North… South… in Italy it is often talked about, and now even foreigners have understood that living in the North and living in the South can be very different experiences. Therefore, in this article we are going to highlight the differences in culture, habits and traditions of life in the North and in the South of the Italian peninsula!
Cultural differences between Northern and Southern Italy
I would like to remind everyone, especially Italians, that this video has a purely ironic purpose: making people smile through stereotypes and clichés is the main objective. So, nobody should feel offended or discredited!
1 – THE WEDDING CEREMONY
In the North, there is usually a rather short ceremony, in the town hall or in church, followed by an equally short reception, with a few people (family and close friends), usually at a villa, with catering, sparkling wine, the bride and groom’s ball, cutting the cake, some photos, toasts… and usually at 8 o’clock in the evening it’s all over (unless the wedding is in the evening).
In the South, you don’t celebrate a wedding, you fight a war! The night before, people meet under the house of the bride’s parents because the groom usually organizes a serenade in honor of his beloved. On this occasion, there is singing, dancing, food… the whole neighborhood participates and celebrates!
The bride then has 3 or 4 hours to rest, because she has to wake up early enough and go to the hairdresser for a “sober” hairstyle with curls and hair clips and flowers etcetera, which usually takes 1 or 2 hours. The ceremony continues in the church, with readings from the various relatives.
At the end of the ceremony, the bride and groom leave for the photoshoot for the memory album… this lasts at least until 3 o’clock in the afternoon, when they show up at the reception hall and only then does the party begin: with 3 first courses, dances, 3 second courses, dances, side dishes, dances, fruit, dances, dessert buffet, cake, wedding favors, photos with relatives, fireworks, dove throwing…
In conclusion, it ends at midnight (maybe), if there is no disco section afterwards or… pasta and beans, which is a thing, in fact! And yes, after all that food, of course!
2 – THE HOLIDAYS
In the North, holidays are a fundamental ritual, the most eagerly awaited moment of the whole year, when you can finally pull the plug and escape from work and stress for a few days. You usually choose a resort or hotel, in Italy or abroad, which is usually booked a few weeks in advance. The holiday usually includes various excursions, visits, boat trips or ski lessons.
In the South, the holidays are spent at your aunt’s beach house. And no, you don’t need to book! No matter how many relatives may show up, they are always welcome, even if there are not enough beds, there is always the possibility for someone to sleep on the beach chair on the balcony, or on the inflatable mattress on the floor! The days all go by in the same way: you wake up early, have breakfast and leave for the beach, to grab the best places on the shore! Everyone brings something: the beach umbrella, deckchairs, games for the children, the fridge with fresh beers, sandwiches, parmigiana, watermelon… Everyone has lunch on the beach and waits at least 3 hours before going for a swim… to avoid congestion!
3 – CHRISTMAS AND NEW YEAR’S EVE
In the North, Christmas is December 25th, a day that is celebrated with a lunch that includes several courses and is usually eaten within a couple of hours. On New Year’s Eve it works more or less the same.
In the South, Christmas lasts at least 3 days, the 24th, 25th and 26th. On the 24th there is always a big dinner, usually fish-based, which includes appetizers, first course, main course and some snacks. Everything lasts easily until midnight, when you open the panettone and toast with sparkling wine, singing “Tu scendi dalle stelle” (not mandatory) and exchanging greetings and gifts.
On the 25th people meet again and have a remarkable lunch, which involves sitting at the table at 1pm and getting up at 6pm (if you’re lucky!). Appetizers, first course, second course, side dish, fruit, dried fruit, desserts, coffee, “coffee killer”, etcetera etcetera.
And the 26th? All over again, of course! By the way, also in the South, the days 27, 28, 29 and 30 of December create a bit of disorientation: nobody knows what day it is, but in a certain sense it’s still a holiday, because you eat all the Christmas leftovers and get ready for New Year’s Eve.
4 – THE SUNDAY
In the North, Sunday is the day of rest. Therefore, you have all those relaxing activities that you usually can’t do during the week: a run in the park in the morning, or sleeping in late (depending on your wishes), making pancakes or waffles, then a walk, lunch at home in total relaxation or at the restaurant, a short afternoon walk or an apericena with friends and then you go to bed early to prepare for Monday.
In the South, Sunday is family day: generally, you have lunch at your grandparents’ house, and beware if you try to suggest going to a restaurant, because according to grandma “you don’t know what they put in those dishes, while my food is all natural”. And you can’t say no to her, also because she wakes up at 6 a.m. to prepare the meat sauce with chops that must be cooked for 3 or 4 hours! Not to mention the fried food: having lunch at a grandmother’s in the south means that there must necessarily be something fried, whether it’s vegetables, fish, meat, it doesn’t matter. Lunch lasts a little less than Christmas lunch, but you certainly don’t get up from the table before 4pm.
5 – THE NEIGHBOURS
In the North, neighbours are neighbours: you barely know each other, you exchange a greeting, good morning and good evening and, at most, you ask for sugar or some other food if you don’t have it at home when you need it.
In the South, however, neighbours are like relatives, like uncles or grandparents: they are always at your house or vice versa, you share what you cook, you organise big dinners on the street where everyone is welcome and you gossip together! Ah, I almost forgot! The neighbours in the south are like cameras: they know everything you do! They control you!
6 – DATES AND APPOINTMENTS
If someone from the North invites you to an appointment (whether it’s for business or sentimental or friendly) and gives you a time to meet, you can easily show up at that time: that person will always be on time.
If someone from the South gives you a time for an appointment, you can take your time: they will always arrive at least half an hour after the time they gave you!
7 – GETTING FIT FOR THE SUMMER
In the North, people start going to the gym in January to prepare for the summer holidays. After Christmas everyone goes on a diet, so they eat a lot of salads, a lot of smoothies, pizza only once a week and they try to do their best (apart from a few slip-ups) in an attempt to get ready for summer and the beach.
In the South, on the other hand, in May people are still eating the panettoni and colombe leftover from Christmas and Easter. Not to mention the fact that spring is the season for weddings, so we’re back to point 1 and all the courses that a single wedding party provides!
8 – THE HAPPY HOUR
In the North, 6 p.m. is the best time for cocktails. You go to an exclusive place with friends, stay until about 8 or 9 pm, eat snacks, chips, tortillas, sandwiches and have a Spritz. In total, you pay from 10 to 25 euros per person and everyone pays for themselves, for what they have consumed. And of course, if you enter the club and there is no room, you have to leave! So, it’s a matter of luck!
In the South, you start at least at 8 pm and continue until an undefined time! But especially in summer, the bars stay open until 2 a.m.! You can eat snacks and tortillas and sandwiches and fries and olives and salami and cheese and taralli and pickles, all for 7 or 8 euros each … but if you know the bartender, the price can go down! It’s all about making him your friend! Oh and of course, if you enter the bar and you realise that there is no place… it doesn’t matter! You will surely find a table with someone you know and you can join them, because you know, where 4 people fit, 10 people can fit as well!
Ah, speaking of happy hour, did you know that there’s usually focaccia as an appetiser? If you want to know how to make focaccia, watch the video I made with my mother in which we make one together!
Also, let me know in the comments if and which customs and traditions also exist in your country! Do you reflect more in the South or North?