Important practical differences between Anglo-American countries and Italy
Most people underestimate the importance of practical differences
between countries, and think that they will easily work around
them (or that the people of the country they will visit will
understand). It is only when they face the reality of a totally
different society that they find out the inconvenience of
conflicts on such customary habits.
DATE (for citizens of the USA). While in the USA the date
follows the MONTH-DAY-YEAR convention, in *all* other countries
in the world it follows the DAY-MONTH-YEAR convention. This can be very
misleading. Suppose you contact a European rental agency,
and write them that you want to book a property between 3-5-2009
and 3-12-2009. They will understand that you would like to
rent between the third of May and the third of December
of 2009! If the company processes only weekly rentals, they
might not even reply to you at all! If you find it hard following the international / European convention, we recommend that you write months with letters (January, February etc.). So in the above case you should write: March 5 til March 12, 2009, and they will understand.
FLOORS (for citizens of the USA). Internationally, the ground
floor does not have a floor no., and all floors above it are
called first, second, third etc. In the USA, the ground floor
is called first floor, all other floors are considered consequently second,
third etc. This can be seriously misleading! If you cannot
climb stairs, and you ask a property requiring it to be at the
"first floor", they will offer you a property at
the first floor off the street level, i.e. at the
"second floor" in the USA. Practically, you will find stairs to climb, which might be made of two-three ramps, especially in historical towns like Rome
in which properties are situated in high floors!
NUMBERS: Anglo-Americans will use the pound # to indicate
numbers. This sign is not used for such purposes in all continental
European countries, where people will not understand what you are
writing about! The Europeans will generally indicate the noun "number"
with acronyms as "No.", "no.", "n."
ADDRESS LAYOUT: Anglo-Americans will write the street number
in front of the address: for ex. 86 Sunshine Avenue, etc.
In continental Europe, the street number is just after the
street name, so it would be written in this case as follows:
Sunshine Avenue 86. Moreover, the ZIP code has (obviously)
different acronyms, and it is made of a variable no. of digits.
In Italy the ZIP code is called C.A.P. (Codice di Avviamento
Postale), and it is made of 5 digits. The first two digits of
Rome are invariably 00.
MEASURES: All countries but the USA use the International
Metric. Only in the UK and in the Commonwealth countries people
are still accustomed to the old British Imperial measures, although
they too are changing to the International Metric. The result
is that only in the USA the British Imperial measures are
still used, although nowadays the Americans define them "US
measures". However, for most people in the world, and
especially for continental Europeans, such measures are very
cumbersome and complicated to understand. Because they are
also not an international criteria, Europeans are not even
prone to learn about them. The consequence is that when
you write or speak about miles, yards, feet, inches etc. to
Europeans, they will not understand what you mean, and unless
they happen to know the conversion standards, they will ask
you to convert measures to the metric system.
There are though very few exceptions. For ex. Europeans will
measure the width of TV and computer screens with inches,
because they were manufactured at the beginning in such way,
and they got used to it. But just forget explaining to a European
that you are 5 feet 5 inches tall, that you would like to
know how many miles distance there is between two towns etc.
They will not understand what you are talking about, and they will also psychologically refuse to convert or use a measurement system perceived as cumbersome and not international.
TIPPING: In Italy, and generally in Europe, it is above all
a kind gesture of appreciation. It is not compulsory, and
let alone there are no percentages on the service paid. Moreover,
the waiter, or barman, or driver etc., will understand if
you don't have change or a small amount of money handy. On the
other hand, you could be perceived as crummy if you don't
tip, leaving at least a minimal amount.
The entire philosophy in Europe is that both customers and
people offering a service should be kind, and possibly competing
on this ground. If you will feel that the person offering
a service is really kind and helpful, then you should tip
accordingly, yet without any special fee or percentage as reference. The person offering a service will perceive your tip
as a kind gesture, and will appreciate it even if the amount
is small. Naturally, there is also a proportion in such cases,
i.e. in deluxe or expensive places the tip to some extent should be
higher compared to other places.
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