When not in Rome…
The New York Times had a review of a new book on Italy and Italians today. The review began with this paragraph:
“In Italy, red lights come in many varieties. A rare few actually mean stop. Others, to the Italian driver, suggest different interpretations. At a pedestrian crossing at 7 a.m., with no pedestrians around, it is a “negotiable red,” more like a weak orange. At a traffic intersection, red could mean what the Florentines call rosso pieno, or full red, but it might, with no cars coming, be more of a suggestion than a command. It all depends.”
This is an approach to laws that most Americans have some difficulty with. People here stop at red lights even though it’s 2:00 AM and there’s not another car in the county, and would get a ticket from a cop if they didn’t stop.
I’ve heard the difference in culture applied also to Canon Law. “The Italians make the laws, and the Americans keep them.”