Topic 3 Social & cultural learning in Italy: traditions, local values, linguistic specificities

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  • The most common greeting is “Ciao” (Hello) and this is informal. Moreover, people also say “Buongiorno” (Good morning) or “Buonasera” (Good evening) to be more formal.
  • When you see someone for the first time or you don’t know him/her well, the common greeting is a handshake eventually saying your name making direct eye contact and smiling.
  • Usually, when you know well someone, you give him/her one kiss or two kisses on both cheeks (the number depends on the Italian area)
  • When you address someone that is older than you or in a formal context it is common to use the titles “Signore” (Mister) and “Signora” (Missus).

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Socialising is important for Italians, they are friendly and outgoing. They like to form small groups of friends in which members help each other.

The Italians’ social life is mostly interconnected with food.

Fun fact!

In the Italian language there are precise words used to refer to specific social eating events with friends, such as aperitivo (pre-meal drink) and spaghettata (unplanned pasta dish served for a party of people, usually late in the night)


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Italy has a lot of differences between the north and the south. The northern part is more modern in terms of industrialization and business and traditionally people are more individualistic. Furthermore, the north has the biggest cities in the country.

Vice versa, in the south the cities are usually smaller and the people are considered to be more family-oriented, kind-hearted and have a slow rhythm of life.

NOTE: Many of these characteristics are born from stereotypes and so they represent common beliefs.

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Italians do not know how to hide their emotions. They are very direct in expressing their thoughts to others and they usually speak freely.

For example, a person on a crowded bus may get angry while talking on the phone and so start to speak up and this behaviour can be considered normal by other passengers.

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In Italy, the concept of ‘family’ plays a key role in the social, cultural and economic life of the country. The family constitutes the core of Italian society and represents one of the main values and ideals of the local culture.

Most Italians, whether married, single or divorced, tend to maintain very strong links with their parents, adult children and other relatives.

Usually, the family spends time together at least once a day for dinner, while the extended family with grandparents, cousins and other relatives meet on specific holidays (usually Christmas and Easter) as well as on special occasions (e.g. weddings etc.).

If parents are elderly and/or widowed, they often live in their children’s homes, to be helped. In fact, parents remain very important figures also during the adulthood of their children and the bond between them lasts a lifetime.

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The official language of Italy is Italian.

Nevertheless, every region and more specifically every city and/or town has its dialect. These are very different and are not used by everyone in the same way, e.g. it is more common in smaller towns than in big cities. It is usually spoken in familiar or otherwise informal contexts.

There are other 12 recognized languages spoken in Italy by minorities located in different Italian regions. The institutions protect the language and culture of the Albanian, Catalan, Germanic, Greek, Slovenian and Croatian communities and also those speaking French, Franco-Provençal, Friulian, Ladin, Occitan and Sardinian.

English is studied at school but unfortunately, only a small part of the population has advanced skills. French and Spanish are lesser-used languages in Italy.

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Many Italians are religious and religion is taken seriously by all Italians.

Roman Catholicism is the most common religion in Italy (approximately 74% of Italians) and its have influenced Italian culture, society and traditions. In fact, the territory and the government of the Catholic Church (the Vatican State) and its leader (the Pope) are located in Rome.

It is common in Italy also to have Christian iconographies (Jesus or the Virgin Mary) in homes to “protect” the house.

Concerning other religions, 9.3% of the population is non-Catholic Christians, 3.7% of Italians identify as Muslim, and less than 1% of Italians identify as another religion (Buddhism, Hinduism, Judaism, and Sikhism).

Moreover, irreligion (atheism and agnosticism) is not uncommon. Approximately 12% of the population identifies as irreligious, and this number increases annually.

To have more information about Italian culture