From Philadelphia to Rome: How I’ve Experienced Culture Shock

Ciao Drexel! Welcome to my blog series accounting my time studying in the beautiful city of Rome! My name is Angela Viruet and I just entered my fourth and final year here at Drexel. I’m striving for a degree in marketing and business analytics with a minor in legal studies. I’ve been in Rome for about a month now, and it’s been absolutely a dream. There are definitely some aspects of Italian culture that I have found to be shocking and very different from the United States. 

Dolce Far Niente 

Italians have a saying, “dolce far niente.” It means ‘the sweetness of doing nothing.’ Coming from the United States where we hold work and one’s career on the utmost pedestal, it’s been an adjustment living in a place where the culture emphasizes truly enjoying life, the beauty that surrounds them and the company of good people. There is a certain beautiful slowness about the way they live here that I have enjoyed so much. No one is ever in a rush. Something that has been a huge shock to me is how long Italians stay at dinner. Dinner can go on for hours and hours. Italians like to savor and enjoy their food. The first time I went out to dinner here, my whole table was confused when the waiter wasn’t giving us the check after dinner was completed. You can essentially stay at dinner as long as you would like. This is a stark change from Philadelphia, where at happy hour you could be in and out in 45 minutes. I’ve found myself to really enjoy this, it’s taught me to slow down and enjoy my time. After all, what’s the rush?

The view from my apartment terrace on my first day in Rome

Dinner at 10PM?

Back at home in Philadelphia, I have dinner anywhere from 6-8PM. I once went out to dinner at 6pm here and the restaurants were all almost empty, some not even open yet. It’s not uncommon here to start dinner as late as 10PM. This was definitely a shock to me. I had to adjust my eating schedule to get used to eating dinner at a later time. However, it hasn’t been a negative change. I actually have grown to enjoy eating dinner this late because my meal will keep me full all night, cutting out the late night snack. 

My first dinner in Italy! Penne Arrabbiata & Pizza Bianca

No sweatpants in Italy? 

When asking around to friends who have studied abroad in various European countries on what to pack, I was met with the same advice every time. Don’t bring lounge clothes or athleisure. I was shocked to find out that no one wears those styles here, unless they are literally going to the gym. Europeans and specifically Italians, pride themselves on their appearance. This is something I’m not used to in the United States, as it is very normal to wear workout clothes everywhere. Some people even wear their pajamas outside the house and no one bats an eye. And being a college student, a lot of people dress very casually to class. Here, I’ve found myself rediscovering my love of fashion. I have been very inspired by European fashion, as well as enjoying shopping at local markets. 

Trip to the Trastevere Flea Market

My Mini Kitchen 

When I walked into my kitchen for the first time, I was shocked at the size of the oven and the fridge. You know the little kitchen sets you have when you’re a kid? Imagine that but for an adult. That’s the best way I can explain my kitchen appliances. This has definitely been an adjustment. I live with 6 other people, so it’s important to make sure that I’m not buying too much at the grocery store. Additionally, Italian food is a lot fresher and will go bad quickly if it’s not consumed. It’s common here to make multiple small grocery trips a week rather than one big trip every one to two weeks. 

A typical Italian breakfast – a cappuccino & a pastry

Overall, I’ve absolutely loved my time here so far in Italy. Thank you so much for taking the time to read my first blog post! I can’t wait to share the rest of this experience with my Drexel family!