Italian and American Youth: Some Cultural Differences

Italian and American Youth

Italian and American Youth: Some Cultural Differences


Every country has certain cultural patterns making it unique. Of course, habits and customs between cultures and countries tend to overlap: the popularity of social media, for instance, ignores borders and breaks down cultural differences. Technology has made the world a much smaller and culturally homogenous place however, when looking at a foreign country, we will always find differences between our traditions and theirs.

Young Italians and young Americans, for example, albeit similar in many respects, have also some pronounced differences, especially when it comes to work, meeting places and sports.


Most American teens have part time jobs through high school and college. Youths in Italy tend not to. The reasons behind this are multifaceted. It is, to begin with, rather hard in Italy to find the type of part time jobs students usually take up. Moreover, there is also a different cultural attitude to take into consideration, especially when thinking of certain parts of Italy: young Italians like to enjoy life to the full and feel there will be time to work once they become adults, hence the lack of interest in finding odd jobs while still in school. Like the old saying goes, some Italians work to live, while some Americans often live to work.

The work situation in Italy and the United States becomes tragically similar in the years after University. Both  countries have been struggling with high unemployment rates, as well as with a general shift in the job's market, which makes young workers nervous and unhappy.

Used to a system of extreme stability and gilded benefits, young Italians are now entering into a workforce that more closely resembles the American's: many  employers, for instance, require employees to be able to move, but Italians find  these trasferimenti (transfers) from one city to another hard to accept. Waiting for a job with great benefits, security and prospects for advancement means that many of the young in Italy can't find employment at all.


Meeting Places

When going out, Italians teens tend to meet and gather on the streets of their cities or town, something not as common in the United States, especially in highly populated areas. This very Italian habit can be linked to the urban configuration of Italian towns. Many of them date back thousands of years and feature central piazzas and areas built around historical sites that have now become gathering places for the young. If you're in Italy, don't be surprised by the sight of hundreds gathered in a piazza or on the street, laughing and drinking the night away.

Meeting Place: Campo dei Fiori, Rome

The relatively good weather in many areas of Italy allows this trend to continue even after the summer is over, although it is more common in warmer months. A town's main street or square becomes a luogo di ritrovo or meeting place, where people cannot only hang out, but also meet up to plan the rest of their night. Activities in Italy usually include going to a club, a pub or grabbing a pizza, which is very much what youngsters do in the United States, too.

In the United States one of the biggest meeting places for teens is the mall. Depending on the set up of the town, a central store or coffee shop will often provide the same function. These days, several American cities are designed with a European-style town center, which will likely change the way the young in that area meet.

Free Time

In a lot of ways, young Italians and Americans spend their free time in similarly: listening to music, watching movies, hanging out, practicing sports  and surfing the internet are all common ways to pass some free time. Italians, especially, make a point of going out and being social, often choosing between pizzerie, birrerie (pub) or paninoteche, which stay open late.  Italians often pile into a couple of cars and go out in a big group.

In general, American teens participate in a multitude of extracurricular activities, many often through school, while Italians may not take part in so many. Which brings us to...



While many American teens are  in sport teams, either related or not to their own school or university,  Italians often play sports on their own time. Italian schools don't have the time or the facilities that a lot of American schools have, making school sports much rarer. Italians will often be found enrolling in dance or swimming classes on their own time.

Italian universities--unlike Americans'--don't have the same type of sports facilities. The types of sports played are also different: while basketball has become increasingly popular in Italy, just as soccer has in the US, baseball and football, so popular in the States, still take a backseat in Italy.

Another huge difference between Italian and American teenagers is the age they finally fly the family nest to live alone. Typically, Americans leave their family home when they go college. A lot of Italians--due to both cultural and financial reasons--will live at home well into their 30s or until they get married.





Sunday, December 11TH, 2011 by Guest

Great article. Interesting and fun reading. how about dating/love life? what are the differences and similarities there. And how about men and women behaviors. What do Italian men and women consider important in life and relationships and how is it different in the US.

Sunday, December 11TH, 2011 by Guest

One thing that always struck me about teens in big cities...was that, in Brooklyn or Queens, seeing a group of kids sometimes made you nervous...In Italy, those kids hanging out on the street corner, looking all tough, would magically disappear at 19:45 - just in time to go home for some pasta...
Burnt by the Tuscan Sun

Tuesday, January 03TH, 2012 by Guest

I'd rather move to Italy than in USA. life in Italy is more simple and tranquil.

Thursday, January 17TH, 2013 by Guest

I was born and have been living in Milan, Italy for the past 17 years, and i have just recently moved to Santa Barbara. I am amazed by how true your article is for I have had the experience of living both lifestyles and if I had the chance of going back to Italy I would definitely go because life for teenagers is 10 times better than here in America. However, I moved to the USA because I didn't want to live in my parents house 'till I'm 30, and prefer to go to college and get my life started.

Thursday, October 31TH, 2013 by Guest

Good food, deep history, and beautiful scenery. That's all Italy is good for. Outside of that it's an awful place to live and while the teenagers may be friendlier--they are less alive. It's an incredibly naïve and boring mindset, the Italian mindset. They don't take risks, they don't act like kids. From the outside looking in, Italy seems like an amazing place. But it's not. Their technology and mindsets are stuck in lala land.