Italy was incredibly rich in culture and atmosphere. It was unlike anything I have ever experienced in the US. The initial culture shock was hard to get over, but once I became comfortable my experience was excellent. One thing that surprised me was how much English the average Italian spoke. I was expecting to need a sufficient amount of Italian to get by, but every store owner I came across knew enough English to speak with me. The general population is also used to tourists, so everyone was okay with helping me navigate. The culture was very laidback. The stores opened late in the morning, meals would carry on for hours, and the shop owners were not fretful over money. Rushing and being on time was not as important to the average Italian as it would be to an American. It was refreshing to not need to rush everywhere and constantly be on time. Something I had to learn was to not rush when at a restaurant. Eating is supposed to be a time of relaxing, so the average meal at a restaurant will take around two hours. Rushing the servers for the check is considered to be rude. It was annoying at first having to wait, but once I found a group of friends I liked talking to it was refreshing to take the time to talk and relax.
Overall, I had a fun experience learning Italian culture. It was not what I was expecting, but it was enriching once I learned to adapt. I would encourage anyone traveling to another country to try their best to take in the culture from the people around you.