From India to Italy: Culture Shocks!

Everyone has shock moments traveling to a new country. I had my fair share of culture shock moments traveling from India in Italy. I love Italy..I absolutely do….. but I too have to say I still have a lot of WTF moments in Italy. There were some things that I could not understand, some things I still don’t understand and some things I’d rather not understand.

From India to Italy, one culture to another, I ask a small favor….. Read this post with an open mind because this is how I felt coming from another culture. Its an honest post about a lot of things and there’s no taking it back!

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For what its worth, I still love you Italy <3

From India to Italy: Culture Shocks I experienced:

1. Dressing as per Season??

Is it just me or does it feel strange seeing scarves on a warm April afternoon. Now now I know you are thinking…. technically summer doesn’t begin then and so everyone dresses as per the “season” and not the “weather”. This was a serious culture shock for me in Italy!

But honestly I found it quite eccentric as we do the opposite of it in India. I mean we are just waiting for the weather to change and we are back from sweaters to tee shirts. If it rains one day and its sunny the next we change our clothing regardless of the month. So it was really odd seeing everyone dress as per season and not the weather. So this one goes in my things I still don’t understand list. (In India, if we wear scarves in summer, we would boil!)

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2. Ferragosto!

When I get queries for the best time to travel to Italy, I tell people to go anytime except August because the whole country is on vacation! In India, that’s blasphemy! We can barely manage a 15 day leave without irritating our bosses so Ferragosto seems unreal. But it is true guys, its true.

August 15 is a national holiday in Italy and its a traditional to take a trip away on that weekend. For some, the holidays start way early while others may be working just a few days till Ferragosto.

While museums and other historic sites are open, I have heard parts of big cities like Rome are practically empty….. The whole month seems like a beach party for most people. Ferragosto goes in my “things I’ve made my peace with list”.

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3. Afternoon Napping..zzzz…

On my very first trip to Italy, I remember feeling the culture shock of shops closing for lunch from 14:00-16:00 or sometimes from 12:30-17:00 (especially in smaller towns).  I couldn’t fathom everything shutting down for such a major part of the day and always wondered when people really worked??


This obviously sums a lot about La Dolce Vita (the sweet life) where everything is savoured, slowed down and enjoyed. But this still was a culture shock for me in Italy again. I mean it doesn’t bother me now because this goes in my things I’ve made my peace with list“.

4. Don’t Touch the Vegetables!

In India when we do our grocery shopping, we look, touch, feel and sniff them (Sorry it sounds cheap but it is true). In Italy, you CANNOT touch them! If you want to buy fruits or vegetables, greet the vendor and ask what you want. They will provide you everything. Also, don’t question them!! If you mention them which fruit they should or should not put, it comes across a tad rude. Also, 4 inches heels while grocery shopping?? 

I think that I can still make peace with this somehow because its all about hygiene in the end so this culture shock in Italy fits more in “some things I still don’t understand list”!

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5. Where’s my Ice?!

In India, it is so common to ask for ice any time or reasonr. In Italy, I have rarely seen water with ice!! If you ask for ice, the waiter just blankly stares back at you. DAI!! (Come on!)

In fact the only ice I’ve seen so freely given away is in my glass of Spritz!LOL! Sorry but this goes in mythings I will never understand list“.

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6. Having Coffee by the Counter??

Standing next to the counter and having coffee?? Who does that!! Honestly we in India, have never stood at a Bar and had coffee. People would laugh! In Italy, that’s what everyone does. A bar is a quick go to place where people pay for their coffee and stand next to the counter with the Barista to savour their coffee and then leave.

In India, we go to a coffee shop to relax, work and have conversations. In Italy, that’s mostly an evening culture where locals mingle during the Aperitivo hour.

This goes under my “things I’ve made peace with” list.

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7. Getting Stared for Being Poorly Dressed

This is also common in other parts of Europe but not as much I’ve seen in Italy. Women actually stare at you with a sort of a condescending attitude if you aren’t dressed as per decent standards. Heading out in your pajamas is rare and highly strange! Obviously not every woman does that, but its quite common to be stared and judged for your dressing!

So what do you think of these??

Did you have to face some culture shocks in Italy like I did?? Or any foreign land you’ve recently traveled to??

Thanks to the #DolceVitaBlogger community for another great topic to put our minds into! Please follow the hosts Jasmine , Kelly and Kristie.

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Related Reading:

Shocking Italian Culture by Rochelle

Shock Moments in Italy by PinkPangea

Italy is Patriarchal AF by Jasmine

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53 thoughts on “From India to Italy: Culture Shocks!

  1. As an Italian I have the opposite shocks when I moved to America… like why all that ice in my water 😱 and ewww people touching my vegetables?? But I love shopping in my pijiama and no one should judge other people 😽😽😽

      1. I know! I have been to india (only rajistan) and to me they way you guys cross the streets or even cows in the street was really different 😊 but I loved india, so much beauty and also the food !!

        1. Hahaha! I can imagine how big of a culture shock that is to anyone. Even to us at times it is strange but not unheard or unseen;) Thank you loving India. Rajasthan is really loved by all.

    1. I am sure. But a lot of things are heightened for me because I’ve spent more time in Italy than anywhere else in Europe.

  2. I remember not being able to touch the fruit and vegs there, which I first thought was strange, as in Australia we too pick up, touch smell,etc 😉

  3. All great points Ishita! We touch, thump, smell, shake our produce here as well. I saw a poor tourist reach out to grab a peach once at a very small little shop, she got her hand swiped away by the proprietor! I will also add the idea of once you are seated in a restaurant, there is no ‘time limit’, it doesn’t matter if there are people waiting for a table, take your time!, and you will not see your server again once your food has been served. I cannot get used to this, mostly I suppose, because I don’t like sitting around once I am finished eating. I want to get up and go.

    1. Omg I can imagine. I get a fright and stay away if I don’t have to buy. I’d rather watch 😉 Here it is very common to be given the “hint” to get up and go ..and people are in a way asked if they want to order more.
      In Italy- nothing!! I think we get the best of both worlds and although it is nice when we travel but maybe on a daily basis not so much.

  4. Spaniards also dress for the season and not the weather, then stare at you as if you’re the strange one for wearing a tank top and skirt in 25 degree weather! So weird. I don’t wanna sweat through my t-shirts just cause it’s technically still spring!

  5. This is very similar to Spain and it took me a while to get used to things like everything closing between 2 and 5. It is slowly changing but I would so often forget, run to the grocery store to get something and find it closed. Spain also shuts down for August. (not the tourist stuff though)

  6. Ha, ha! A good list, Ishita! The shutting down in the afternoon is still the thing I have the most trouble getting used to. Second, not being able to pick your own fruits and vegetables (although that isn’t everywhere, but make sure you use those plastic gloves in the grocery store!). And as for the staring, I say, stare right back!

    1. Happy to know it was and good and fun 🙂 I know right? Its like doing all your work before or after that time. I feel that time is the best one at least for tourists. I stare back too!

  7. Fascinating list, Ishita!

    Not sure about the picking the vegetable thing. In smaller towns, you are definitely expected to serve yourself and you can touch everything. But yes, people would find weird if they saw you smell fruit.

    Italians staring at foreigners for being poorly dressed is one of my pet peeves. It’s insane to get all dressed up to do every single thing and if you want to do it, fine but don’t judge others for having other priorities in life. I see it happen a lot less in Southern Italy, though.

    Such an interesting topic!

    1. Glad you found it interesting Elfin. I’ve become used to the stares now and at times I don’t even care. But in a way I’ve added more styling to my wardrobe 😉 Didn’t know about the vegetable picking.

  8. Hi Ishita, I laughed when I read these as I agree with every one of them. When I ask for ice in my vino bianco, they are horrified. NO matter though, don’t we just love everything Italian. Lyn

    1. Hahah!! I am glad there are laughs thanks to this post. True, despite everything, its still lovely because we have the best of both worlds.

  9. I’m used to being given a little dish of nuts or something with my beer … but the tray of nibbles they served with our drinks in Portofino was so substantial, we didn’t want any lunch!

  10. The other thing about clothing is the “what if” scenario. The most deeply-rooted fear of many Italians is to be cold, that’s why you’ll see people with a sweater even on a summer night when the thermometer won’t even dare going below 25 and mosquitos are as big as helicopters. Because… what if is there a draft? That, and an irrational fear of air conditioning, especially at night. I’ve now lived in the UK for years, in places where it’s normal to see people stepping off a Bentley dressed like The Dude in the Big Lebowski, and it’s a custom I’ve adhered to; but when I visit home it’s incredible how underdressed I am… I really admire your observation skills for Italy’s idiosyncrasies, they’re all spot on!

    1. I even find the AC fear very weird. Honestly, how can you survive in times like these with the heat so bad??!! The What if angle is hilarious to me. Thank you for reading and commenting, Fabrizio 😉

  11. Ciao Ishita! ALL completely relevent shocks that I identify with! I really loved that you had photographs to back up what you were saying, how hilarious those ones with the men all covered up when it looks like a perfectly pleasant day out! Thanks for joining us on this and for all the promo! Love, Jasmine of http://www.questadolcevita.com

    1. Ciao bella!! Hahaha I could imagine you saying this to me. Yes exactly, right?? Of course, small steps matter 🙂 xx

  12. I enjoyed reading this post, because of every bit of it is true! Now the ice part…I was just gonna say that I also find that very strange. In the Philippines, we put ice in almost everything! Haha! It’s my first time to experience such INTENSE dry heat in Italy (I am dying), and I am stocking up on ICE.
    Also, I love what one of your readers said about staring back when people stare! Lemme try that one out! Oh, and when someone asks me “where I’m from” I’ll make sure to ask, “where are YOU from?” LOL

    1. Thanks Carmela 🙂 I found it strange when not once but thrice I offended people for asking ice in the summer. And it was in Sicily!! LOL! Good way to handle the stare and interventions 😉

  13. The over dressing thing still amazes me..,puffer jackets on in 25degrees day! You generally don’t have to pay more to sit to have your coffee in smaller towns and villages and many places are a bit more relaxed about the cappuccino after 11.00am. I am yet to get used to the closing in the middle of the day, I wish they would get over that one.

    1. Over dressing is something I can never find normal either. Oh good to know about the coffee bit!! Thanks for stopping by 🙂

  14. Oh yes closed shops in the middle of the day have left me hungry on my first student trips to Italy.. Ferragosto is when all the Italians descend on Croatian coast for their holidays so can’t complain about that… 😁

  15. This was so informative and all new for me. I have no plans of visiting Italy soon but I must surely keep these in mind. Very interesting.

    About August, did you think it was a bad time to visit since everyone is outdoors since everyone is on vacation? Or everywhere it is empty as people are visiting outside Italy. Thats a lovely idea, right? Vacation for the whole country. And you are right. A two week vacation itself is impossible in India.

    1. Thanks Resh!! 😀 Haha I found it strange that everyone is on vacation. But its also very cool that they keep so much time for relaxation. We should learn from them :/
      It is a bad time to visit imo for a first time traveler because lot of businesses are closed.

  16. Hi Ishita!

    I just thought you may find it interesting, that despite being from Poland (country not so faraway from Italy, both in geographical and cultural way), I also found the things you mentioned in numbers 1-3 very unusual and exotic. So you don’t have to come from as far as India to be surprised by some things in Italy 🙂
    Thing numbered 4-6 are a bit different than in Poland, but not to extent that I would call a culture shock. As for no. 7, heading out in your pajamas in Poland would be seen as strange as in Italy, or even more 🙂

    By the way, thanks for liking my post about Rimini! You were the first one to do so, faster than any of my friends! More posts about Italy will appear soon!

    1. Hi there Jarek 🙂 I saw your post and instantly felt the need to read. Of course! O can imagine it’s strange for everyone. Oh point noted. Btw Poland has been on my list since ages! Hope I can make it one day.

      1. That’s great, let me know if you need any information about Poland! I plan to write some posts about interesting places and events in Poland, but it may take a while because my friends press me to write about my stay in Malta, and this will be a long story. At this moment I can offer you to see my old and not updated from ages photos on DeviantArt, all of them made in Poland excluding the Acropolis and Egypt ones: https://www.deviantart.com/sir-christian/gallery/

          1. The weather in Poland is unpredictable. In December you can expect any temperature from -20 Celsius degrees to +10. There are the shortest days in the year, the sun rises about 7:30 AM and sets about 3:30 PM so the day is just 8 hours long (in comparison, in June it rises about 4 AM and sets at 9 PM, so the day is 17 hours long). Some years there is a thick layer of snow for several consecutive months and other years there is almost no snow at all (except the mountains, there is always snow in winter). In recent years, January tends to be much more “winter” (i.e. snow and frost) than December. What else would you like to know? BTW, I just posted a new post about San Leo 🙂

  17. Really enjoyed reading this! It’s like all little quirks of Italy!! We totally get what you mean about coffee shops! We go to sit and relax and chill out, but we saw so many people standing at the bar before work, before catching a train etc and it was really interesting, like it’s just an Italian thing and how they like their espresso! We also drink coffee in gallons – we kind of like that Italians savour a little at a time! 🙂

    Lucy and Kelly xx
    http://www.theblossomtwins.com

  18. This was so interesting to read Ishita! We have a lot of the same culture shocks even though we come from different countries. You should see how people dress in the U.S. when they are out and about. The other day I was wearing a blouse that I bought in Italy, and a cashier told me that I looked so fashionable. I was like, who me????? Because I consider myself quite hopeless in the fashion department….but the cashier said compared to students who were usually in their pajamas I was dressed really nice. 😂 Regarding ice in the water….I CANNOT STAND that ice comes in every single glass of water in the US. I hate it 😆 Ice makes me cold and gives me goosebumps (even in the summer…weird, I know). I always have to ask for water without ice in the US, so I am always quite happy in Italy. lol

    1. Thank you!! I am waiting to read yours too. Its strange no, how many of us had similar observations. I don’t have icy water in general either but I would like the option 😉 I know what you mean right!! We goo in our PJs to shop here. No one cares as much as in Italy. 4 inch heel!? yikes I’d be stared at. 😉

  19. Hahaha. That dressing according to weather or season is sometimes annoying me. But yes, whenever we travel to Italy, I always make sure that we dress well (if not better) than the Italians because in my observation, they look down (especially) at Asians. Maybe because there are so many Asian domestic helpers. I love bags and I went inside a shop last summer, told the sales lady I want to buy the bag on display. She said it’s not for sale. I told her there is a price tag on it. She still refused to sell it to me. Did I look like I don’t deserve the bag? I went to the brand’s boutique shop (Twin Set by Simona Barbieri) and although I paid full price on it, I got the bag I wanted and went back to the other shop and waved my new bag to the same saleslady and told her, “Your bag will never be sold!” In The Netherlands, you can be charged for racism for refusing a customer. And how many times did we go back to a shop to find out if they are already open? They open late in the mornings and then take a long break. No wonder Italy’s economy is not competitive with northern Europe. The “Don’t touch the vegetables” is really ridiculous. We always see chefs on tv go to markets and touch and smell the produce they cook. That’s what they tell you to do. Here in NL, I’ve ended up buying some rotten fruits in open markets because I am not allowed to touch them. I only now shop in the supermarkets where you can touch, smell, choose and weigh them yourself. Like you, I still love Italy despite the unpleasant experiences. Cheers!

    1. Thanks for the comment, Jane. I know what you mean. As Asians, we are on another side in Italy. I hate the fact that there is so much racism there. Agree on the economy too because even though it sounds amazing that they are living the life, when are they actually working?? I wish the vegetable thing was a little flexible. I’ve always had to face it despite the other comments here.

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