When in Rome, do as the Romans do

By Alison Mohn
Updated February 20, 2012

study-abroad-in-RomeTourists stick out like a sore thumb in any foreign city, especially in Rome. The key to international travel is to embrace the cultural differences and "act like a local". Making an effort to fit in is the safer way to travel and the best way to make the most of your trip. If you happen to find yourself studying abroad in Rome, you can prevent being pinned as a tourist with these inside tips about Italian trends, culture habits and styles.

Italian Trends

Italians are very personable, loud and enthusiastic. You will notice, sooner rather then later, that Italians love to speak with their hands and engage in conversations with anyone who crosses their path. Don't be hesitant to start conversations with Italians because they will love to hear your American stories.

There is no such thing as personal space in Rome. For many Americans, personal space is the norm especially when speaking with someone or riding on public transportation systems. However, it is in the Italian nature to break any sort of personal bubble that you may be accustomed to. In order to act like a local, it's important for you to not feel awkward or insulted when an Italian is inches away from your face. After awhile, you might even get used to it.

Local Hot Spots

As soon as your and your friends are settled in, take the bus to a popular Piazza called Campo de Fioro. During the daytime, the Piazza turns into a market filled with beautiful exotic flowers and Italian fruits and vegetables. At night, Campo de Fioro is a great place to choose among ten different outdoor Italian restaurants and bars for you and your friends to eat the most delicious Italian prepared meals and enjoy sweet wine.

Shopping in Rome is one of the best activities to do during the day. Hop on the Metro with your friends and get off at the Spagna exit. In this area you will find the Spanish Steps and lots of shopping boutiques and stores with elaborate window displays and colorful fashion items. As you stroll these Roman streets you will pass a variety of designer stores and antique collector boutiques. Be sure to take the fabulous Italian styles back home with your for your family and friends!

Culture Habits

In order to truly act like a local, you must speak Italian. Whether you're fluent or carrying a translation book with you, at least be sure to use a few primary phrases which will help you fit in with the locals.

  • Parla Inglesse? Do you speak English?
  • Grazie Thank You
  • Prego You are Welcome
  • Per favore Please
  • Buon Giorno Good Morning - Good Afternoon
  • Buono Sera Good Evening
  • Cia Hello
  • Arrivederci Goodbye

Italian Style

If you are trying to fit into the Italian dress code, there are a few simple tips. Italians don't like to reveal a lot of skin. Try to dress conservatively and respectfully to avoid any insulting gestures. You will also find that many Italians will continue to stare at you not matter what you are wearing. It is very easy for them to recognize a foreigner, especially for those who do not fit the traditional Italian physical features. Don't become defensive or insulted but don't play the staring game in return. It's best to just try to ignore it, and chances are, after awhile you won't even notice.

Learn more about studying abroad in Rome.

Alison Mohn studied abroad in Rome, Italy in 2010. She is a 2012 graduate of Temple University.