Interacting with others: some advice
Knowing the best way to interact with others can be interesting and helpful when we live in a new country. On this page you will find some advice to better interact with the people around you in Italy.
Every society has its rules of contact, that is, actions that people perform when they interact with other people. These rules are not written, but can be identified because most of the members of that society follow them. In Italy there are some simple behaviours that almost all people have when meeting and interacting with others. Knowing these behaviours will help you interact with others more effectively.
Here are some examples:
To ask for something and thank someone use “Per favore” (please) and “Grazie” (thank you).
It may be familiar, because these expressions are used in many countries, but even in Italy people use “Per favore” (please) when they ask for something. When they get what they asked for, they use the word “Grazie” (thank you). For example, when ordering coffee at the coffee shop, people ask “Posso avere un caffè, per favore?” (Can I have a coffee, please?). And once they receive the coffee, they say “Grazie” to the barista.
To greet someone use “Salve” / “Buongiorno” and “Arrivederci“
People say “Salve” / “Buongiorno” (Hello/ Good morning) and “Arrivederci” (Bye) when they meet someone they know, or walk in and out of a place where there are people they know. If the situation is informal and the people you meet are your friends, a “Ciao!” is usually enough. Whatever word you choose, the important thing is to greet.
People often say “Scusi” (formal) or “Scusa” (informal) when they accidentally do something that offends or annoys another person. For example, if they step on another person’s foot on the bus they say “Scusi!”. This way that person will understand that it was an accident. “Scusi” or “Scusa” is also used to attract the attention of someone you want to ask something, for example: “Scusi, sa che ore sono?” (excuse me, what time is it?) or “Scusi, sa dove si trova la stazione?” (excuse me, do you know where the station is?).
Look people in the eyes
In the Italian culture, looking people in the eyes during a conversation is a sign of attention and interest in each other and in the conversation.
Keep some distance when talking to people you don’t know well
People in Italy are very friendly. If they are with friends and family, they talk to each other, hug and seek physical contact. But this is different if they are with people they don’t know. In fact, if a person talks to a person he has just met, he tries to keep some distance. This is because it is important for the person to have some personal space to move and feel comfortable. Too much closeness with the other person could in fact create discomfort.
Keep the door open for the person who is exiting or entering after us
Keeping the door open for people entering a place immediately after us is considered very polite. In fact, by keeping the door open we prevent it from closing right in the face of the person after us and show that we care for the others.
Speak in an appropriate tone of voice
In public places and where there are many people (such as at the doctor’s, bank, post office, on trains or on public transport) it is important to use a low tone of voice to avoid confusion and disturbing other people. In these situations it is also important to speak on the phone in a low voice tone.
People in Italy tend to smile a lot while greeting, talking and doing group activities. The smile is a symbol of serenity and hospitality. Receiving and returning a smile is very pleasant in relationships with other people.