Wherever you go in the world, it is certain there is a Filipino nearby. Italy is no exception as it has always been one of the top destinations in Europe for Filipino migrants. Rome, Milan, Lazio, Florence and Bologna are among the regions and cities that house Filipinos in Italy. Majority of the Filipino migrant workers found jobs after traveling to Italy using their tourist visas and found sponsors to help them find better footing with the law. Conservative estimates place the number of Filipino migrants around 250,000 but there are reports that it may actually be around 300,000.
The assimilation of new culture and tradition when you begin to work and live in a new country takes time. Learning the nuances of the culture and the language takes precedence over mastering the terrain although it is still important. It may be difficult, but as Filipinos and other nationalities can attest, it is not impossible.
How to Behave in Italy: Tips for Expats
Here are some tips and reminders that will help you adapt yourself when you decide to spend time in Italy, whether as a tourist, as an immigrant or as a migrant worker. Remember that there are so many things to consider due to the number of regions in Italy. However, as they say, when in Rome, do as the Romans do – go with the flow and you will not go wrong.
- Take care of your belongings. Just like any other country, there are miscreants – pickpockets and scam artists – in abundance. Pickpockets are among the most masterful in doing their acts. Make sure your valuables are secured. Do not put your wallets in your back pocket as it is an invitation for the thieves. If you could, place them on your jacket pocket and zip them up just to be on the safe side.
- Make copies of your documents. Just in case you do get picked, you will have copies of your important documents at the ready. You can leave them in the room vault or with the hotel concierge.
- Make sure to push when you enter, pull when you go out. Don’t do the opposite as the doors work only one way most of the time. Avoid the embarrassment by remembering this tip at all times. There are automated doors, yes, but remember, you’re in Italy, and almost all structures are historically important and most have not been renovated to accommodate technology.
- Be observant in restaurants. The food is always good, the service a little below par for some, but do observe how to order. Some restaurants and cafes operate differently. In some, you need to pay first and present a receipt before getting the order done. In some, you can order first before paying.
- Try to learn some basic phrases of the language. It is going to be appreciated by some locals, especially when you are ordering in cafes. Do try to learn the pronunciations properly though, otherwise, you’ll just have a harder time in your hands. Basic phrases will help you get by. You’ll pick up the nuances of the language as you grow accustomed to it.
- Dress modestly. Even if you are not going to a cathedral, dress modestly. Being too exposed will surely get you attention – unwanted attention, that is. Do not wear revealing outfits such as cropped tops that expose too much cleavage, the midriff and the shoulders. Avoid very tiny shorts or skimpy skirts. And do wear reasonable footwear, stilettos are for the runway not for the cobblestone streets.
- Enjoy the dining experience. Italian food is world-famous and you’ll find out why. Their food is absolutely divine and is made from the freshest local ingredients. The antipastos, primos and secundas are all mouth-watering and the wine selection is unusually good. Time takes a standstill when you’re out dining and it is not unusual to sit three hours for a meal.
- Do behave in public. Smoking is generally not allowed near historic places but there are some designated areas where you can puff away. Alcohol consumption in public is frowned upon and you might have local police authorities ready to whisk you away when you do.
- Do bring your tissues. Public restrooms usually do not have tissues of sanitary wipes, so do try to bring your own for your hygienic comfort.
- Do bring cash. Credit cards are accepted but most of the local shops do not have credit card terminals. And it is quite unusual to charge a ten-euro bill, right? Bring some cash and some change just so you won’t get too inconvenienced.
- Don’t get lost with the time and the date formats. They use a 24-hour clock, so 1 pm is 13:00, 2 pm is 14:00 and so on. The date is formatted as date-month-year. So don’t get confused!
- Don’t be late for lunch and dinner. Restaurant customs are different so try to observe the serving times in restaurants as well. As a rule of thumb, eat when the locals do. You’ll soon get the hang of it. If you don’t observe this, you’ll be liable to get food that has been prepared early in the day and not as fresh and as good.
- Don’t feel the pressure to tip too much. You can always leave a tip for the waiters and servers, but not in the 15%-20% range you are accustomed to in other regions. There’s no pressure in leaving tips, but they’d sure appreciate it when you do.
- Don’t get lost in the scheduling. Banks are open from the morning until 13:00 most of the days. Shops and restaurants close momentarily during the afternoons. There are different schedules observed by these establishments so do be wary of their schedules if you’re out and about.
- Don’t touch the produce with your bare hands! The shopkeepers and their assistants are quite adamant about this rule. You should handle them only if you have plastic gloves on. And do not point out which produce will be put inside your bag, let them do it for you. The produce is always fresh and Italians really pride themselves with it.
- Don’t hail a cab, find it! Cabs usually wait for passengers in their designated areas. You won’t be able to hail cabs on the road as they’ve already gotten a fare.
There are more and more cultural differences that you will discover once you spend time in Italy. Do not resist them, embrace them and you will become assimilated to their culture. You can integrate your home country’s culture to an extent but always respect their own brand of understanding and traditions. You’ll learn to love the country and its many regions and attractions as much as the locals do.