Foreign Fundamentals: Food, Friends and Phone numbers

Project deadlines are looming and the only thing my brain will allow me to do is analyse things: businesses, markets, opportunities, risks… so this week I am going to provide you with my analysis of some of the fundamental differences between the English and the Italians as I have experienced it.

Food. Many of my English friends like food, I for one love food. In the UK we do take time to cook a nice meal with our loved ones but if we’re being honest, when we’re busy it’s just as acceptable to grab a meal deal and carry on. Not in Italia! I am thrilled to say that sacrifices are made on a daily basis to accommodate the Italian’s need to take time over his/her food and enjoy a good meal, every mealtime. It is quite common for families to eat primi, secondi and dolce at each sitting I’ve not yet seen an Italian with a ready meal – let alone seen any for sale! At a rehearsal last week the organiser bought some snacks. When I say snacks I mean: a loaf of bread, some focaccia, two salamis, 3 slabs of chocolate and a cake. There were five people at this rehearsal – I don’t think I need to say anymore… (absolute bliss).


Friendliness. At first Italians may not seem overly friendly but as soon as you are introduced to one this all changes. If you exchange numbers with somebody over here, regardless of where or how you met them, they will ACTUALLY call you. It was the first time I really questioned why we don’t do this in the UK. Honestly, of all the numbers I exchanged in Freshers Week at the University of Manchester I probably heard from / contacted about 3% of them. Everybody that I have made friends with here immediately started inviting me to all of their social events and it is wonderful. Note: do not give your number to someone you don’t want to call you. For example, an 80 year old man on the tram who wants to take you out for pizza… unless you’re into that.

phone numbers

Gestures. As one of the main stereotypes it probably comes as no surprise to you that they do in fact use lots of hand gestures. When you combine the use of gestures with words such as ‘c’è, ‘dai’, ‘allora’ and ‘beh’ (which can be used alone to mean anything you like depending how you say them) you could really have a whole conversation without any real sentences.


Flexibility. You may have read about my frustrations of inefficiency and disorganisation here in Italy, but as I am in a good mood, I have called this section flexibility. Italians are very flexible. You’re late? Not a problem. Don’t fancy parking in an allocated space or at the same angle as the other cars? No worries. Don’t want to queue? Everyone else will join in the queue skipping fun. Isn’t that against the law? No-one will check. I’m yet to decide whether I prefer this way of life or not; I consider myself quite organised (lists are one of my favourite things), so I find it a little frustrating. Who knows, by the time I return to England I might have changed my mind.


Language. Italians love to practice their English. When you think about it, a large part of my welcome here may be because they all want to practice their English with me… but for my own sanity I refuse to believe that is the only reason I’ve made friends. Speaking Italian for me is one of the most liberating experiences I have ever had so I can see why Italians are so keen to practice their English. For me it stems from my roots and wanting to be able to communicate with my relatives, but for them it is because English is fast becoming an essential skill for international business. They also seem to think we are ‘cooler’ in England but I’m yet to decide whether that is true. We’re lucky that we don’t need to study and learn English as a foreign language, but I implore you, if you haven’t already done so, to invest some time into learning a new language – then go out there and speak it! Coming here is without a doubt one of the best decisions I have ever made.