Understand Italian culture and what is important to Italians

Every country has its own culture. Different things are important in every country. So what is important to Italians? Family, work and freedom are very important. If you understand Italian culture, it will help you to succeed in Italy.


two women talking and smiling at table

Family

Family is at the center of Italian culture and life. Family is an important part of everyday life for children, teenagers and adults in Italy. Italians share many parts of their lives with the members of their family. Even in adulthood, most Italians have very strong and affectionate bonds with their parents and other relatives. Understanding about family relationships will help you understand Italian culture.

Here are some ways Italians show family is important:

  • Family members gather together for meals, especially dinner. Then they talk about how their day was, share good and bad news, and give each other advice. In more traditional families, parents are unhappy when their teenage and young adult children don’t have dinner with them.
  • Young Italians often live with their parents even when they are adults. This is especially true now because the Italian economy is weak and many people have money problems.
  • Italian parents are very focused on their children. They like to protect them. They help in their children’s education and development. They care about their children’s work, money and feelings.
  • Adult Italians ask for their parents’ opinions and involve them even in very personal issues.

Work

The first article of the Italian Constitution says: “Italy is a democratic republic founded on work.” Italians have always placed great value in work. They believe it is important for their liberty and fulfillment.

The Italian job market was once full of opportunities. Now there are unstable economic conditions. Many people are unemployed or have very low-paying jobs. But Italians are still passionate and enterprising workers, ready to take on jobs.

Here are some ways Italians show work is important:

  • Many Italians work in family businesses, especially hotels and restaurants. They also make handmade goods. Work in Italy is not only a way to make money and survive. It is an activity that whole families do together.
  • Some Italians are starting businesses using new ideas. They want to make their own opportunities.
  • Often, young Italians decide to leave the country to look for better work and more opportunity.

Liberty

Liberty means freedom. Italian citizens and residents enjoy many forms of liberty. Italian law protects liberty for newcomers as well as for citizens. Knowing about Italians’ respect for liberty will help you understand Italian culture.

Here are some ways Italian laws show liberty is important:

  • Personal liberty grants the right to be free from searches and other personal inspections. It protects people from being jailed without the authority of a judge or laws.
  • Religious liberty allows people to follow any religion.
  • Freedom of thought means freedom of the press and the freedom of people to express their beliefs.

Equality

Article 3 of the Italian Constitution says: “All citizens are of equal social worth and are equal before the law, without distinction due to gender, race, language, religion, political opinion, or personal or social conditions.”

Here are some ways Italian laws show equality is important:

  • All persons are equal, have the right to a defense, and must be treated accordingly.
  • In school, all students are equal and must be treated that way.
  • Men and women are equal and must be treated in the same way.

Even if some people do not respect these principles, the concept of equality is very important for Italians and in Italian culture.

Formality

Italians have rules of communication that are very specific, particularly with respect to when a person should use informal or formal language. The same is true for how people dress. They have rules about formal and informal clothing.

Here are some ways Italians show formality is important:

  • When speaking to people in formal settings or who are older, Italians use “Lei” for “you.” Saying “Lei” is as if you were saying “he” or “she.” It is a sign of respect. In informal situations and with younger people, Italians use “tu” for “you.”
  • Using “Lei” also shows respect in writing. Italians use it in emails, messages, and letters.
  • In formal situations, Italians do not use “Ciao!” Instead they greet each other with “Salve” when they arrive and “Arrivederci” when they leave.
  • Formal events include meetings, important celebrations, going to court, and being at work in an office. Italians wear formal clothes on these occasions. Formal clothes are: a suit with jacket and pants (for men), jacket and skirt or pants (for women), and nice shirts and shoes. Neutral colors and colors that are not too bright are the best for formal situations. Do not wear jeans, shorts, miniskirts, short-sleeved shirts, tank tops, and sneakers. It is important that clothes are clean and ironed and have no holes or tears.

Social life

Italians are generally social and outgoing. They love to spend their free time with others. This is an important way to understand Italian culture! Italians have very busy social lives. They spend a lot of time with old and new friends. Even older Italians get together and go out with friends. Social life revolves around meals. Lunches, drinks, and dinners are for social life as well as food.

Here are some ways Italians show social life is important:

  • Italians of all ages often go to bars, pizza restaurants, and evening spots to hang out and enjoy themselves. Bars in Italy are not just for drinking alcohol. They are more like cafes in other countries. People have breakfast or afternoon coffee in bars.
  • Parents sometimes leave their children at home with grandparents or a babysitter to go out with their friends.
  • They invite friends to their homes for meals.
  • Italians find situations where they can make friends.

Appearances

Italians have a strong sense of aesthetics (beauty) and pay a lot of attention to how people and things look. This may be because of ancient artistic traditions and also the importance of Italian fashion. Taking care of how you look can help you in your social and working life in Italy.

Here are some ways Italians show appearances are important:

  • Many Italians will first judge a person by how the person looks. They judge the state of people’s clothes and how their hair or makeup looks.
  • Some shops and restaurant treat well-dressed people better and give them more attention than people who don’t dress well.
  • Usually Italians buy cars based on how they look as well as how they work.
  • Even just to go grocery shopping, Italians tend to pay attention to how they look.

All of the above statements are generalizations of Italian values. Generalizations are not always true, but things that are often true. The goal of ItaliaHello is to provide generalizations to help you better understand Italian culture and why an Italian person may be acting in a way you do not understand.