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 the inconvenience of conflicts on such customary habits.

MEASURES: FORGET THE BRITISH IMPERIAL "AMERICAN" MEASURES! All countries but the USA, Liberia and Burma use the International Metric. Only in the UK people might still understand and some times use the old British Imperial measures, although they too have changed to the International Metric. The result is that 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 them, and actually they generally try to have nothing to do with 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 you exceptionally encounter an educated person who out of curiosity knows about them, they will ask you to convert measures to the metric system. Also the educated people will prefer if you you to use the international metric.
There are though very few exceptions. For ex. Europeans will measure the width of TV and computer screens with inches, because they were first imported following the measures, and although they know nothing really about the measures, they know the difference between them when they buy or use a computer or TV screen. However, just forget explaining for ex. 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about, and they will also psychologically refuse to convert or use a measurement system perceived as cumbersome, outdated, and not international.

DATES FORMAT IS VERY DIFFERENT (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 3-5-2017 and 3-12-2017. They will understand that you would like to rent between the third of May and the third of December of 2017! 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, 2017, and they will understand.

HOW FLOORS ARE COUNTED (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." etc.

ADDRESS FORMAT / 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.

DRESS WELL and DECENTLY! In Italy, you are supposed to dress well all the time! All Italians, also the poor ones, dress elegantly, or at least decently. Even when they sleep at night, most people wear elegant pajamas!

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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Transcultural differences between Italy and the USA

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