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“You Know You’re Italian If…” – 20 Telltale Signs You’re From Italy or of Italian Descent


From greeting people with cheek kisses to never going out with wet hair, there are many signs that Italian blood courses through your veins. Of course, not every sign applies to every family, but if you can relate to even half of them, you probably grew up in an Italian household, whether in Italy or abroad! In this article, you’ll discover 20 signs that you—and all Italians—may relate to! Let us know how many ring true for you in the comments below.

… you greet people by kissing them on the cheeks.

Explanation: Kissing on the cheeks is a form of greeting in Italy. It is common for men to kiss men, women to kiss men, and both men and women to exchange kisses, as long as the setting is informal and a level of familiarity exists between the individuals. Custom dictates two light kisses on each cheek, beginning with the right side and then moving to the left.

two multiethnic z generation friends greeting cheekl to cheek in park before joggingtwo multiethnic z generation friends greeting cheekl to cheek in park before jogging

… you speak with hand gestures.

Explanation: If you can have a simple conversation with someone using just hand gestures, you know you are Italian to the core. And having lived in Italy for many years as a non-Italian, I can personally attest that the stereotype of gesticulating with your hands is not just a cliché; it is a deeply ingrained cultural trait that is prevalent and, I must say, quite contagious!

Young african man in scarf and hat showing italian gesture that means what do you want over yellow background. Studio shotYoung african man in scarf and hat showing italian gesture that means what do you want over yellow background. Studio shot

… your last name ends in a vowel.

Explanation: So, this is not a strict rule – in fact, two of my Italian family members have last names that end in consonants. However, for the most part, the majority of Italians have last names that end in a vowel, similar to how most words in Italian end in a vowel. Just think of the surnames Rossi, Romano, Bianchi, Esposito… you get a good idea! You can see a list of the most popular Italian last names here.

Tutor teaching to read the English letter in right way, while she sitting at the table together with girl, they speaking and looking at mirrorTutor teaching to read the English letter in right way, while she sitting at the table together with girl, they speaking and looking at mirror

… you miss your bidet when you’re abroad.

Explanation: For those of you who don’t know, a bidet is a low oval basin, located beside the toilet, used for washing one’s parti intime (private parts). In Italy, using the bidet is an essential and integrated part of the toilet routine. Most Italians can’t fathom not having one to thoroughly clean themselves. So, what do Italians do when they travel abroad? They use the shower head, bottles of water, portable bidets or portable wipes!

Toilet bowl and bidet in the modern bathroom. 3d illustrationToilet bowl and bidet in the modern bathroom. 3d illustration

… you refuse to go out with wet hair.

Explanation: In Italy, there is a widespread belief that sudden temperature changes are detrimental to one’s health. In fact, many Italians tend to attribute their illnesses to il vento (the wind)! Going outside with capelli bagnati (wet hair) is seen as a grave risk, as it may result in the dreaded colpo d’aria – literally a “blast of air.” This phenomenon is believed to cause various discomforts, from a stiff neck to indigestion. So if you want to see an Italian go off the deep end, simply walk straight out the door after having a shower!

little girl playing with wet hair in front of the mirror after taking a bath, kids hygiene concept, copy space for textlittle girl playing with wet hair in front of the mirror after taking a bath, kids hygiene concept, copy space for text

… you can’t help but applaud when an airplane lands.

Explanation: Whether you are on an Italian domestic or international flight, you can always expect Italians to erupt in enthusiastic applause upon the plane’s landing. It doesn’t matter if the flight is hours delayed and everyone onboard is feeling miserable, the clapping is inevitable. One can only assume that they are applauding the pilot’s skill in safely transporting them from point A to point B!

… you can’t understand why anyone would want a large savoury breakfast.

Explanation: In Italy, breakfast (known as colazione in Italian) typically revolves around delectable sweet baked goods, ranging from cookies and brioches to fruit or jam-filled pastries and cereal. It is common to enjoy these delightful treats alongside a milky coffee such as a cappuccino, or a simple espresso. Portions are modest, and breakfast is typically a swift affair. For those accustomed to the hearty breakfasts of bacon, sausages, and eggs in America or England, the Italian breakfast experience may come as quite the shock!

Woman working with her laptop computer and having breakfast on bed.Woman working with her laptop computer and having breakfast on bed.
Closeup toy airplane on Colosseum background. Italian european vacation in Rome. Concept of imagination.Closeup toy airplane on Colosseum background. Italian european vacation in Rome. Concept of imagination.

… you think breaking or cutting spaghetti is sacrilege.

Explanation: Ask an Italian whether cutting or breaking spaghetti is acceptable, and you’ll likely be met with incredulous stares. If your cooking it, gradually ease the spaghetti into the pot, as the boiling water will make it soft. When eating, on the other hand, twirl the fork over a few of the noodles so that you can control your portion.

Spaghetti all' amatriciana from the Lazio region of Italy with pecorino cheese, pepper, tomato, cured pork jowl or guanciale served in a bowl as a first course to Italian cuisineSpaghetti all' amatriciana from the Lazio region of Italy with pecorino cheese, pepper, tomato, cured pork jowl or guanciale served in a bowl as a first course to Italian cuisine

… you eat pasta almost every day!

Explanation: Actually, in the case of my husband, you could leave out “almost” if it weren’t for the fact that we order in the occasional Indian takeaway! But seriously speaking, pasta is a staple of Italian food, and most Italian people couldn’t imagine going a couple of days without it. Oh, and it has to be al dente! No one wants to eat pasta that’s troppo cotta (overcooked).

Close-up of young happy woman eating pasta at dining table.Close-up of young happy woman eating pasta at dining table.

… you eat dinner no earlier than 7pm.

Explanation: In Italy, as well as in all Mediterranean countries, it’s typical for dinner to commence at 7 p.m. or even later. (Those who dine at 7 p.m. on the dot often have young children!) As you move further south, dinner tends to start even later. Unless you’re in a highly touristy area of Italy, it’s uncommon to find restaurants opening before 7 p.m.

Happy little girl and her father toasting while having dinner with their family on Christmas eve.Happy little girl and her father toasting while having dinner with their family on Christmas eve.

… you have a true sense of fashion.

Explanation: During my time in Italy, I became acutely conscious of my appearance and attire. While sweatpants and sneakers might have sufficed back home, I now felt compelled to spend an additional 30 minutes each day carefully selecting my outfit, applying makeup, and styling my hair in order to look as good as the Italians around me. If, for any reason, I chose not to wear makeup, it was not uncommon for my colleagues to comment on it.

attractive young woman walking in autumn park with coffee wearing checkered coat, sunglasses, happy mood, fashion style trend, long brown hairattractive young woman walking in autumn park with coffee wearing checkered coat, sunglasses, happy mood, fashion style trend, long brown hair

… you say “buon appetito” before every meal.

Explanation: In many countries, it’s customary to express gratitude for the meal before eating, especially when it has been prepared by someone other than yourself. In France, one says bon appétit, in Japan, itadakimasu, and in Italy, you’ll often hear buon appetito, which translates to “good appetite.”

Grandmother in eyeglasses carrying turkey with potatoes for dinner for her familyGrandmother in eyeglasses carrying turkey with potatoes for dinner for her family

… you speak or understand an Italian dialect.

Explanation: Italian might be the official language spoken throughout Italy, yet until recently, the majority of Italians conversed in a dialect or minority language as their native tongue. It was only after television was introduced in the late 1950s that standard Italian became prevalent. Although many young Italians today may not be fluent in their parents’ or grandparents’ dialects, they typically grasp and can often use some fundamental words.

Shot of a family having a meal together at homeShot of a family having a meal together at home

… you dress in layers.

Explanation: In Italy, it is recommended that you “dress like an onion” (vestirsi a cipolla), as you never know what the weather might bring, especially during unpredictable seasons like spring and autumn. Indeed, it’s not unusual to see children bundled up in sweaters and winter coats, even as temperatures begin to climb!

A portrait of teenage girl with headband and scarf standing on the street in winter. Christmas shopping concept.A portrait of teenage girl with headband and scarf standing on the street in winter. Christmas shopping concept.

… you are passionate about soccer and your favourite team.

Explanation: There’s no denying it – Italians have a strong passion for soccer, much like Americans do for football and hockey. In fact, a survey conducted in 2020 revealed that approximately 6 out of 10 Italians express interest in the sport. Some fans, known as tifosi, are incredibly loyal and will support their team unwaveringly, even if they end up at the bottom of the league standings.

Close Up Of Player Taking Penalty During Womens Soccer MatchClose Up Of Player Taking Penalty During Womens Soccer Match

… you chose your vocational path in life early on.

Explanation: That’s because in Italy, once you obtain your junior high school diploma at the tender age of 14, you already have to decide what kind of further education you want to pursue. You can either sign up for courses offered by Vocational Training Centers or enroll in a secondary school (vocational institute, technical institute, or high school). And if that weren’t enough, there are actually six different types of high schools (known as liceo in Italian): artistico, classico, linguistico, musicale e coreutico, scientifico, and scienze umane.

Back to school. A cute child with a backpack sits on the stairs near the school and reads a textbook. Elementary school student studying homework after class.Back to school. A cute child with a backpack sits on the stairs near the school and reads a textbook. Elementary school student studying homework after class.

… you always took your vacations “al mare” or “in montagna.”

Explanation: During the summer and winter breaks, Italians flock in their droves to the sandy beaches and towering mountain peaks of the Italian peninsula. Those living near the mountains are often skilled skiers and snowboarders, beginning lessons at a young age. While some may travel abroad, those seeking a quick escape from the hustle and bustle of the big city will typically opt for one of these destinations.

Young mother with her little baby girl have fun sitting on a beach in summer day at sunset over mountains. Happy family concept. Happy childhood.Young mother with her little baby girl have fun sitting on a beach in summer day at sunset over mountains. Happy family concept. Happy childhood.

… you are super picky about when and how you drink your coffee.

Explanation: Italians are very particular about how they drink their coffee, or caffè in Italian. Cappuccinos are enjoyed before 11 a.m., while the rest of the day is dedicated to espresso, typically consumed quickly while standing at a bar counter or with colleagues around a table at work. Coffee is always enjoyed indoors—never as a takeaway.

… your mop up your sauce with bread at the end of a meal.

Explanation: The act of mopping up the sauce on one’s plate with a small piece of bread at the end of a meal is known as fare la scarpetta in Italian (literally “to do the little shoe”) and nearly all Italians do it. Note that while it is fine to partake in this ritual during an informal meal, it may be frowned upon during a more formal occasion.

Italian ciabatta bread cut in slices on wooden chopping board with salami.Italian ciabatta bread cut in slices on wooden chopping board with salami.

… your family comes first.

Explanation: This rings true in many cultures, but in Italy, family takes precedence above all else. Even young Italians residing abroad often make multiple trips home each year to ensure they can spend key holidays with their loved ones. Family get-togethers typically include not just immediate family but also extended relatives. And if you find yourself a guest in an Italian household, you’ll be embraced as part of the family, welcomed with open arms as if you were one of their own.

Family of young parents with small daugthers standing outside in spring nature.Family of young parents with small daugthers standing outside in spring nature.

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