I'm now in Italy and found that a clerk sometimes use buongiorno when I entered the bar. I always use ciao when I greet, but I wonder whether it is OK to greet by ciao or should use buongiorno when I first get a greeting.

Also, should I use it apart according to the situation, for example depending on the age of the clerk and me, the type of shop (cheap bar, more upper-scale restaurants, or luxury brand, etc...), etc...?

  • Using ciao corresponds to using tu (informal second person), which roughly corresponds to be on first-name terms. Using buongiorno corresponds to using Lei (formal second person), which roughly corresponds to calling the other party by surname or title.
    – DaG
    Commented Jan 1, 2018 at 15:09

1 Answer 1


You use ciao in an informal situation, with your friends and with someone you know.

You use buongiorno in formal situations , when you first meet someone. It is considered a polite and respectful greet, used especially with older people.

Obviously this form can be used instead of ciao but never do the opposite or you could be considered rude.

  • I see, so I have been rude to the clerk... Thanks.
    – Blaszard
    Commented Dec 31, 2017 at 19:41
  • Well, he won’t be particularly concerned about it knowing you’re a foreigner. But remember that with people on duty is always advisable to use buongiorno.
    – abarisone
    Commented Dec 31, 2017 at 19:49

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