Arm-in-Arm is part of the Italian Culture

Italians are passionate and affectionate

I think I can safely draw this conclusion after living in Italy for several years and observing the interactions amongst Italians. The photo above prompts me to pause and pay tribute to the visible bonds communicated by walking arm-in-arm. I’d also be remiss in not speaking to the greeting (and parting) of the kiss on both cheeks.

This photo makes me smile. There’s no question of the sisterhood of this fine ladies. And if you think this is only a sweet custom between women, and older people, think again. You’ll see people of all genders and ages walking arm-in-arm – families and friends alike.

Americans sometimes are a little put off by this.

Clarification of the above statement – not put off by observing this custom, but finding themselves in situations with new Italian friends and not knowing exactly what to do. I’m keenly aware of my American upbringing. The idea of greeting a male friend by kissing him on both cheeks initially seemed a little too weird. Yeah, maybe a hug, but that would be about it. And walking down the street with a male friend with our arms hooked together? Well, that was just an alien concept, until now. Simone taught me, very quickly, to get over my discomfort. I was certain people would stare. They didn’t.

And then i started paying attention. I love seeing two people walking arm-in-arm and having a conversation as they walk. You see the connection. Yes, Italians have fallen victim to digital addictions, but you don’t see as many people disconnecting into their devices. When they’re with other friends or family, they connect. They don’t seem to disconnect so readily.

If you plan to spend any significant time in Italy, be prepared to embrace and participate in these aspects of the culture.

This is my hearty recommendation. Of course, no Italian is going to force you to walk arm-in-arm or greet you with a double cheek kiss. Italians are respectful. But, you will stand out if you stick to a “safe” handshake with someone who has become a friend.

Still, when I am making new Italian friends I can detect their reticence in leaning in for the kiss to say “hello”. They’re looking for me to signal that’s it’s okay, and consequently, I have to make the first move. I’ve watched Americans – men and women alike, stand awkwardly in a moment of greeting and stiffly extend their hands for a handshake. Of course, Italians shake hands, but you’ll find that more often in meeting strangers and concluding business transactions.

Italy has been really good for me in this regard. Italy has been teaching me to drop my inhibitions and to lean into the Italian way of life. And you know what? I’m loving this. I’m becoming more like the women in the featured photo. I find myself smiling more and more at being part of a culture that so overtly communicates its affections and the importance of relationship and connection.

By |2019-01-21T17:27:16+01:00August 15th, 2017|Italian Culture|14 Comments

About the Author:

I’m an American expat living in Italy!


  1. whisperingsage February 8, 2020 at 3:07 am - Reply

    My father was Italian, but I was raised by my single mom, who herself was raised around a lot of Italians in the California coast. She worked the restaurants and bars, as a waitress, she taught us to cook and do many basic womanly and self sufficient life skills many people have forgotten or never learned. She was very demonstrative, we were always hanging on her, in her bed, laying on her in the recliner, dancing, singing, in the kitchen, the dogs would get excited and join in. So when I saw Leo Buscaglia on PBS I connected and cried and determined to live more huggily in my adulthood in my workplace (nursing home, that worked out pretty well. The old folks loved the attention.)

    • Jed February 21, 2020 at 7:15 pm - Reply

      What a lovely and inspiring tribute to tactile acts of love and connection. Thanks for sharing your experience about something so crucial to total well-being1

  2. @azicc September 15, 2017 at 1:52 pm - Reply

    Ciao Jed! I live in a Village parked time where I’m one of the only Italians and I can tell you I taught quite a few people how to hug I love this post! I am grateful I was taught to hug and be tactile Grazie grazie Anita

    • Jed September 16, 2017 at 3:35 pm - Reply

      Ciao Anita, I so glad to know that you are the beneficiary of an Italian family history that emphasized these kind of connections. Always love hearing from you, dear friend! xoxox Jed

  3. Susie August 24, 2017 at 7:20 pm - Reply

    I love this sisterhood!

  4. Nancy August 21, 2017 at 5:13 am - Reply

    Thanks so much for reminding us how important it is to connect with those around us. Wonderful post and photo!

    • Jed August 25, 2017 at 12:03 pm - Reply

      Thanks so much Nancy!

  5. debra August 18, 2017 at 7:22 am - Reply

    Hey, Jed….
    i cannot think of a more charming way to have a conversation than to do it arm in arm. How can you not be smiling!
    i long for the day when greeting otlhers with kisses on both cheeks signifies time well spent of a life in Italy.
    Thanks, as always Jed, for sharing. For someone who’s dreamed of Italy for so long, your posts are priceless!

    • Jed August 18, 2017 at 12:30 pm - Reply

      Thank you so much Debra! Anything I can do to keep bringing the dreams of Italy to life makes me happy!

  6. Ellen Griffith August 16, 2017 at 2:14 am - Reply


  7. Nancy August 15, 2017 at 5:05 pm - Reply

    I loved this post Jed. And I love this about gli Italiani!

    • Jed August 16, 2017 at 12:14 pm - Reply

      Grazie Nancy!

  8. Joee Balestrieri August 15, 2017 at 12:07 pm - Reply

    Jed, I love this post!

    I am the granddaughter of Italian immigrants so even though I was born in the States, I grew up in a very Italian culture and I saw the passion and affection among our family and friends as being different from other people in my small city. My grandmother never stopped at a single kiss on each cheek! She held your face in her little hands and gave half a dozen kisses at a time!

    Thank you so much for reminding me of a wonderful memory!

    • Jed August 16, 2017 at 12:19 pm - Reply

      Thanks Joee! I’m happy to help bring back such fond memories of your grandmother. She sounds like a force of love!

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