Italian cashiers do not want you to put money directly into their hands. It's a serious payment faux pas. If you try to give it to them directly, they'll pull their hand away and point to the counter.
Almost every place I've been has a small tray where you're supposed to put the money. And when they hand you change, even if your palm is out, they will place it on the counter.
It's the exact opposite of the norm in the U.S. I feel incredibly rude if I just set the money on the counter.
I know as an employee, every time someone throws coins and some bills on the counter, I am immediately annoyed. It takes more time to pick up all those darn nickels and pennies you insist on paying with, and those people behind you aren't standing in a single-file line just for fun.
It took me awhile to get used to just setting money on the counter without feeling like I would be reprimanded with a filthy glare. But I'm used to it.
As far as cultural differences go, it's probably the easiest to manage. It just baffles me.
Editor’s note: Former Grand Haven Tribune intern Lydia Coutré is spending a semester in Italy. She is a junior at Kent State University, studying journalism. Her blogs during her stay in Italy will be posted here and at http://lydiaislost.blogspot.com. All photos by Lydia Coutré.