Quit acting like an American and (try to) do as the Romans do

rome_michaeldrummond_file
Michael Drummond/File

Oh, Rome. From its spectacular shows put on at the Colosseum to its particular coffee culture, the Eternal City is rivaled by no other. Those who visit will be overtaken by the richness of the metropolis’s history, but tourists may also notice a few other things that all the guidebooks neglected to tell them. Here are a few of the outstanding cultural differences Americans may notice.

Anarchy on the roads

If you think driving in Berkeley is difficult, don’t hop in a car in Rome. There, no one abides by the laws of the road. People won’t be scared to pull into your lane without warning. Pedestrians need to be ready to jump out of the way of roaring Fiats at any moment. Parking spots are basically anywhere a car can fit — including in the middle of a crosswalk. Ever wonder why such small cars are so popular in Europe? Well, it’s because everyone is basically playing a never-ending game of bumper cars.

Where’s the water?

Time to grab that Hydro Flask, people. Want water? You better bring your own. Bars, restaurants and clubs all charge for what we consider to be a given in the States. While bottles at a grocery store are reasonably priced (sparkling water being even more of a bargain), asking for some at a club can cost you almost $4.

On the bright side, however, if you do have your own reusable bottle, the city is littered with small fountains on the sides of the streets. At first glance, they may look like rogue pipes growing out of the ground. Don’t worry, though, as this water is clean as can be.

Don’t forget fashion

If you think Berkeley fashion is going to fly in Rome, you’re gravely mistaken. Everyone has taken it back to black, adorning themselves in 50 shades of neutral (so spicy). So before you leave your hotel in Rome looking like you just pulled an all-nighter in Moffitt, ask yourself one question: What would a Roman do?

Coffee confusion

As briefly mentioned, coffee culture is a thing of its own in Rome. The rules revolving around what, when and how to order are infinite. If visiting, you may not be able to pick up on all the rules, but here are the basics.

First, you have to pay for your coffee before you order at the bar. After, you bring the receipt over to the barista. Make sure that you never ask for your drink to go. Coffee is a great excuse for Italians to take a break during the day, which means you should, too.

As far as your order goes, espresso is perfect for any time of day. Cappuccinos are acceptable any time before noon, and macchiatos are a great drink for after lunch.

Also, forget about plopping yourself down at a cafe all day to knock out an essay. People don’t stay any longer than 30 minutes if doing work. But, if you’re catching up with friends, sticking around a little longer is perfectly fine.

Takeout? Get out.

“Can I get a to-go box for the rest of this pizza?” No, Gladice, you can’t. As one wise Roman local told me, if you can’t finish your meal, you shouldn’t have been eating it in the first place. The dining culture is very different from that of the States. Many know Americans for their grazing style of eating, but in Italy, meals are strictly set and take place at a much later time in the day. So rather than munching on gelato and other snacks while touring the city, wait to actually enjoy your meal (and finish it).

If you’re heading to Rome, be sure to avoid these faux pas and live like a true Italian. Arrivederci!

Contact Kirsty Fowler at [email protected].

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