Paying for a glass of water? Having lunch on-the-go? Celebrating with only the most intimate friends? Here are a few customs a Sicilian can’t easily come to terms with.

The number of Sicilians living elsewhere is constantly on the rise. A number of factors contribute to the choice many of our fellow countrymen make to move, to other parts of Italy or abroad. For the most part, they have adapted to their new homes. However, there are five things that will always feel foreign to them. Let’s find out.

    Everyone knows life is more hectic in the North. But, the one thing no one is allowed to meddle with is punctuality. If someone were to say to you “Let’s meet at 8 o’clock”, you can be sure they will definitely be there at 7.55. In Sicily, on the other hand, “8 o’clock” is mostly a time period stretching from 8.30 to 10. So, “let’s meet at 8” actually means that if your friend hasn’t showed up on hour later, fret not: he or she is going to get there…eventually.
    Did you ever happen to be invited to a party by a northern friend only to find the place much less crowded then you expected? Meaning no offence to northern hospitality, but here in Sicily things work very differently. You can’t call something a party unless every last one of your relatives, down to the ones you barely recall the name of, is there.
    Even though this is the most popular stereotype when it comes to differences between the North and the South of Italy, it happens to be true: we will never make peace with having to cough up cash for a glass of tap water. The reason? Over here, thanks to a weird mechanism, you don’t even get to pay for your coffee. Often, it’s on the house.
    Now, putting aside the stereotype South=sun and North=fog for a moment, there are a few places in Sicily which seldom see a bit of sunshine (looking at you Enna!). This, however, does not keep your typical Sicilian from complaining about the weather whenever he is in the North. They just can’t help it. After all, one of the perks of being a Sicilian is to be able to enjoy sea, mountain and a pristine (so far) countryside.
    It is known, over here gastronomy is a serious affair. The quality of the delicacies the North can offer is not in question but a Sicilian would probably never prefer them to the ones he grew up with. Again, Northern friends, we mean no disrespect. Also, we are not playing on the cliché that Northern food is not very good. We are just stating a fact: for a Sicilian food means life, culture, family. Up North you are often in a rush and barely able to have lunch. Dinner is the same: you come home late from work and have to make due with something quick and easy, tomorrow is already looming on the horizon. One way or another, you are always pressed for time. In Sicily it’s not like this at all.

The world of a Sicilian revolves entirely around the foods his land has to offer: from arancini to horse meat, by way of panelle and cassata with all its variants. It doesn’t really matter, as long as it’s good food. If this sounds hard to believe, we urge you to spend a day with a Sicilian mother and see if by 7 a.m. she hasn’t already prepared meals for the next couple of days.


Translated into English by Francesco Raciti