Don’t Rush, Be Relaxed
One of the main differences between Florence and the United States is the pace of life. In the U.S. everything is accelerated, you’re consistently in a rush to get wherever you are going or complete whatever you are working on. In Florence it’s different, Italians are in no rush, they take their time. When I think about it, two specific examples come to my mind.
First, walking on the streets. Walking on the street in New York is hectic, everyone is walking as fast as possible and bumping into you just so they can get to their destination quicker. Walking on the street in Florence is slow, people walk to get to their destination but take their time and enjoy their surroundings.
The second example is ordering at a restaurant. In the United States, the waiter constantly checks on you until you are ready to order. In most restaurants in Florence the waiter waits around 10-15 before taking your order. This again shows the slow and relaxed pace of Florentine life. So, in order to live like a Florentine, learn to be slow, relaxed, and enjoy your surroundings.
Know the Local Rules and Customs
Knowing the proper customs and etiquette of Florence’s culture is extremely important to living like a Florentine. First and foremost, Italians take first impressions very literally, so it is imperative that when you are greeting or meeting someone for the first time, you show respect. The proper greeting between two people usually is starts with saying “Ciao” and if you are a personal basis with that person it is followed by a kiss on two cheeks. Similarly, Italians are very high on face-to-face encounters, so it would be a wise idea to attempt to develop some relationship with them. If you don’t look an Italian in the eye while you are speaking to them or if you yawn in front of them, they take it as disrespect so you must be aware of that when you are communicating with an Italian.
Moving away from etiquette you need to be aware of the city’s customs in order to fully live like a Florentine. Many shops and banks in Italy are closed on random days of the week, such as Mondays. If you are walking around the city planning on going to a specific place only to find out that it is closed it can have a negative effect on your day especially if it is for an important affair. Therefore, you need to learn about what is open and when in order to be fully comfortable living in this city.
Rent a Bike
After living in Florence for almost three months, I feel that I have become accustomed with how to navigate the city efficiently. Many of the main roads in the historical center are extremely narrow and on top of this there are numerous side streets that lead to other main roads. Not many people drive around in cars due to the traffic restrictions in the city center – only residents are allowed in and only during limited time frames.
So instead of walking, riding a bike seems like the best way to get around the city. On a bike, it is easy to manoeuvre around pedestrians as well as ride down narrow streets. Many people ride bikes in this city and it is clear why!
Authors Zachary Moses, Stephen Goldstein, Brandon Silberfarb (UMD)
Intercultural Communication Course