Do Follow Cultural Norms
Accept that dinner doesn’t start until 8 or 9, learn that you take a coffee after dessert, not with it, and that there is always room for more food- it is not possible to say no when an Italian gives you more food.
Learn to dress nice, and that you’re not supposed to tip. Cover your mouth when you yawn, and you cannot put parmesan.
Don’t change your style
Fashion sense is personal, not geographical. Sure, it is the culture in Europe to dress nicely which should be respected, but you shouldn’t go out of your way to wear Italian looking clothing if it’s not you. Just as there are people in the U.S. who do not dress the part of the basic American (North Face, Uggs, Timberlands, etc.) there are Italians who dress outside the norm as well. Don’t be shamed out of wearing shorts in the warmer seasons or ripped jeans just because it isn’t the style!
Do Learn the Language
Living in Florence we are spoiled by English speaking Italians. No one expects you to become fluent in your short stay here but know the basics; yes, no, please, thank you, and how to order! It’s easy to learn and they appreciate it. It is mind boggling to hear Americans who have been here a month ordering without a single Italian word.
Don’t Be Ashamed of Your Taste Buds
After learning to order in perfect Italian, it comes time to decide what to order! Of course everyone wants to eat the famous dishes, but sometimes there will be things you don’t like. Don’t feel embarrassed for craving your favorite American dishes. For me it was coffee. The coffee here tastes fantastic, but as an avid coffee drinker I like a lot of it. Looks of disappointment come every time an American coffee is ordered, as though one should be drinking espresso.
Do Try New Things
Just because something may not be your favorite thing back home doesn’t mean you shouldn’t branch out. Maybe you aren’t religious and so you have no interest in visiting historical churches, or maybe you’ve never been enchanted by art work, but go anyway. See new things to introduce you to a new culture. After all, that’s what you traveled to Europe for, right? Not a big soccer fan? Try to broaden your horizons and see at least one game- chances are you’ll have a blast. New experiences are what travel so reward, so make the effort and branch out of your comfort zone!
Don’t Feel Like You Need to Do Everything
There are going to be millions of opportunities when you are in Florence, but don’t feel the need to do every single thing. When this becomes your priority, you will quickly get worn out, which is when the homesickness hits. Go out, have fun, do as many things as you can, but also remember it’s OK to take a personal day and stay in and cuddle up in sweat pants, do facials, paint your nails, and binge watch some OITNB (it’s on the Italian Netflix!). Don’t do this everyday, but once in a while- that’s what we call preserving your mental sanity.
Do Your Research
As the phrase goes, know before you go. Do your research and know basic historical facts, navigation, admission prices, etc before you travel anywhere- especially if you are traveling alone without a travel company’s tour guide. Knowing even a little bit will make your experience that much more rewarding. Don’t count on there to be English translations for anything-so either be prepared to wander aimlessly, or be the know it all that shows your friends what’s up.