Friday, August 3, 2012

On rude Italians

When i do traveling tours as an Accompanier around Italy, after a few days invariably the clients begin coming to me to ask very hesitantly if the people in Italy are always so rude or if it is just them.

Sadly i have to inform them that that is how it goes here. Italians have a reputation for being very very friendly - and they are, to family, friends, and people that are giving them money. But visitors to Italy often to not encounter any one under those circumstances. Instead these visitors find themselves going into shops and being completely ignored by the staff that works there. It is not at all an uncommon experience to go into a shop (could be souvenirs, clothes, tobacco shop, whatever) shop around, go to the counter to pay, pay, and then leave while the person working there has been on the telephone the whole time, never even interrupting themselves to deal with the customer.

In America, where most of my clients come from, this would be strikingly weird and out of place and everyone would assume, i think, that if the boss or owner were to notice this behavior the employee would be fired on the spot.

i have repeatedly seen these Americans then assume, "The people here obviously don't like Americans, look how rude they are to us!" (And don't even get them started on Paris!) Then i have to explain, "No no, it's not you and it's not Americans, that's just how things go here."

i had a day recently that exemplified Italian rudeness perfectly:

i was going to visit the Borghese Gallery here in Rome. At the ticket office there was just one family ahead of me in line. When they finished their transactions and had their tickets the Italian girl working at the desk got up and walked away leaving me there by myself. She did not say anything or excuse herself, nothing.

When she eventually came back i gave her my reservation codes and she gave me my tickets. "You enter upstairs, right?" She looked at me and lowered her head in what pretty clearly seemed to be a nod (at this point she has yet to open her mouth to me at any point.) So i go upstairs to the entrance i've always used before and find it is roped off and clearly no longer an entrance. So i go back downstairs to the ticket lady and say, "i though the entrance was upstairs, is it not?"

"In the back on the right," is all she said, and with a voice and contenance that made it very clear i was annoying her.

So i go to the back of that downstairs room, turn right and find the new entrance. When i walked up to the ticket checker there she held up one finger and rotated it in a circle. i'm trying to hand her my ticket and she's spinning her finger, not speaking. i have no idea what the hell she could be doing so i use my words. In Italian, exasperated, i ask her what she is doing. "Your bag," she says, and nothing more.


i literally didn't know what to say. i felt like i'd been transported to a bizzaro world of retarded mutes. Finally she says, "You have to check your bag." i was wearing just my small tour guiding bag that i have carried into museums all over the world without a problem, but whatever.

So i go to check my bag in and find the same experience as at the ticket booth. There are two employees there, a few families in line, and the employees are chatting in Italian while one of them accepts the bags to be checked in and the other one helps him by....chatting and doing nothing else.

Then, the family in front of me is taken care of and both of these cacacazzi turn and walk away continuing their conversation. i'm left standing their by myself while the ferocity of my suppressed rage at the rudeness threatened to boil over.

Annoyingly, since i understand Italian, i know they're just talking about going to the beach this weekend, where to go and who to invite. Which is FINE....but either do the job my ticket price is paying you to do or please go home so that maybe someone else will do the job!!!

When i finally get that taken care of i'm heading to the entrance again and go by the desk where they rent out audio guides. i wanted to hear the house's explanation of their art so i stop to pick up an audio guide. Nearly as taciturn as her colleagues the lady there grabs an audio guide when i ask for one. The cost was  6euros and i handed her my Visa card, figuring that since this is a famous museum at which i had paid for my tickets by credit card, they must accept credit card.

"No card," the girl says, startling me with the sudden burst of speech.

So i reach into my pocket and wallet and find that due to poor planning, i have just 4euros on me. i couldn't believe how this visit was going. "In fact, i cannot take the guide, i do not have 6euros in cash right now," i told her and walked away quickly and angrily.

"Signore," i hear her call after i've already stormed a few steps. "Signore," she is calling to me so i look back and find she is getting an audio guide ready for me. i understand she is giving me the guide even though i don't have the cash. i put my 4euro coins on the counter but she pushes them back at me and says not to worry about it.

So i enjoyed the audio guide that i could not pay for due to the kind charity of an Italian employee.

Yin yang sign from Wikipedia.


  1. You must have stepped into bizarro land if an Italian woman gave you an audio tour, for free, just because she wanted to be nice! Everything else seems like a typical day in Italy.

    Their rudeness still makes me mad though, and i dislike going places because of it.

  2. I've been to Italy twice in consecutive years now (Rome and Naples). By and large I had a great time there, otherwise I wouldn't have gone back. But I would say that roughly half of the people I encountered were rude to me in some way. Many of the restaurants we went to either tacked on several euros to our bill, or they simply left us waiting around when we had only ordered a coffee. When we returned to our hotel one evening, the girl behind the counter didn't even look at me when she handed me the room key.
    Having said that, I have met some very friendly Italians, people who go out of their way to be friendly. There was a charming attendant at Arco Felice station who would always let you know the right train to catch. There were some guys in Naples who let me use their toilet when the coin operated one outside the station ate my money and wouldn't let me in. And some great people working at the cat sanctuaries in Rome.

  3. I think rudeness is a very wide and relative word to begin with. I know also that expecially Americans think the whole world exists of friendly smiley servants like the Drive Way. I personally also dont like rudeness expecially when it without any purpuse but imagine youself to on that rude girl, shes seen tousands and tousands of tourists, some well manerend but sure alsof bad manered irritating tourist. I m not defending her behaviour, but we are all humans, and maybe you have to be glad to see a real character. Sorry for my maybe bad sentences, I am Dutch;).

  4. I live in Italy since 1999 and I agree with every word, they are Rude, there is not other way to call it, certainly they wiil never admit it, so don't even waste time telling them....

    1. i know well how extended experience in Italy can make it appear that Italians are generally rude. But please note the graphic i chose for this post - the yin-yang. An image where there's two sides, and bits of each side in the other. Note also that in the end, the Italian girl at the audio guide gave me the device for free when i didn't have cash to pay for it. i know i left that final point subtlely, but it is important than it is there. Italians are often the warmest, most accomodating people i know - except for when they don't feel like it. The most reliable thing i can say about Italians is that they are unpredictable (and that their actions are often based solely on their mood) ;-)

    2. Yeah, the big babies still have to learn how to live in the world among other people. Their behavior is not to abe accepted and justified, period. It is to be judged and biased. Only that is true MORALITY. Everything else is your new age fucking bullshit, which is NOT moral or right the least. You wish.

  5. i agree with you, i also live in italy, since the past three years-im so home sick, the culture here is so twisted and hypocrital-italians friendly??? yeh,maybe for themselves and their fish bowl town life-theres no respect for foreigners(especially if they know you come from an english speaking country, believe me the prejudice is not only on americans) good luck, you will need it to live here....because im already going crazy and near to insanity-at first i felt sorry for them because their standards of living and injustice in regards to lack of jobs and pathetic corrupt goverment and being controlled by religously dominated cathoic cult that takes a large percentage of tax and in return sexually abuses their children, but then i think, hey, why feel sorry, because they seem to enjoy it and dont want to change their lives-just talk and no action-alot of hot air-talk talk talk eat eat eat and run to mama for money, really no sense of respect or dignity -just alot of sleaze ball action going on-good luck

  6. just because she gave you that audio for free does not cover up for their rude behaviuor-that is lack of ethics, proper rules and regulations should be followed in public institutions otherwise if we give everything for free to people out of sympathy or favouritism and family, then a country would not prosper economically-i have witnessed this habit also in the south of italy and worst in the calabria region,. where italians working in public services and in tourist areas somtimes allow tourist and friends or family to enter free, this really kills the quality of everything-it may look like kindness, but it is just so low and takes out the dignity and prosperity of a country. in your situation the museum should have stated that they dont accept cards in the beginning instead of putting you through all that rude behaviour-it was also not right, but in the end maybe you desreved to get that audio for free.

  7. They're just as rude and bitter when they leave Italy, by the way. There are Italians in Australia who refuse to speak English after 60 years residency. Getting a smile from these mean people is more work than it's worth. If you smile at them in passing, they figure they're entitled. But they won't smile back - it feels too much like giving something for free. So they maintain their hard faced, unsmiling bitterness. At the same time, they play victim every chance they get. They'd steal the eyes from a snake. No shame, no honour. And they're the most pathologically JEALOUS people I've ever met. They love it when someone suffers misfortune - it cheers them up to know someone is suffering. But if someone has GOOD luck, the Italians are furious, almost insane with jealousy, and it takes them years to get over it, if they ever do. The Italians are the only people I know who will hate you and hold a grudge against you because you had some good fortune even though it has *nothing* at all to do with them, is none of their business. They *make* it their business. But if they have good fortune, they hide it and tell no-one

  8. If an Italian has to drive from A to B, he will take a complicated, circuitous path rather than take a straight road. It's the way they're wired -- crooked. They're bullies. They're cowards. They get around in groups, afraid to stand alone. They're boastful and they lie. They gossip and cause trouble and enjoy it very much. They're always complaining, always depressed and will take anything that's free, even if they have no use for it. Greed should be the middle name of all of them. They're possessive and territorial - they even think they own the street and footpath in front of their houses. Everything -- every, every, everything - has to be about them. You start discussing the weather and next moment, they've switched the discussion to being about them. You start speaking about China and in two seconds, they're talking about their village full of idiots. You walk past a shop and they begin drooling like five year olds, trying to get you to buy things for them. They love 'borrowing' from others, but they don't return things. They 'borrow' money, but if you give it to them, it becomes a 'gift'. And they'll come back -- no shame -- to 'borrow' more. They do it even when they have plenty of their own money. They can't keep their hands off other people's stuff, other people's money, other people's cars, other people's holiday homes, other people's friends, etc. Social climbers. Wannabees. Avaricious. Materialistic. Grasping. Envious. Manipulative. Jealous. It's in their genes. And very rude, very entitled. Conceited and arrogant, but please tell me what they have to be conceited and arrogant *about* !

    1. "It's in their genes."
      Okay, what kind of logic is this?
      These traits are present in other nationalities. It's part of human nature. That doesn't make it right, though.
      - Josep

  9. I thought I would like them. Then I *tried* to like them. I kept blaming myself. It took years to work out that they are unlikeable. They don't even like each other. But they're very false and kiss each other's cheeks, then later they reveal their hatred for each other. They break their necks to get to other countries so they can rip off generous nations' welfare systems and all the time, through decades of leeching off other countries, they continue whining about how America and Canada and Australia are 'no good' and how everything in Italy is 'better'. So why don't they go back to Italy ? Why do they stay in Australia and US and Canada, etc. ? Who's stopping them from returning to Italy ? Who asked them to leave Italy in the first place ? If you ask them, they sulk like the mental infants they are. Italians are a massive disappointment

    1. "They don't even like each other"

      That's hilarious, but true. I work with someone from Naples, and he says that it's normal for people to rip you off of money in different ways, in Naples (specifically, much less so in the North). Not just Italians to tourists, but Italians ripping off other Italians. Somewhere, they still think it's the Roman Empire out there, and they're entitled to everything.

  10. As to the 'two sides', the 'yin yang' -- I see that as the 'Italian side' and 'Everyone else, none of whom matter'. For example, Italians are hyper-critical of everyone else. But they and their own can do no wrong. They'll invent things to criticise with regard to other people's children. But when their own stuff up, Italians send them 'away' until the dust has cleared. Or they'll blame their children's peers. They have no sense of personal responsibility, so naturally they cannot and do not teach it to their offspring. Italians are self-worshipping. To claim Italians' 'moods' determine how they behave and react in their working life is to admit they are narcissistic and believe themselves to be the world's axis. In mature and civilized countries, there are standards of behaviour and of professional responsibilities, no matter how lowly the occupation. Courtesy towards customers is a basic standard world-wide, excluding Italy, perhaps. When you are being paid to fill a position, then most of us are aware we should earn our wage and work for the benefit of our employer -- not run our employer's business in accordance with our 'moods'.

  11. I would like to add to this debate as I'm rather startled and upset from an experience I had tonight. I'm in Florence holidaying with my sister from Australia. We had walked into a square of a street performance. I was busy taking a photo, this street performer an older Italian man dressed as Charlie Chaplin noticed my sister and I and blew a whilstle at us, we thought it was a joke. A few seconds later he ran up to us and screamed violently into our faces, this is happening in front of a whole crowd of people. He grabbed my wrists very hard and pulled me into the center. I refused and pulled myself away I gave him a little shove to get him off me. He turned around and said audibly to my sister and I "f*ck off" and screamed at us. He went onto the crowd and began screaming barbarically to the audience. It was a truly horrible experience. He has no right in day to day life to do that to anyone in the street. How is it different to when he is street performing if someone is reluctant you don't pull them aggressively and swear at them. I really wanted to enjoy my last night in florence, but now I'm upset and afraid. Overall I've been yelled at three times today in Florence. It really wanted to enjoy my time in Italy but I'm leaving feeling really negative and appalled at the behaviour of old Italian men. Their horrible, rude, aggressive and scary. Two other older men screamed at me today while I was trying to buy gelato from their stores. Can't wait to leave...

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  13. Italians are the most rude people I have ever met. It is only my 3rd out of 7 days in Rome and I cannot wait to leave here. I will tell everyone I know not to come here on vacation. They don't deserve any money from tourists after treating them like crap all the time.

  14. Yes, Italians are very rude. The restaurants guys would yell at you if even kids sit on the chairs outside the restaurant. They all deserve a kick on their back.

  15. This blogpost reflects my experience of Italians. I went to Italy twice, once I backpacked around it, the other I went to study the language for a month. In Milan, a woman in the subway sold me a map half price, because I didn't have enough money (I was backpacking ;-)). On the same trip, I bought a ticket in Naples, and the ticket person took my note, stood up, and left. I banged in the window for ages, furious. She never came back, never gave me change... So I got something for free in Milan, and lost something in Naples 50/50

    Somewhere, can't remember which town, I went to a cafe, and wanted some time to myself to write some postcards There were empty tables filling the whole room - the guy behind the counter sets up knife and fork opposite someone else, on a small square table, in the middle of the room, without even asking me if that's what I wanted!!!! I couldn't even write my postcards, and hated it.

    In Naples, I saw a woman in a bakery behind the counter, and she was so beautiful, she could have been a living statue. I would have married her there and then, and lived a crazy life of a Napolitana, just because she was like a goddess. Maybe that's what makes Italian men crazy.

    But overall? I'd say, Italians are not fun to work with. I currently work with a guy from Naples, here in the UK (and everyone knows how overly polite and subtle British people are :-)) ), and it makes my life at work hellish and miserable. The guy's got an ego the size of Jupiter. He changes his moods like a cat. He doesn't give a monkeys if he makes you feel bad about something. When the boss is out of the room, he bullies people, and does it in a subtle cunning way. And he's so frikkin loud. His noise is like barbed wire that goes through the air. He takes great pride in being arrogant, as if being proud of the fact, justified the arrogance.

    Actually, I'm going to have to quit my job, probably, because days have become stressful with such a person to work with. As Anonymous has said above "When you are being paid to fill a position, then most of us are aware we should earn our wage and work for the benefit of our employer -- not run our employer's business in accordance with our 'moods'."

    If I was god, I'd cut Italy in half, and just forget the bottom bit.

  16. It is unfortunately the italians are rude, mournful, for their foreigners are always stupid and thieving while they are saints and are explored by the whole world. I am a Brazilian woman and i live in Rome and every day of my life I have to show that they are neither prostitute or ignorant.
    For their foreign women are prostitutes who are keen to do sex with them and it's normal make jokes of bad taste against gay and foreigners. They do not respect pedestrians, their children are rude and many elderly are unbearable.


  17. I just got back from a trip from Italy and I agree with all of the negative things that have been said about Italians. They are some of the most miserable and rude people I have ever met. Don't even bother trying to be nice to them or get them to smile because they won't be nice back. They are absolutely miserable and nothing seems to make these people happy. It was one of the most depressing places I've ever been to. Luckily I did manage to met a few nice Italians and even THEY admitted that the people are rude and miserable. It's a beautiful country, but most of the people have the manners of a pig. They better start being nicer to tourists because tourism plays a big part in their already screwed up economy. If people stop spending their tourist dollars there, that country will be screwed more than it already is.

  18. Italians are false,ignorant,rude,promiscuous (are known for making sex tourism all over the world,even pedophilia in Thailand,Romania,East European countries and others)the women are OPPORTUNISTIC and BITCHES,they use the pussy and ass and lips to get benefits,money,important positions SEE THE POLICIES MARA CARFAGNA,NICOLE MINETTI,MICHELA VITTORIA BRAMBILLA,involved with the BUNGA BUNGA ORGIES ,snub italians men,but are easy to foreigners ,specially with Money,the men make fun of it.In television only have whores,discussions,sensationalism,futility,people screaming (they dont speak,screaming),nothing of Galileo,Da Vinci,intellectual,the current culture is totaly trash.Are animals uncilized who fight everywhere,drive like crazy,disorderly,inordinate.Uneducated,ignorant
    about all and the world
    Attract tourists idiots to give Money and buy their brands using slave work of mafia,BUT CRATE RACISM,XENOPHOBOA AND DEFAME OTHER COUNTRIES,while show Italy as a Paradise,are liars Italy it has serious social problems,it is an underdeveloped and corrupt country.The mafias connect the industries and government.I admired them...even live there and know the reality...
    Sorry for my bad english,dont know the language,but i hope to guide and help
    people who read.

  19. Sorry i wrot wrong;is xenofhoBIA.

  20. I've just toured the entire country and Rome is BY FAR the worst city I have ever visited in the world in terms of rudeness unfriendliness and lack of customer service. Truly, people typically aren't even nice to you even if you MIGHT be giving them money! It's quite laughable really. Employees are also incredibly lazy, non communicative and generally hostile and unhelpful.
    The smaller towns and south of Italy near the sea are far far friendlier. Capri was like a whole other world as if people weren't the same nationality as people in Rome!. I won't choose to come back that's for sure. Far nicer places and people in the world to encounter. Unfriendly people who are also often crooks trying to scam you makes for a really unpleasant visit. I say this objectively too because this was the first place in the world I have ever seen the supermarket staff check or scan every single euro note they were given - they even had a special scanner to do this, a device I didn't even know existed as I've never seen it happen anywhere, lol. Apart from that within a few days of arriving two people on my tour group had their cards skimmed at an ATM and purchases made on their cards and their cards blocked making for a lot of stress and hassle. Apart from that everything is very slow and I never even managed to take a bus because they just never came! I'm so glad to be leaving Rome...besides The Vatican (which is a whole other country) I didn't find anything particularly worth visiting in Rome. Roman Amphitheatres, forums, columns can all be seen in other countries...with far less crowds...It's also the one place in Europe to date I have distinctly experienced racism and discrimination for being non white and a foreigner.

  21. I also have just returned from Florence and it was exhausting purely because I felt on alert all the time. Apart from the Boboli Gardens where all the staff were lovely, one supermarket and a great taxi driver, I felt as if everyone was on the make trying to extract as much money out of you as possible for the least they could. I have travelled to many other cities and yes they all have the usual pickpockets to watch out for, but this feeling stretched to restaurants who over charged, supermarkets who seemed to hike the price up at the till. It was a constant feeling of being ripped off. I am always courteous and speak the basic Italian I know not expecting to be spoken to in English. I respect the fact, as a tourist, I am a guest in their country and I try to observe their culture. I don't expect overly gushing service, just day to day common courtesy and what I encountered was far from that. I have never been made to feel more uncomfortable and more inferior by a large majority of people I met. Yes some where great, but this was a welcome surprise and I can actually remember the occasions as I wasn't expecting it after a short while there. I had been to Italy as a child and more recently to the lakes and I loved it, which is why this trip has left such a bad taste in my mouth. I took my elderly parents with me and I stupidly thought they would receive some kind of understanding if they were a little slow, but no! Eyes rolled, arms flailed over nothing. This is a beautiful place as was Siena, but I will never return. I don't want to put myself through this again and I would rather spend my hard earned cash elsewhere. I'm not a rich person and I feel I wouldn't want to line the pockets of people who treated me with such contempt. Peoples reactions to you on holiday can be hit and miss anywhere because we are just humans, but this was on a whole new level of rude and pretty standard. Admittedly this is a rant, but I came on line to actually see if it was just me and apparently not! arrivederci Italy I hope for your countries sake people don't stop going and lining your pockets, but I certainly won't be.

  22. This blog is so helpful. I would never have thought Italians were so rude until I went to their embassy. I went there to ask a question and the lady there started acting as though everything I said to her was a lie, rolling her eyes, and expecting that I know the answers to the questions I had gone to ask. Mental she was and to think she is a government employee. She was yelling and not really listening. I left and told the guards that the lady was rude. It would not be fair to extrapolate this behaviour to all Italians but now I'm scared of visiting.

  23. I too bad these kind of experiences. The majority of the people i interacted with were rude and miserable. Waitress in a cafe was so rude to me so I asked her"don't you like English people" she pulled a worse sour face than it was already and shook her head from side to side to say no. I answered you just like their money? So with her scowling face she nodded yes. A bus driver in Florence for hysterical because I asked him where the stop was, then he shouting called me a bastard! I never really saw anyone smile. The lady from the bnb where I stayed was nice, and one lady in a restaurant was but
    apart from that during ny travels to florence venice sorrento and Sicily I have never encountered such rude and miserable people. They just want your euros and that is that. I would never come back. I wasted my money and my time coming here. It's a depressing place


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