When visiting a foreign land, it’s always nice to make an effort to speak the local language. Learning a whole new language is probably not a realistic goal for your vacation, but picking up a few key communication tips is totally feasible.
I picked up several such tips when I got to tour Italy a couple of years ago. For example, did you know that excuse me is “scusi” not “escusi,” and thank you is “grazzia,” not “gratzi”?
Recently, I interviewed Steve Perillo, CEO, President, and third-generation family owner of Perillo Tours, America’s leading tour company to Italy for more advice. Here are his expert tips on communicating like a local in Italy.
1. Ciao Means Hello And Goodbye
When greeting someone you don’t know well, you can use “salve” to say hello, or say “buongiorno” (good morning) or “buona sera” (good evening). However, if you do know the person, you can say “ciao,” which works as both a greeting and a farewell salutation.
2. Lean Left For Air Kisses
It’s important to know which way to lean first for air kisses, or il bacietto, so that you don’t lean the same way as the other person and end up planting one on their lips. According to Steve, we should “Lean to the left side and join the right cheeks and then change to the left cheeks.”
3. From “Buono” To The Finger Purse — How To Express Yourself Non-Verbally
If you really want to look like a local, you’ve got to gesticulate in Italian, too! Here are some common Italian gestures and their meanings:
Italians purse their fingers as a general exclamation of annoyance or confusion. It can mean:
- “Ma che vuoi?” — But what do you want?
- “Ma che fai?” — But what are you doing?
- “Ma che dici?” — But what are you saying?
It can also ask general questions, such as Where?, Who?, and Why?. To purse your fingers, simply press the thumb against the other fingers while holding your hand upward.
Perform the “perfetto” gesture by putting your index finger and thumb together and drawing an imaginary line in the air as if you are pulling a zipper closed (horizontally). Italians use this to show that something is perfect or delicious.
The chin flick means “I don’t care” or “I don’t give a damn.” You can do this by flicking your fingers out from under your chin.
Italians use the “buono” gesture to say that a meal is delicious. Say something is yummy without saying anything at all by poking your index finger into your cheek.
Putting your hands together (like in prayer) and moving them up and down is a way of pleading with someone to “come on.”