Experiencing Culture Shock in Rome

Najifa Hussain, ’25, is a Management Information Systems major studying at the American University of Rome this Fall 2022.

Spending this past week in Rome for the very first time, there are various culture shocks that I have experienced. Even from my very first day here, I could easily tell how different of a place I was in compared to back home. Before I go into this however, I would really like to emphasize that Rome is truly a gorgeous city and there is never a dull day.

Beginning with my first day here, a major culture shock I experienced was how when sitting at restaurants here the waiter will usually never check up on you unless you catch their attention. Even after your table has been cleared, unless you ask for the check it will not be brought to you because the norm here is that once you are seated you are free to sit as long as you wish to. Even then, sometimes it can be a little hard to make eye contact with the waiter so you may potentially be sitting down for quite awhile. This is very different from my experiences in America since waters/waitresses will check up on you quite a few times throughout your meal and once your table has been cleared, the bill is brought straight to you right after. My more appreciated culture shocks in Rome is the cafe culture here. As a coffee-lover, I personally love the concept of a cappuccino and croissant for breakfast every morning. You usually don’y pay until after you have finished your meal and the usual for Italian is to come straight to the counter, order, and stand there while chatting with the barista or friends while enjoying their morning meal. Other smaller culture shocks have been seeing how milk and eggs in the grocery stores are not refrigerated, how being driven around in Rome is always an adventure of a lifetime down the narrow and cobbled streets with lack of traffic signs, and simply the lifestyle here which is a significant difference from the lifestyle I pursued in America.

Every day I seem to learn something new and I think that is one of the greatest aspects of studying abroad. It really opens your eyes to a new environment where you are able to really learn what it is like to adapt and get out of your comfort zone. I am excited to see what else Rome has in store for me in these next few months that I am here.

Breakfast at my favorite cafe
Shopping in Rome