things we learned our first month living in rome
It feels unreal that we’ve been living in Italy a little over a month now. The days leading up to leaving still feel so fresh. Having breakfast, lunch, and dinner every day with all our close family and friends. Packing up the remainder of our belongings in five suitcases, two seabags, and two backpacks. Saying tearful goodbyes. Most of our worries and concerns are now nonexistent, we now consider Rome our home, and we learned a lot.
Google and the internet is your best friend.
Props to everyone who traveled before information was so easily accessible. Kids these days don’t even know what Mapquest is. Don’t know a word? Google Translate. Don’t know how to get somewhere? Google Maps. Confused about the culture? Google it. If you’re curious and willing to learn, information is out there and it’s yours for the taking. This seems like such a no brainer, but having never lived abroad I didn’t realize what a crutch it was to have access to endless information. It makes the unfamiliar semi-comfortable.
Public transportation is conquerable.
For the first week and a half living in Rome, we never took public transportation. We were too intimidated by not knowing the public transportation system or the city combined with a language barrier. On the bright side, we walked everywhere and the 12 miles we walked every day meant we could eat all the pasta and pizza we wanted. At least that’s what we told ourselves every time we sat down for our next meal. Read more about our journey learning how to take public transportation in Rome here.
People smoke a lot of cigarettes.
Coming from California, we weren’t exposed to a lot of cigarette smoking. I attended college at a smoke-free campus, many public areas have designated smoking areas, and the majority of our friends don’t smoke. In Italy, the culture is very accepting of cigarette smoking and although we read about it, it was still a bit of a shock when we arrived. If we leave our windows open at night, many mornings we are woken up by cigarette smoke. If we sit outside in the patio of the restaurant, people smoke right next to us as we’re enjoying our meal. People smoke while they’re walking, so it’s almost unavoidable. The struggle with this one is real.
Restaurants aren’t always open when they say they are.
One of our first Sundays in the city, we took a taxi to a Neapolitan pizzeria we had earlier in the week. I can’t explain the sadness and slight embarrassment when the driver pulled up and said, “it looks like it’s closed.” I couldn’t let my embarrassment linger in that taxi any longer, so we got out of the car, opened Google Maps, and picked another restaurant that supposedly opened at 02:00 pm. With my hope already a little crushed, we walked to the restaurant and arrived at 02:45 pm. The manager told us they opened at 02:00 pm, but wouldn’t be ready for another 40 minutes. HUH?! Lesson learned. If you’re not sure a restaurant is open, call to confirm especially on a Sunday.
How not to get ripped off at a gas station.
The first time we had to refill the rental car at the gas station we totally got ripped off. We stopped at a larger gas station off the
Driving and crossing the street, how different could it be?
Ok, totally different. I thought if I could drive in Los Angeles on the 405 during rush hour traffic, I could drive anywhere. The truth is, you can drive anywhere once you’ve mastered driving in Italy. Driver’s don’t always stay in their lanes (and maybe that’s because some areas don’t even have lanes), they drive through the tiniest streets many times without a scratch, and if a car doesn’t move within 0.05 seconds of the light turning green they will be honked at (ok maybe I do belong here because this was always my biggest driving peeve). Not all crosswalks have stop signs or stop lights. If cars are coming and they don’t stop coming you’re never going to cross that street unless you step out and make eye contact with the driver. If the street-crossing-gods are shining down on me that day and the planets are aligned, someone much more confident in their street crossing abilities will already be preparing to cross the street allowing me to follow closely in their footsteps.
Travel with an open mind.
Before relocating, we did a lot of “what you’ll miss as an American in Italy” and “the biggest differences between America and Italy” Google searches. We wanted to come to the country curious to learn, with minimal expectations/assumptions (we’re no longer in America after all), and respectful of the culture. It’s easy to be frustrated when you go to a restaurant and it’s not open during it’s stated hours or that you have to wait on the server and the server doesn’t wait on you. Understanding some of the cultural differences before we arrived and having an open mind beyond that is probably what has made our transition as easy as we felt it’s been so far.
Someplace once considered new, foreign, and overwhelming can become home.
I’m California born and raised. The only amount of time I spent away from my home state was on vacations or work trips. Moving somewhere new is exciting and the unknown can be exhilarating, but it can also be emotionally exhausting. When you’re traveling there’s no need to figure out what produce is in season, what products they do or don’t sell, how the culture affects your daily life, the indefinite language barrier. It wasn’t until our trip to Barcelona, a country now newer to us than Italy, that we missed Italy. Completed unexpected, Jaime turned to me during our trip and said, “I miss Rome.” Through anxiety-driving crosswalks, unpredictable public transit wait times, and a language and culture that is still somewhat foreign to us, Rome has slowly become home.
What were some things you learned while living in a new place?