Things That are Weird in America after living in Italy for 6 years

When I read back and come across one of my old posts, I sometimes cringe at my reactions and assumptions about life in Italy. I definitely went through a culture shock.

I am still an expat which means that there will always still be something to learn about Italian and Roman culture. However, with six years abroad and travel to 30+ countries, I can observe America with a bit of distance.

If the current politics are leading you to contemplate an escape, let me give you a few more reasons. Here are 10 things that are totally weird about America.

  1. Toilets. There is way too much water in the toilets. I mean, Italian toilets can be totally gross, but the water level makes sense to me.
  2. Strangers smile at you like they know you. Everyone is just soooo friendly. In Italy, there is reserved politeness. In America, people you pass at the supermarket will yell “hey! How’s it going?” with such intimacy that I think I must know them, before I realize that they are just perfect strangers being perfectly nice.
  3. Driving everywhere. I rarely drive in Italy so it feels weird to fall into this pattern of getting in the car to go down the street to the store. (Side note: stores are huge).

  4. So many drink flavors. Iced Mango green tea?  Why does that have to be a thing? How many kinds of energy drinks does a person need? And are electrolytes in flavored water really so necessary? Cold press juice also seems stupid expensive to me, but you can get it everywhere in about 100 flavor combos.
  5. Wearing workout clothes in non-gym settings. If I leave the gym in gym clothes in Rome, people stare. I would never dream of wearing yoga pants to the market. The amount of Lycra leggings in America makes me wonder if everyone is just coming from working out, about to work out, or hoping that wearing the gear will make them work out?
  6. Related: apparently everything is allowed at the bank? In American banks (or at least in MY American back) there is minimal visible security and people bring their dogs. In Italy, you can’t even bring a big purse into the bank! You have to leave your bag in a locker and then wait at a remotely controlled door to be let in one by one.
  7. The nonchalance with which doors are locked. In Italy, my door has four interconnecting locks.  If you are stepping out to buy milk, you are doing so with your door heavily armed behind you.  In the US, a quick turn of the lock on the handle, or no lock at all, seems to be acceptable.

  8. Sweet beer. So sweet. Why does American been taste so sweet? My palate for brews has apparently totally changed. Also, everyone appears to be a craft beer expert now.
  9. Literally everyone and their mom has a Prius. Note: I am from California (and my mom does have a Prius) so this may be a biased sample.
  10. Adult coloring books. That’s weird, you guys, and I think you’ve lost sight of that.

Have you ever experienced reverse culture shock? What was the most unexpected struggle you had when you moved (or visited) home?

17 thoughts on “Things That are Weird in America after living in Italy for 6 years

  1. bonnie melielo says:

    What I love about Italy is the civilized manner in which almost every action is conducted, whether walking into a shop, ordering a caffe, strolling down the street, conducting any sort of business, etc. I also love the high ceilings, the broad vistas uncluttered by highway businesses, the wonderful array of food in SMALL grocery stores, and yes, even in the big supermarkets the food is a more tempting choice, not a “mile” of ridiculously sugared cereal for example. I abhor the casual/sloppy manner of dressing that so many Americans have adopted in the name of “comfort”. When we return to the states the manner in which people drive makes my husband crazy. He loves driving in Italy.

    • Jane says:

      After living in Italy for almost three years this comment made me chuckle! Why? 1. The Questura Is anything but civilized. And if you’ve ever had to apply for any form of government documents ie. Permesso, passport, etc. You would understand just how difficult and uncivilized Italian bureaucracy is. 2. Italians eat sugar for breakfast. As an English teacher you come to understand that most schools kids have cookies and milk for breakfast. Its their equivalent of sugary cereals. Maybe it’s just a matter of perspective but visiting a place even for three months and living in a place are definitely two different things! I of course love Italy! And am desperately trying to stay longer but there are definitely pros and cons.

  2. Stef Smulders says:

    Haha, yes very true and funny. I had not yet noticed the post office security thing, maybe because I live in a small town. The entrance is always locked though, you cannot just walk in. The house we bought has a front door worthy of a bank vault and still people tell me to block it with a chair at night 😀 Italians are obsessed with food yes, but also with health and safety.
    I wrote an entire chapter about my toilet adventures in my recently published book “Living in Italy: the Real Deal”. In case you are interested, the ebook is currently free on Amazon:

    • AJ says:

      It makes me, as a European, very sad to hear that our security and freedom has been replaced by bank vault doors and quadruple locks. It never used to be like that. Never. Nothing was locked, even cars. We all know that it’s the EU and their open border insanity which has made everything in life more difficult and unsafe for us. It’s a pity you did not experience Europe and Italy when it was more authentic, its own country.

  3. Marianne de Ruiter says:

    Great article I also have reverse culture shock after living in Rome for almost 8 years and returning to Australia.
    So many of the things you mention definitely apply to live here as well…….definitely took some adjusting back!
    Keep enjoying your life there.

  4. Joe Deleonardo says:

    I would love a bank vault door in the US. I’m leaving Italy today, I rented a house while here. It had a phenomenal locking system. 10 locking points. Awesome keys. I ended up on this site today because I was standing in the passport control point in Rome when an American was talking about as loud as he possibly could about how terrible the airport was, they only had one agent checking passports, it sounded like he was being forced to give an arm before leaving the country. I really wanted to say to him that he was embarrassing himself and other Americans. I mean for godsakes the dude apparently has never been to JFK or a DMV. That is something I have NEVER seen an Italian doing here or any place else. They complain like any other people, but it’s going to be subdued and amongst themselves. People from 500 meters in all directions really don’t care if you have to stand in line with them.

  5. Cinzia Jackson says:

    I lived in Napoli for 3 years from 2008-2011. I loved driving there compared to America! The biggest disappointment when arriving back to the states was the smart phone and how everyone was so consumed in it. And, as you mentioned, yoga pants. Wearing athletic wear every where is a huge disgust. I can’t wait to go back and live in Italy very soon!

  6. Olga says:

    I have been in Florence for almost 4 years…and each day is getting worst and worst…unfriendly people, dirty streets, burocracy, ugly housing…I’m getting crazy. I miss my queen…California

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