Understanding Italian Culture | Handling Money, Shopping, Computers and Staying in Line

**I will be re-blogging my Understanding Italian Culture Series this week.**


Italians love correct or almost correct change.  You know that old lady at the grocery store digging through her coin purse while everyone behind her rolls their eyes?  She is everywhere in Italy and they love her.  Although they are used to us Americans slapping down a 20 Euro note (or *gasp* a 50) for bottled water, I try to get as close to exact as possible.  ATM’s seem to be out to sabotage your best efforts and tend to only give out the largest bills possible, so you can’t help but have to break a larger bill at times.  Just try not to do it first thing in the morning and be prepared for some heavy sighing.  I have once been denied the transaction.

Italians also don’t hand over the money directly as we do.  You will find at every counter a little dish or tray next to the register.  This is where you should set your money down and where they will put your change.  Do not try to hand them the cash.


Italians shop with intention.  If they walk into the store, they are ready to buy.  Just watch how the women window shop, it is not with a casual interest.  The window displays are set up with great care to show off the merchandise and many are changed almost daily.  If you walk into a store (except the obvious tourist shops) the clerks are expecting you to buy.  Of course you don’t have to, but don’t be shocked if they are a little snuffy with you when you don’t.  Instead of being turned off by this, relish it because you become the center of attention in the shop when you are ready to purchase something.  You will have all the shopkeepers fussing over you while they ignore the meandering tourist.  I have a favorite handbag store that I spend quite a bit of time in each visit, even though I usually know exactly which purse I am going to buy at the very beginning.  I enjoy the whole experience and never rush through it.


Should you have to wait in line for anything, be prepared to defend your position with your life and be wary of the side-cutter.  You will be able to pick out all the American and British tourists immediately; they will be the only ones standing in a straight and orderly line.  You will have to let go of your manners in this situation and be assertive.  Look for an opening and take it, if you don’t someone else always will. Make sure you have good eye contact and you are ready with your order/request.  On a visit to Rome, I spent 45 minutes standing in a line for train tickets with someone breathing down my neck…literally.  Every time they would try to sneak up to the side of me they got the elbow.  Not the most comfortable situation, but I stood my ground and felt victorious when I managed to block every attempt thrown at me.  Now, don’t get me started about those sweet old ladies you see around town because they are lethal in the market stalls.


Americans always get stumped when it comes to finding the @ sign.  On an Italian keyboard it is found by pushing the Alt and the key just to the left of the Enter button (this key will have 3 different symbols on it).

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Copyright 2014   Andi Brown,  Once in a Lifetime Travel

5 Responses to “Understanding Italian Culture | Handling Money, Shopping, Computers and Staying in Line

  • Where is your favourite handbag store and what is its name?

  • Michele
    8 years ago

    Good stuff Andi! One thing worth mentioning, if you are pregnant you will never have to wait in line. The Italians are fantastic in this way and will gladly allow you to the front of any queue. Furthermore, most supermarkets and parking lots will have a special line and designated spots for those that are ‘incinta’.

  • I had to remind myself about queueing and the lack of it in Italy, a couple of times others beat me to the counter but thankfully there weren’t many people around so it didn’t take long for me to get served. I don’t think I could cope in peak tourist season – I’m just not pushy enough 🙂

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