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Embarking on a journey through the enchanting streets of Italy offers more than just scenic beauty; it opens doors to intriguing cultural exchanges. This blog post dives into the art of identifying American travelers amidst the picturesque Italian backdrop. From relaxed fashion choices to the friendly curiosity we exude, le’ts unveil the subtle markers that set us apart.
Accents become melodies, interactions become stories, and connections become bridges between nations. Engaging with American travelers enriches your experiences, offering a unique perspective on both cultures. Discover the joy of recognizing these adventurers and forge bonds that transcend borders.
Join us in unraveling the captivating blend of travel and cultural fusion. Step into the world where spotting American tourists becomes a doorway to fostering global connections. Let’s explore together the nuances that make every encounter a memorable tale of two worlds.
I lived in Italy off an on for 2 years from 2015 to 2017, and I have been living in Spain since September of 2020 to the time of this most recent update (and we are not planning on leaving for a while) – and one of our favorite people watching games is to try and guess the nationality of people walking by on the street of Palma. While there are loads of British and German toursists – we do get lots of practice guessing Americans as well! With all of this practice, this is what I have found makes Europeans set apart an American travelers in a crowd.
Italians dress nicely. Looking fashionable and clean is a very important cultural factor. More often than not, you can pick out an American 100 feet away just by the xway they are dressed. Americans have a tendency to dress everything down, OR they try too hard (think “influencer” vibes). In Italy, both the men and the women dress nice and fashionably, but in a relaxed and “I did this in 5 minutes” kind of way. In France you would call that “je ne sais quoi”.
A fewvdead giveaways for Americans? Wearing gym clothes EVERYWHERE. I understand your norts and frat tanks are comfortable, but so is a sundress with a comfortable pair of flats or sandals! The athleisure is a super American trend that hasn’t really caught on in Europe – you won’t catch me dead at the grocery store in yoga pants. Tying in with this are any sports teams or big logos on shirts. If you are wearing a Gator Football T-Shirt – absolutely American.
Try and blend in with society by dressing up a little bit. Throwing on something nicer won’t take you any longer to get ready in the morning. As a bonus, you’ll always be ready for a photo op!
Night out attire is another dead giveaway for study abroad students. Too little clothing in general, especially when it’s cold out, is like holding a sign over your head saying “Hello! I am American!” Italians LOVE a puffy jacket (even when it is not cold outside but it is still the season) so opting for more clothes over less will help you blend in.
If you don’t know how to dress, just wear a lot of blacks or neutrals. It goes from day to night easily, and always matches!
I’m not saying drop American attire completely, but maybe leave the Greek letters and sports jerseys at home.
I know I just went on a rant about clothing, but this is a separate issue altogether. A major giveaway of American travelers in Italy, and typically women, is wearing shorts. Italians quite honestly just don’t wear shorts that often, except for the trendier Gen Zers.. It’s part of their whole “non si fa” (we don’t do that) thing. And while fashion shorts or some made from linen is typically an exception to the rule, tight short jean shorts are very much so a tourist type of attire.
I will admit, there are some days in August where I hang up my pride and take out the shorts because it’s just too hot. But as a rule of thumb, it’s only because I know I’m not going anywhere important. Not to mention if you’re traveling and seeing new sights it’s better to avoid shorts anyway, because you won’t be able to get into any churches.
Like men’s confusion as to why women go to the restroom in pairs, I am forever baffled why packs of Americans stampede down the streets together. When I walk alone people greet me in Italian, but if there are more than 2 other Americans with me, everyone instantly knows. It’s probably because we are loud and speaking in English, but the pack mentality definitely adds to it.
Hanging out with other American travelers is totally acceptable (and encouraged dude! Enjoy your vacay!), but you didn’t come to Italy to meet other Americans, hopefully. Branch out and meet new people, size your group down, and be able to focus on a core group of people and meeting new locals. This is especially true if you are studying abroad in Italy.
This goes hand in hand with traveling in packs- the more people, the louder. Americans as a whole greet each other loudly and the longer period of time spent together, the progressively louder.
Try and keep your tones dulcet, and keep in mind that for whatever reason, Americans are loud and are accents can really cut through a crowd!
OK, I get called out on this one all the time by my friends in Spain…especially after I’ve just returned from a visit home! Guilty as charged, my friends.
“In America”, the french fries are so much better. Oh I love the roads “in America”. I miss all the Starbucks “in America”. The taxi drivers are so much safer “in America”. “In America”, the customer service is so much better. I miss the way McDonald’s tastes “in America”. Or… I miss eating chicken wings “in America”. I miss this about being “in America”. I miss that about being “in America”. “In America” everything is so much bigger!
There are a bunch of things that are in America, and some may even be better than in Italy. Some may be more annoying. The point of visiting a new country is to notice all of these incredible differences and to accept and learn from them.
So we won’t judge you for being a little homesick and going to Starbucks, as long as you can go into the local coffee shop as well and order an espresso in Italian like a boss.
I get it, backpacks are easy to use! I also understand a backpack is more comfortable, but if you want to blend in, this is one of the biggest beacons you could have. Especially if you are wearing it on your front.
A few really cute options that I love if you have to have a big bag (let’s be real – sometimes they are needed!) Is a Fjallraven Kanken if you have to have a backpack – or a longchamps which is relatively water resistant.
Both are super easy to back and European brands, so you’ll blend right on in.
Please, do not walk up to any given Panino counter and demand a sandwich. If you aren’t sure about how to order a coffee in a coffee shop, stand back and watch the locals order, then make your move.
Many Europeans see American trave
lers as aggressive and demanding, so try and take a more laid back approach to everything and it will make your experience here a lot more pleasant. Be polite, ask and don’t demand and maybe just don’t be so balls-to-the-wall about everything. We are just used to being direct, and this was absolutely a learning curve I had to get into when I moved back to Europe and started working with a mix of cultures.
“Why do they speak Italian here instead of English?”
There are no stupid questions only stupid people. Not really. Everyone asks a dumb question here and there but please, open your mouth before you speak because a question like that would only be asked by an American.
American travelers are always going go go go go! I am guilty of this myself, and one of the best things living in Italy taught me was how to slow down. It’s normal for dinner in Italy to take several hours. It’s also very normal to not be served right away, for lines to take forever and for a general lack of organization.
One time I had to wait a month in the middle of summer to get my AC fixed in my apartment. Accept the fact that things are NOT going to happen in a timely fashion in Italy. If the train is late and you miss your connection, do NOT cause a hissy fit. Be firm, nice, and stand your ground when asking for a change of tickets, but don’t go in there demanding things. Everything runs a little late in Italy, and that’s just something you have to take in its stride and learn to enjoy.
Europeans drink socially. Americans drink to get drunk. In Italy, if a 16-year-old goes out to dinner with her family, the restaurant is not going to card her for having a glass of wine with her family. It’s just what is expected. Families drink with their children from a young age, and youths grow up seeing this as a privilege and something to do in a social situation.
Not knowing what to order, or how to order is another dead ringer for a study abroad student who has never drunk before. Whenever anyone orders a “Sex on the Beach”, you know they’re new to drinking (hint, this goes for when you’re in America too).
Get drunk if you want, and enjoy your time abroad, just also know that it will set you apart from the Europeans in the area.
When you eat out at restaurants you will order pizza from time to time. There are often 20 different types of pizza to choose from. This is NOT pizza to be shared. If you attempt to share this pizza, you will be shunned (kidding…but not really).
Also… let’s get over the parmesean obsession. You’re in Italy. They made the food EXACTLY how they wanted it to be tasted.
Unless they offer you the parmesean (for specific dishes) DO NOT ASK FOR IT! You will either be told no, eyes rolled, or begrudgingly handed some. Oh, and NEVER… I mean NEVER EVER put parmesan on seafood!
Oh and one other mention, chicken alfredo isn’t a thing.
The amount of students and tourists that come to Italy knowing absolutely nothing about the country is truly astounding. Many Americans do not have a basic concept of the geography of the country. Italy is separated into 20 regions, of which include Tuscany, Puglia, Liguria, Lazio and Campagna, some of the most popular ones for tourists to visit. Florence is located within Tuscany, so when you tell someone while you are in Florence that you want to go to Tuscany, it is a bit redundant, and the proper thing to say is you would like to go to the “Tuscan Countryside” as Tuscany is the region that you are already in.
Please be aware that Italian is the official language of Italy, and things like TV stations, signage, and many other aspects of life will be written in the native language of Italian. While the country is very accommodating to the native English speaker, Itlians are incredibly proud of their heritage, and learning a few phrases in the local language will go a long way! READ MY CRUCIAL PHRASES TO LEARN IN ITALIAN.
It’s also important to learn a few cultural norms before you go! Such as not ordering a Cappucino after 11 am, needing to pay for the public toilet, and having to request the check when you have finished your meal
What’s great about traveling to Europe from the U.S. is that everything here is SO OLD! In the States, the oldest town in the nation (Saint Augustine, my hometown), is only 450 years old. That’s a baby compared to most things in Italy! This means that American travelers are awestruck and I absolutely love it. Everything from the history, beauty, and antiquity of everything around them.
That being said, those who live in Europe know it is awesome, so you don’t need to tell them 🙂
Just make sure you watch where you’re walking on the sidewalks and not just taking pictures and videos through your phone screen, and hold your purse so it won’t get stolen from you while you’re in awe!
I’m not here to tell you that this is a bad thing. I love the fact that American travelers (especially us southerners) tend to greet people they don’t know with a “how ya doin'” or a smile.
However, this is not a super common thing in Europe, unless you know someone or are being personally introduced. If you want to blend in, try not to make too much eye contact with strangers as you walk down the street. Sunglasses are your friend here if this is hard for you! Not making eye contact will also allow you to not be bothered by people trying to sell you things on the street who know you are a tourist.
Smiling and saying hello to strangers will absolutely mark you out as a tourist, so just keep chatting with your friends and family and do your own thing!
Did I miss any dead giveaways for American travelers? Let me know in the comments below!