Difference living in Italy vs. U.S.


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I’m often asked what are the differences of living in Italy vs. the U.S. There are some really big obvious examples, like – they don’t speak English here. The food is fresher, less preservatives, and taken very seriously. The deep history and culture. The wine is more pure. It fantastic, inexpensive, and doesn’t leave you with a killer headache. Coffee is quick and strong and it’s just a sip… These are a lot of the more wide known differences.

But there are also some that are not so well known and that’s what I’m going to share with you today. And while there are plenty of differences that make life complete hell …for example, smoking is permitted everywhere. And everyone smokes. And it’s disgusting. And there are butts everywhere. And it is truly the worst.

Traffic! But worse than traffic (and probably creates a majority OF the traffic) – parking. It’s chaos! You can literally park wherever you want. Sidewalk? No problem! Middle of road? Why not! Behind my car, perpendicularly? Be my guest! There are no parking rules – it’s an asshole free for all. And the bureaucracy in Italy is fucked – try to get something official done – it requires a number of hoops to jump through, a lot of time, a lot of patience, and you’re very lucky if you actually succeed before giving in.

But I’m going to focus on some of the BETTER differences!!And in fact, I have come to appreciate and love these differences so much that I may never be able to live without them again!

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#1 – Bidets. America, you’re doing the bathroom ALL wrong. Bidets are the best thing you can have in your bathroom. No, it’s not a toilet and it’s not gross!! Here, read this and understand what a bidet is. They aren’t usually in public restrooms but they are definitely in every home, apartment, and hotel.

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#2 – Recycling. I’m going to start this by saying Italy definitely has a trash problem. There is trash in the streets, in the canals, sides of roads – everywhere. This is a PEOPLE problem. But Italy has a recycling system set in place that makes it nearly impossible NOT to recycle. There are separate bins for paper, plastic, organic, glass, and actual trash. You will rarely find a ‘collect all’ garbage can. Instead, a bin that clearly identifies the separation. I hate trash and I hate waste so the whole reduce, reuse, recycle slogan? I’m in.

Now, if only Italy could figure out the whole REDUCE effort – I seriously opened a package of frozen egg rolls (4). Each was in its’ own plastic bag, the 4 were in a plastic bag together, and then that was in a cardboard box. But WHY!?

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#3 – Light switches by the bed. Who hasn’t climbed into bed exhausted ready to crush a good nights sleep and goes SHiiiiiT… forgot to turn the light off. How do we forget to turn the light off when going to bed!? But we do!! And then we fight our spouse to see who has to get up and shut it off, right? Ha! Not in Italy babes. In fact, in our house, BOTH sides of the bed have a light switch. You heard me. Both. Now, this isn’t a permanent fixture in every home – but I’ve seen it enough to know that it needs to be a part of MY home (and yours. Do it!).

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#4 – The education system. There are 3 different kinds of high schools that kids (parents) get to choose to go to. I love this! We are so ‘go to college’, ‘go to college’, ‘go to college’ in the U.S. - and I agree! I’m a huge fan of education. But I also know that ‘go to college’ = become a white collar professional. And one, college isn’t for everyone and two, neither is white collar. We need blue collar in society as well. And especially from those who have a special skill and desire for the blue collar task.
And so in Italy, high schools provide an education and a legit route to lead people educationally, appropriately:

Type 1: Liceo – this offers a more theoretical education (language, science, math, art, music) and is more oriented to further education at college.
Type 2: Professional Technical – this, is in addition to common subjects, students can acquire practical-technical skills, suited to the entry into employment, in sectors like: economy, tourism, technology, agriculture, and healthcare professions.
Type 3: ITF or Vocational ed and training in which students acquire practical and professional skills. The studies in these schools focus on specific jobs like: plumber, electrician, hairdresser, beautician…

Awesome right! Imagine if in high school you could have pursued the education course you actually WANTED for your life!

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#5 – Travel options. This one is a no brainer but I want you to understand it still takes a considerable amount of time and money. People think I can just hop on a train and travel all over Europe and while mostly true, there is still this little thing called distance that must be covered. So for example, if I want to train it to Barcelona from my house, I’m looking at a 22 hour ride. A flight is much faster - maybe not as affordable - but again – time consuming.

So, and, but there is public transportation everywhere – trains, buses, hopper flights, of course cars, motorbikes, scooters, bicycles… We can get around and I love it!

Plus, while we’re on the subject – Italy offers it all. Not many countries can say this. Mountains, the sea, rolling hills, flatlands, and even swamps. They have the ocean, the sea, lagoons, lakes, rivers, creeks, springs… All the water sources! You can ski in the north while your family is swimming in the south. A variety of topography and climate means a variety of product and sustainability. 

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#6 - Shopping carts. In Italy, if you want to use a shopping cart you will find they are all chained together and one must insert a coin (50cent, 1euro, or 2euro coin) to use it. GOLD! I have literally NEVER seen a shopping cart left in the middle of a parking lot - anywhere in a parking lot - except for its little shopping cart home. Why? Because even if you leave your cart parked somewhere wrong like a jackass would do in the U.S., someone is going to put that baby away ASAP - uhm, money! You get your coin BACK when you return the cart. I'll repeat, GOLD! America, take note!

It would also be wise of you to bring your own shopping bags to the store - which I LOVE!! Italy isn't a 3 things in one plastic bag like Walmart sort of country. They are a if you want a bag you must pay for it kind of country. Most stores have plastic or paper bags but you have to pay per bag so most people bring their own bags - which I LOVE! Does this cut down on plastic waste? Maybe. Maybe not - because there are a lot of wasteful scenarios that don't make sense here (i.e. the egg roll packaging)... but - at least you don't end up with a bag full of bags at home. Although, I do have a bag full of bags... Hmm...

These are just 6 quick ones off the top of my head to give you a little taste… There are plenty more! And I find new differences all the time that I love (or hate). I’ve been here for over 4 years now. Somedays it’s the best place to live and somedays it’s the worst.

Oh, and guys, if you’ve been seeing the Italian/American trends on TikTok or wherever, these are just spoofs of ancient times. I need to clear some of this up…

You will not be murdered for breaking your spaghetti in half nor for cutting it. You can drink a cappuccino whenever you want. You can put cheese on whatever you want. If you like pineapple on your pizza, you will not be gutted. Use ketchup if you like. Wear your flip flops. And eat dinner at whatever time you want dinner. There are no “rules” to living your life in Italy. And honestly, I think some of these spoofs are borderline disrespectful – even when it’s Italians making fun of their own culture.

There - phew - got that off my chest!
Now, schedule a flight and come visit me already!!