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HomeDressBasic Sicilian Etiquette

Basic Sicilian Etiquette

If you plan on going to Sicily, holidays with friends or family can be a delight. But it is definitely well worth your time to study up on good manners – local style. After all, making new friends and impressing the locals with your actions can go a long way to enjoying everything the island has to offer.

Start with a firm but not constrictive handshake. This is a good rule of thumb to remember when meeting Italians for the first time. Strike a balance between just enough pressure to let the other party feel acknowledged but not enough pressure to feel pain or to sense some sort of challenge. Remember to smile and look into the eyes of the person you are shaking hands with.

Respect the conservative mind-set. This Italian island is a pretty conservative one, with strong Catholic sensitivities instilled in the mind-sets of locals. You don’t necessarily need to agree with everything, but do remember to respect the beliefs that they hold. Dress modestly, be polite and set your strongest convictions aside while in Sicily. Holidays are meant to be relaxed, so don’t bring any preconceptions in your luggage!

Avoid drastic hand gestures while speaking. Italians are virtuosos of hand gestures, and Sicilians are no exceptions. But what may be an innocent gesture such as making a large circle with your outstretched hands or signing the OK sign with your thumb and index finger could mean entirely different things to the locals. In the previous examples, you would be inviting a fight with the large circular gesture while the OK sign implies that you are gay.

Match the driving speed of other drivers. There is little tolerance for driving slowly or leaving more than five feet of space between yourself and the car in front of you. Try and match the speed of the vehicles around you, especially while on the highways, or you’ll get honked at for taking your sweet time. But obviously, stay safe and don’t extend yourself or go beyond your driving capabilities.

Avoid purple, black and red gifts for locals. These colours are taboo and not many tourists realize this aspect in Sicily. Holidays can be a time for giving small gifts to hospitable locals you may meet, but purple is frowned upon for it symbolizes Julius Caesar’s power grab; black is reserved for funeral services; and red is a colour symbolizing scandal (especially when it comes to flowers). Beware.

Wipe up extra sauce with your bread. You may commit quite a few minor culinary mistakes on your first time to Sicily! Holidays will, naturally, see you eating out a lot and the dining etiquette here can be quite complex. But one thing you can do to show the chef or host that you appreciate and enjoy their efforts is to wipe up the sauce of your meal with the bread. It may feel like bad manners, but in fact is the ultimate compliment.

Chat at the dinner table but not while eating. Speaking of meals, it is considered rude to keep talking when the words Buon appetito are uttered. You are expected to respect the meal before you by focusing on it and savouring the flavours instead of chatting with others.

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