smokies you can go for a ride on this beast.

10. Different Breakfast Plan

I realize that every country will have their own way of eating and their own tipical foods. In Italy, they start the day with a pastry and coffee in the morning; throw in a juice every now and then. I, on the other hand, like the option of having a HUGE breakfast.

Check out that selection.


  1. I totally hear ya! With one foot each in Malaysia, Switzerland and Malaysia (haha), I too have gone through many of the things you describe above. I've gotta say, having a dryer really is awesome :) And yeah, I love me an American breakfast selection :)

  2. I was just talking about American breakfast yesterday with's definitely nice every now and again, especially at a great diner :)

    Thanks for the linky love!

  3. interesting. I'll keep this in mind if I ever get to Italy myself. :)

  4. Hi Lynne, I hope you have a dryer in each place...hmm, well perhaps you don't need it as much in Malaysia, except for the rainy days. Still, it's a nice piece of equipment to have.

    Michelle, if I ate a breakfast like that everyday, I'd mushroom rather quickly. I'm with you on the "every now and again". I've done my piggin' out quota for the next couple of weeks.

    Lina, I hope you make it to Italy someday. I don't think I've ever met a person who doesn't love it here.

  5. Hi Bev! Actually, in Malaysia while it's hot it's also humid, and polluted... so drying clothes out in the open air doesn't always get you nice dry clothes... especially when the annual haze pops up, then everything smells of smoke,, ugh!

  6. aha...I forgot about the humidity where people learn to be fish. And from the rest of what you said...well, I really do hope you have a dryer.


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