I am pretty good at learning the habits of others around me so I can blend in. In the Domincan I stuck out like a sore thumb, but I learned the accent, mannerisms, and lingo to slip into the culture as much as possible. I taught my body to move just like a Dominicana when we danced the bachata and merengue, and could not stop smiling when my host sister told me I didn't look American when I danced (I'd like to attribute this to the Lebanese blood but may be just my pride speaking). Here in Italy I have learned a few things to help me look like a Bergamasca native that is completely familiar with her surroundings.
The Walk: I walk everywhere. The trick to walking like an Italian is to keep a steady gate and let your arms swing at your sides if you aren't carrying anything. People my age wear headphones with only one earbud in and sunglasses as well. I enjoy walking with my music going and my sunglasses shading my eyes. When you pass people you don't make eye contact or say hi. Just look straight ahead.
The Fashion: I prepared myself to enter a country where fashion was everything. I was right. There is no such thing as a woman "letting herself go" here. Ever. No matter your class, you wear your choice of style to it's fullest. Scarves are a must. You can wear something rediculous here if you act like it is fashionable. I've seen the strangest clothes. This makes me feel better because as long as I act like what I'm wearing is cool, it is. I haven't seen any flip-flops but the ones on my feet. These I will not give up. I like them too much. Plus they let me show off my toe-ring.
The Feeding Time: This is just as, if not more, important than fashion. Whenever possible, you have the fork in your left hand. If you are going to fill up your glass, you check to make sure no one else needs it first. If they do, fill theirs, then give yourself some. Glasses are only filled halfway. There is generally more that one course. At the simplest, you have the main meal and then after some cheese or bread. Olive oil graces every Italian table. At parties you have at least four courses. First an appetizer, then the main dish, next comes the post main dish appetizer (I don't know the proper name), and then dessert. Conversation makes meals enjoyable whether you are at home or out.
Conversation: Italians are great conversationalists. It is a part of so much. At meals, if there is a slight lull in the conversation, someone immediately picks it up. Usually with a "How are you, (enter name here)? Is everything well?" The questioned person then tells the table what they have been up to, about thier sick kid, and the movies they have seen recently. This spurs more conversation. You always make sure to say hello and goodbye to everyone, whether it is your mother, your friend, or the lady checking out your groceries. You greet friends and family by taking their hand and kissing them on the left cheek first, then the right. Most people just kiss the air.
I smile to myself when a tourist thinks I am a normal part of the Bergamo scene. Here in Northern Italy my light skin and hair do not make me stick out, as there are Italians much paler than me walking around. I have even seen multiple blond haired, blue eyed Italians. Many people also have curly hair like mine so that helps as well. Just hand me my Aviator sunglasses and music and I'm ready to go slip into the Italian image this summer has handed me.
Peace in Christ