"This is just what we do!": How to be an Italian Guest

Mamma didn't raise no fool!

Growing up in an Italian family, my parents instilled a set of of standards to adhere to in social settings. Each of those standards apply to showcasing a high level of class, and a consistent, respectful impression. It didn't matter if I was invited to a casual dinner at a friend's house, or a family gathering, as every possible scenario shared those same set of guidelines. Now as I've gotten older, I can honestly say that I don't know one Italian who doesn't live by these standards.


I don't know how else to explain it but, this is just what we do:

  1. Never show up empty-handed. If you're ever a guest in someone's home, you need to bring a form of a gift to the host to show your appreciation. On the occasion of a dinner, you would normally pick up some dessert at your favourite Italian bakery, or a bottle of wine. And of course, in the event of celebrating a birthday, anniversary or promotion, the most common form of a gift is a bottle of Prosecco. You don't need to break the bank here, it's just a matter of showing the host that you appreciate them.

  2. Dress to impress. I promise you the first thought that ever enters an Italian's head when they receive any form of invitation is "what am I gonna wear?". Outfit selection is something we've learned as early as our baptism, and has become apart of us ever since. Our mom's made sure to put us in the perfect outfit before we even turned one, so that we were properly dressed for that occasion. As we've grown older, we've become very aware of what's appropriate for certain events, and what can not only make us look but feel our best.

  3. Be on time. Being the last one to the party is not the best look. You want to make sure you leave early to get to any occasion right on time. If the host and their family are dressed and ready for your arrival at 6pm, you better be ringing the doorbell between 6pm and 6:05pm LATEST. Save the whole "fashionably late" thing, because the real message you're conveying with that is that you just really don't care to be there.

  4. Always make a point to say hello and goodbye to the host. Showing respect towards the host of your gathering pays tribute to how you were raised as an Italian. You want to make sure that you have a positive first and last impression. It's very important that if you don't meet the host at the door once you arrive, that you make it a priority to find them and say hello. Once the event concludes, you also want to make a point of saying goodbye and thank you to the host for allowing them to have you as their guest.

  5. Double-cheek kiss. This is a reflex for Italians when seeing their loved ones or meeting a fellow Italian/European. As soon as you're greeted at the door, you say hello, and give a double-cheek kiss.

  6. Never wear your shoes in the house. I think this may be THE GOLDEN rule for Italians because it just strikes every cord possible. When I see a tv show with character's walking around the house in heels, it literally pains me to think that people think this is okay! Italians always have a basket of slippers at the front door, and my mom would give me an ear full if I ever wore my shoes at Nonna's house. This was drilled into our heads at a young age that taking off shoes right away is a sign of respect, and there is no way you'll see us walking through your house with our shoes on. Even if you tell us the floor is dirty, we would rather dirty our feet, than let our outdoor shoes touch your floor. We love our shoes just as much as the next person, but they need to stay by the door.

  7. Always be helpful. The most important thing here is that you don't sit back while your host is going crazy trying to make their event special for your benefit. Offer your help in the kitchen (if that's your strong suit), or to support with setting up. Do as much as you can to be present in all aspects of the event from start to finish. Once it comes time for clean up, you also want to assist with cleaning dishes. This is something that blows every non-Italian I know away, but I've always known to start washing or drying dishes while being a guest at someone's home. It's not a matter of "putting us to work", we volunteer! Hosting brings on a lot of stress for people, and the clean-up portion of the night is not a time to get comfortable. As soon as you see plates start to pile up by the sink, or someone start to wash dishes, you gotta be all over it.

  8. Be social. You never want to be that person who sit's in the corner and misses out on getting to know the other guests. I can guarantee that the host will always be looking out for this to make sure that you're comfortable. Put yourself out there, and chat it up with as many people as you can.

  9. Eat. This all started with Nonna (and both I might add), but after getting scolded for 75% of my life, I know that if you don't eat what's in front of you, you're letting that host down. And why? Because just like any nonna, that host was busting her butt in the kitchen all day slaving to prepare the perfect spread for your arrival. Or maybe your host drove to kingdom come to get you the perfect lasagna from her favourite catering spot, then drove another half hour to get the most amazing cake from the best bakery she knows two cities over. So if you're "not really hungry" or you "ate before you came", you might as well just lean over and slap the woman in the face.

  10. Don't over-drink. If ever you're offered a glass of wine or a beer, be sure to read the room. If it's a special occasion and everyone has something in their hand, say yes. Have a glass or two, and also know that having more than what is offered to you is going to make people give you the side-eye. Remember that all eyes are on you, and you don't want to be that person in the corner that everyone is making fun of that night.

Whether you invite an Italian over for dinner, or to a small social-distancing gathering in your backyard, you better believe they'll show up to make an impression. And while some of these guidelines are on hold this year, just know that your Italian friends feel very bad knowing they have to scale back all they've ever known.


I hope you enjoyed this post, and let me know down below which of these guidelines you relate to most! Also be sure to give this post a like!


Fa la brava,

Juliana

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