New blog on the cultural differences between France and Italy! Italy is a bit like our country of love (kiss kiss to the little ones in Belluno and Vicenza), so we’re happy to share with you a few blogs about the land of love. If you do one of these 4 internships in Italy, you’ll know what to expect! Here we go, my little friend.

Longer studies

One of the cultural differences between France and Italy is the number of years spent studying. In Italy, it takes 13 years to obtain the baccalauréat! In France, the difference is 12 years at collège level. 4 years for us and 3 for them! They have to choose their direction from the age of 14. That’s a bit early, isn’t it? That’s compensated for at lycée, where it takes much longer: 3 years for us and 5 for them! Then it depends which school you choose… In Italy there are 3 different types of school, there’s the one that deals mainly with the technical profession, ITIS: Istituto Tecnico Industriale Statale, and that normally lasts between 3 and 4 years. Then there are the schools that offer both technical and more theoretical training, these are called ITE: Istituto Tecnico Economico, and ITC: Istituto Tecnico Commerciale. These schools normally last between 4 and 5 years. Finally, the last type of school, the lycées, provides a completely theoretical education and lasts 5 years. Normally after these studies you can choose if you want to go to university or not… except for the lycée, which you have to go to. We much prefer our system ? don’t we?

Morning coffee

When you do your internship in Italy, you’ll be drinking coffee. Lots and lots of coffee. But in small quantities! There’s little or no double, American, etc. It’s a ristretto coffee: strong, short and very strong. An espresso or cappuccino is also possible. You’ll see Italians stopping off at the local bar in their suits and ties before leaving for work, chatting and drinking their coffee. The first two o’clock in the morning at the bar is full, you could say from around 7 to 9 o’clock in the morning, so it’s practically impossible to have a quiet coffee like in France, which is why many Italians take their breakfast with them. Others, having arrived early, manage to get the best seats and can read their newspapers in peace while drinking a good cup of coffee.

They are very well dressed!

They have a reputation for always being neat and tidy. Men or women, it’s not a myth, they clearly have style. And we’re jealous. The women are magnificent, and so are the men, in 3-piece suits or long dresses. Nothing to complain about. Clearly. It’s not for nothing that Milan is considered a city of fashion. Even in summer, if you want to avoid looking like a tourist in sandals, stay well dressed. And keep your arms/shoulders covered when entering museums or churches, otherwise you won’t pass (even in shorts, by the way). You can see the same guy dressed in a suit and tie one day, and the next day in sweatpants and a sweatshirt.

The Italian Menu

Another cultural difference between France and Italy is the menu. Unlike our typical starter, main course and dessert menu, for your course in Italy it will be 4 courses. Antipasto, primo, secondo and dolce. This is the equivalent of a starter, a sort of appetiser, followed by a first course (usually pasta or risotto), a second course (meat or fish, possibly with a side dish) and finally the dessert, which is a real treat! Don’t worry if you don’t eat much, it’s not a problem, you don’t have to have all the dishes, you can choose to have the Antipasto but not the secondo for example, it’s up to you to decide according to your tastes and hunger. A word of advice: leave a little space for dessert, because if you don’t, you might regret it.


This is one of my favourite aspects of Italy: aperitivo. In France, it’s peanuts that everyone digs into. In Italy, it’s petit fours, mini sandwiches and lots of little appetisers. And there’s no need to pay: just take a cocktail and help yourself to as much as you like. Obviously leave some for others at the risk of being badly perceived. You’ll love it ?. A lot of times aperitivo is done before a party with your friends and you can do it at any time, but according to what they say they do it before going to a party, so at the party you don’t need to drink a lot to “have fun” ;). Also because drinks are expensive.


The most obvious cultural difference between France and Italy is surely the cuisine. I don’t think there’s any doubt about it. French cuisine or Italian cuisine? It pains me to say it, but Italian cuisine is definitely on another level. Yes, it’s true that there’s a lot of good stuff in France, but compared to Italian food, I don’t think we can even think of having any competition. Pizza Napoletana, ossobuco con risotto, pasta, tiramisù, i cannoli siciliani, gli arancini, i supplì, this food is only a part of all that’s good to eat in Italy, if you want to know more, just take a flight to Italy and discover for yourself.


Italian language is a lot of fun, in Italy you can practically hold a conversation with gestures. They’re very important, you can’t go to Italy without knowing a bit about them. They can express emotions like feelings or situations, so if someone responds to you with a gesture or a head movement, don’t worry, it’s normal. If you spend a bit of time in Italy, you’ll already be able to understand how it works in the first few days. Gestures are also a way of expressing your own emotions, so if someone or a friend is sad, distressed or worried, you can understand them through body language and especially hand language.


There are a few differences between French and Italian habits! In France, we’re used to having a shower before dinner, normally after 9 o’clock in the evening nobody has a shower. In Italy, on the other hand, you wash whenever you like, and I know Italians who shower even at 10/11pm. Another difference in habits is courtesy. In France, whenever you go into a shop, it’s very common to say hello, whereas in Italy, if you say hello or good evening, people don’t expect it and so they look at you badly or surprised. Another very different habit is friendliness. In Italy, people are much more friendly, in the street, in bars, it’s almost as if everyone knows everyone else. This doesn’t happen with the French, who tend to be firmer at first, but when the French get to know each other you can safely say that we’re having the time of our lives.


The final cultural difference between France and Italy is prices. Of course, if you want to go and do an internship in Italy, you need to know whether it costs a lot or not. From my experience, I can tell you that if you go to the south of Italy the prices are really low, there are even routes to take where you can buy lots of things for one euro, the food is not expensive and the activities to do are everywhere and they’re cheap. Unlike the north of Italy, prices there are practically the same as they are here, so it doesn’t change too much, maybe the price of a coffee or a brioche does, hand or even temple you don’t think it’s the same price.

There are plenty of other cultural differences, so don’t hesitate to contact us, we’re here to advise you. GO for your work placement in Italy.

For more general questions, visit the International Horizons Internships Abroad FAQ.