Something in the Water: Rome’s Refreshing Culture
Jaclynn Clark, WSA Intern
The first days of studying abroad are always overwhelming. You’re in a new country, with a new language, new faces, and it’s obvious that all the locals know you are a foreigner. This is old news for anyone familiar with going abroad, but once the stressful first few days are over, I guarantee you will learn to find and love the quirky aspects of the culture in your new home.
The first difference I was surprised to find about Rome was that its water, although coming from a not-so-clean looking outdoor ancient faucet, is actually way better quality than where I’m from in the US. Having gone to school at the University of Arizona for the past four years, I’m used to a beautiful, clean faucet with murky tap water and fearing the diseases I could contract from drinking it. But in Rome, I found it to be the exact opposite! A somewhat attractive outdoor faucet with the clearest and most delicious water I’ve tasted! Water fountains are utilized often here, as a common Roman practice to reuse plastic water bottles on the street rather than constantly buying new ones, like we do in America.
Another difference of Italian culture is their sense of time. In the states, we rush, are late, run to class, and altogether freak out over punctuality. Our GO GO GO mindset is relentless in terms of work ethic and, god forbid, there is a point in time where someone isn’t present in a customer service business. We walk speedily down the street, often bumping into things while tripping on curbs because our spatial awareness is nowhere to be found. Italians have a very different mentality, which is rather refreshing but seems illogical to an American at first. For instance, you never see an Italian run through the streets or have a fit because the bus didn’t show up on time. They stay cool as cucumbers. They glide down the street with heads held high, never tripping on the uneven cobblestones beneath them. It baffles me, because even with 18 years of ballet training I have great difficulty walking through Rome without staring at my feet to avoid pulling a Sandra Bullock in Miss Congeniality.
It was also mind boggling when a few friends and I went out to a restaurant during the dinnertime rush hour. Yet, upon arrival, there was no waiters or help to be found. We ended up leaving the restaurant, which was filled with customers mind you, to find the two waiters whom had decided to go on break at the same time leaving the entire business helpless, awaiting their return. Even when we asked if they would seat us, they refused and said they were on break, but to come back in 30 min. Having worked in the restaurant business, I can honestly say that would never fly and they would have been fired on the spot for those kind of shenanigans. The whole scenario was quite comical for us Americans!
Lastly, the stereotypical idea about Italy is that the national sport is soccer, or futbol, but I can tell you: you’re gravely mistaken. Italian men take pride in their national sport being… women. They enjoy the frequent catcall, a good stare, just about anything to get your attention. In bars they like to grab your hair, touch your shoulders, and many things that would easily cause an American girl to feel so uncomfortable, but in all honesty it is entirely harmless. At first it made me wonder- how do these Italian women live like this and how can these men possibly think throwing themselves at you is in any way attractive?! My conclusion… it has to be something in this delicious water. I swear it must give these Italian women the superhero ability to just ignore these men and these men to get used to being ignored. From first-hand experience, it’s best not to talk back to an Italian man when he is “playing the game” with you. If you do, be prepared to get confronted cause every action causes a reaction here in Roma.
That being said, now that I’ve had enough of this Roman water it’s easier and easier to adjust to the culture shock. Being abroad is the experience of a lifetime and I have grown to love these differences already as part of the incredible beauty this eternal city has to offer. It takes a week or so, but once you relax and enjoy the wonderful aspects of your city, being abroad is an experience that enhances your perspective of the world forever!
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