Getting Along with Your Italian Host Family
Career Path : Travel Planning
Universities in Italy encourage you to try staying with host families if you are a foreign student. When you arrive at the home of your Italian host family, look around and see how people behave. Gestures, facial expressions, and overall body language reveal a lot. Watch how people sit down to dinner. Watch how they interact with each other. Watch how they carry themselves. Observation is your best friend in both homes and universities in Italy. However, you must remember that you aren’t merely a casual observer. You are, for all intents and purposes, a member of the family. Prepare to participate as such.
To help you along, here are some DO’s and DO NOT’s in a variety of situations.
Sitting down to dinner
The stories are true: Dinner is the most important meal of the day, and one of the most important social occasions in Italy. Dinner is a very large meal usually served around midday. Supper, on the other hand, is in the early evening–around 8–and is the smaller meal.
- DO expect dinner to last anywhere from one and a half to two hours.
- DO NOT sit down before being invited to do so.
- DO NOT arrive late to dinner, or any occasion for that matter.
- DO clean your plate. Leaving food behind or saying you’re not hungry is considered a sign of disrespect.
Respecting house rules
Here is where observation comes into play once again. Look around and see what others are doing. Are there hands on the table? Note that people are probably folding their lettuce with their fork instead of cutting it. Politeness goes a long way–even in universities in Italy–and is demonstrated by wordless acts.
- DO look people in the eye when shaking hands.
- DO expect kisses on both cheeks.
- DO dress your best for church and religious ceremonies.
- DO nap after dinner. Naps after a very large meal are often encouraged and accommodated. Take advantage of this fact.
- DO NOT call a person by his or her first name unless they tell you to do so.
Having a sense of humor
If you plan to study abroad in Italy, know that you are going to make mistakes. You may do the wrong thing or act out of turn. It may be embarrassing. Your Italian host family understands this. It’s important to know that as long as you’re willing to laugh at yourself, you can rarely go truly wrong. Laughter and good times are another great bond in the Italian family. Keep this in mind for classes at universities in Italy too.
- DO expect laughter in such situations. Italian humor is situational. A strange situation–like a breach of etiquette–can be uproarious if told from a certain point of view.
Italians are a lively and friendly people. Enjoy staying with your host family!