Mar 29th, 2008, 11:32 PM
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My family and I spent 6 days in Rome over Easter. It was our first time there and we found the city to be beautiful. The pictures of “must-see sights” don’t give justice to the place. While we found the place quite interesting and awe-inspiring, we found the locals (at least I assume they are since they work there…restaurants, stores, police, etc.) to be the least friendly and helpful people. Comparing them of course to the other countries we visited in the past. If they don’t ignore you, they will roll their eyes and give a huge sigh when they face you. Several times we would ask for directions both in Italian and English and we always got the wrong directions or information. Some would even just wave us off. This happened too many times that we decided to start asking other tourists for directions. The funny thing is, not only were the tourists friendlier, they also gave better directions.

Prior to leaving for Rome, my wife and I tried our best to study Italian as we were told a little Italian goes a long way. It did not, at least for us. The locals in Rome, in more ways than one made us feel un-welcome. But, other than that, we loved the places we saw. But at the end of the 6 days, we were very much looking forward to leaving.

I know that we’ve only been to one city in Italy, i.e. Rome, we can’t help but wonder if the other cities are about the same.

Don’t get me wrong. Rome was beautiful. But the attitude of the locals kind of ruined part of the trip for us. We have since put off Venice, Florence, Sorrento, Positano in the back burner. We originally planned on visiting one or two of the places when we go back to Europe later this year. On the way back to the US, we have decided that we will visit Prague or Brussels or Paris instead.

Did anyone else here experience Rome the way we did? Rome is one of the most visited places in the world, but now, I am not sure if I will plan a return visit any time soon.
checkerspot is offline  
Mar 30th, 2008, 12:48 AM
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I'm sorry to hear that checkerspot. I wonder if the timing of your trip had anything to do with the attitude of the locals? From what I understand, Rome is overrun with tourists and pilgrims over Easter. Maybe it all just gets to be a little too much for the locals?

It has been 7 years since I was last in Rome, but I don't recall experiencing that type of behaviour.

I'm actually heading there again on Wednesday of this week, so I'll report back on my experience.

dexters is offline  
Mar 30th, 2008, 02:40 AM
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I used to work in Rome and visited the city several times as a normal tourist and each time, I found the Romans warm, welcoming, helpful and easy-going. Even if you do not find a common language, communication works well.

This is true, however, as long as you respect their lifestyle.

I must admit that I frequently observed that locals treated tourists rudely, and I must add, it were mostly Americans who suffered from unfriendliness, probably because the cultural differences are greater between continents than on a continent.

Take a restaurant: a problematic situation typically occurs like this:

1) Dressing. People arrive, obviously dressed as tourists. To be sure, tourists can be decently dressed: jeans, sneakers, t-shirts are okay. But Italians are stylish: This means, matching colors, fitting jeans, fancy shirts. If a tourists appears who is dressed lousily, this is regarded as an insult to people who dress properly.

I know from countless threads in this forum that many people from American find it hard to understand this. If we Europeans try give tips how you dress properly, somebody immediately screams "fashion police"! Or often I read: "Europeans tell us not to wear white tennis shoes. But I have seen thousands of Italians wearing sneakers." Yes, they wear sneakers, but stylish sneakers which match with the rest of the cloth. Many tourists do not even recognize the difference.

2) Language. People arrive and naturally address the maitre d' in English. They DEMAND that the locals learn their language. This is also often considered offensive. It is not necessary to learn Italian when you visit Italy. But a few easy phrases like "bon giorno" will conjure a smile on the lips of the locals.

3) Eating outside. Someone who wants to eat his/her lunch outside in the burning sun is considered a lunatic. The locals eat inside.

4) Eating. A proper Italian meal consists of four courses. Period. And if you do not order four courses (you may skip dessert) you do not get a proper amount of vitamins, carbohydrates and protein. If someone orders just pasta, you are considered as an ignorant nickel nurser and treated accordingly. I observed countless Americans saying "I cannot eat four courses, it is too much for me" and who were deeply disappointed by the meagre pasta dish which they were served. And at home, they sais "at the Holiday Inn, we got wonderful Italian food". Well, the Holiday Inn Rome serves American food, Italian style, not Italian food.

Or: Ordering pizza for dinner. In Rome, pizza is a SNACK, a kind of sandwich, not a full meal. Romans never have pizza for dinner.

5) Drinking. A glass of decent wine belongs to a good meal. If you order wine, you show that you are connaisseur. Do not order internationally well-known wines from other regions. The best thing is to ask the sommelier for a good regional wine. He will be proud to serve you a good wine at reasonable cost.

6) Tipping. Strangely, if you overtip, the waiter will frown at you, because you show that you are ignorant. A connaisseur tips properly, but he smiles at the waiter and shows his appreciation. (I blamed Americans, but the Russians are treated worst in Europe BECAUSE they tend to overtip.)

It always helps if you try to understand the culture of the country you are travelling. BTW, how are European tourists treated when they travel the USA and do not respect the codes and regulations? (They might even land in jail!!!)
traveller1959 is offline  
Mar 30th, 2008, 03:32 AM
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My husband and I spent almost a week in Rome last year and our experiences could not have been a greater contrast to yours, checkerspot.

We found almost everyone helpful and had some special interactions with some Romans that will stay in my memory for ever.

Just some examples......

We ate in a small family owned restaurant twice and since we loved the food so much went back for a third time.The friendly waiter with whom we had chatted was just ending his shift and leaving on his motorbike. On seeing us,he stopped, turned around in the narrow alley and returned to shake our hands and wish us a happy return journey home.

In another restaurant we were given a free desert of stunning little new season's strawberries (for four!) when we mentioned how flavourful we found Italian fruit.

A taxi driver we met at the airport was wonderful and later came back to the hotel and left us a computer printout about a particular artist I had mentioned - unsolicited and without waiting for a tip.

In a clothing store my friend was describing my two son's height (6'6" and 6'4") to the store attendent who had laughingly asked why I kept enquiring about larger sized men's shirts. On hearing we were from Melbourne, Australia, where many Italians immigrated after the Second World War, he could not have gone to more trouble to find the right size and we had a fascinating talk about our two countries.

whilst I was purchasing a leather coat in a small store, the owner, who spoke perfect English, helped me instantly find a coat to fit my very tall and curvy figure.He gave my husband and I a little tour of his shop , helped us with directions, complimented our extremely rudimentary Italian and was so charming.

So, our experince made Rome our next favourite city to Paris and I think the Romans I met were wonderful!
Libretto is offline  
Mar 30th, 2008, 03:57 AM
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I believe that most of the time you harvest what you sow.
Sometimes some people are really nasty and hopeless, they will be unpleasant no matter what you do but I tend to agree with Libretto , I also have had many lovely experiences with locals in Rome.
However I wish to say that Hollywood has portraited a simplistic image of Italians shouting and gesticulating like crazy that is misleading and I believe, contributes to many misunderstandings.
Graziella5b is offline  
Mar 30th, 2008, 04:36 AM
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my 2 cents:

6 days over Easter in Rome is asking for trouble. Imagine a city overrun by hordes of pious and not-so-pious pilgrims. The locals have been accosted by tourists asking them questions in all kinds of language from Armenian to Tagalog.

No wonder they will get exhausted and their friendliness evaporates. My advice: try another season and go back at your leisure. You will find an altogether different city.

raspberry7 is offline  
Mar 30th, 2008, 07:01 AM
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I'm sorry you had that experience, checkerspot. I have never had that problem, either. Consider giving it another chance.

While traveller 1959 is right about respecting their culture, I don't agree with everything he says.

In the last 2-1/2 years, I've been fortunate enough to spend 38 days in Rome (and 56 total in Italy), and I've never had a waiter seem to think it strange or offensive or ignorant to order only two courses at dinner. And I've certainly seen Italians eating pizza for dinner!
SusanP is online now  
Mar 30th, 2008, 07:19 AM
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Of course Romans eat pizza for dinner..many of the local pizza places are only open at night!

Traveller1959: Just curious..where are you from originally and where do you live now?

ekscrunchy is offline  
Mar 30th, 2008, 07:33 AM
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We had a great time in Rome and everyone was polite to us, but we did meet many rude people in Cortona. One man went so far as to push my 4 year old niece out of the way. PLEASE!
I think it's because they've been overrun with tourists- I'm sure I wouldn't like it.
spinch is offline  
Mar 30th, 2008, 08:00 AM
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The comments about Americans struck me because of advice I received last night. We are leaving next week for Italy, and it was suggested that I bring Canadian money with me, not American. I'm not sure how I am supposed to display that money (lol), but the meaning was clear - better to let the Italians think you are Canadian than American.

I do understand the comments about how tourists dress, and certainly there is no excuse for sloppy looking clothes, but the miles of walking that tourists do daily definitely call for comfortable shoes, and for many people that means sneakers. Mine are gray - does that make them less 'touristy' than white ones?

butnotrmpt is offline  
Mar 30th, 2008, 08:42 AM
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Who ever told you to pass for a Canadian is wrong. I am an American , Italian American and I can only explain what you were told as a part of the present wave that enjoys putting down America, saying anything, ANYTHING as long as it puts America in the guilty seat. There are more than 200.000 tumbs of American soldiers that died in Italy fighting to liberate Italy from the nazis and I do not think Italians have forgotten this. Unfortunately the general trend in some parts of our society is to put us down,having the nerve to equate America let us say with Hitler or Stalin....showing a total ignorance and lack of historical perspective.
I read a wonderful article by Mark Styen recalling that the song God Bless America is followed by the words Land that I love, the author Irving Berlin, a jew who did not always had a pinky life in the US, had lived in the URSS when a boy so in spite of any setback he might have had he could tell the difference between loving and not loving America. May be now too many had it so good that are capable of saying that nonsense as taking Canadian money to Ezurope. Sad.
Graziella5b is offline  
Mar 30th, 2008, 08:47 AM
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ekscrunchy: We are Americans. We live in San Francisco. But we are of Filipino decent.

all: thanks for the reply but prior to leaving we researched how to behave and tried to be "as un-American and as un-touristy" as possible. We have travelled enough to know and understand not to expect cultures of other countries to be the same as the American culture we are used to. We try to adapt everywhere we go and not to even demand anything. As far as clothing, we prepared for it. While it was casual, we did not wear jeans at all. We only brought slacks and our shows were not even sneakers, we brought ecco walking shoes which I thought was stylish enough and went well with our pants and the tops we wore all had collars. I personally wore long sleeves (calvin kleins and lacostes ---not the blinding color ones). I thought we matched every single day.

I did observe other tourists as getting smiles from people. In fact come to think of it, there was even an American couple that was rude to a waiter in one of the restaurants we ate at and they went out of their way to please them and totally ignored us. I would smile and great but never got a smile back, except from other tourists. I spoke to some friends about this and they had a theory which I thought was sad. Being that we are of Filipino decent, we may be been mis-construed as housemaids or helps by Italians. You see, a great number of Filipinos unfortunately are household helps there. I am trying not to consider this theory because I have never experienced this in other countries, albeit, not that many, we have been to...UK, France, Belgium, Germany, Luxemburg, Switzerland, Canada, Mexico, Hong Kong...

But then again, I suppose there is a first time for everything. Maybe also that it was Easter and that it was just a coinsidence that by the time they interacted with us they were already in a bad mood or something...we still enjoyed it though...
checkerspot is offline  
Mar 30th, 2008, 08:50 AM
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Sorry I meant MARK STEYN and also TOMBS instead of
TUMBS...sorry about that....
Graziella5b is offline  
Mar 30th, 2008, 08:54 AM
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BTW, I agree with Graziella5b, while I did say act un-American, I will never deny that I am American. I love being American. Besides, wherever we go, when we open our mouths we always get this questions, "so, what part of the US are you from?". But like a good traveller, we don't expect much from people of the places we visit, just common courtesy and a smile back. That's all. Rome sadly we felt we missed their hospitality.
checkerspot is offline  
Mar 31st, 2008, 10:47 AM
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I hate to say it, but it may be prejudice on the part of the Romans. We knew an Italian man who worked as a sommelier at an upscale restaurant chain here in CA who married a Filpina and moved back to Rome. She hated it because people were very rude to her. She was an airline stewardess who had traveled all over the world. After a year she insisted on moving back to the US. The argument basically broke up their marriage.
charnees is offline  
Mar 31st, 2008, 12:04 PM
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Checkerspot: I am sad to say, I think you have guessed correctly. There is a lot of casual racism in Italy (read Donna Leon). Though I was not, members of my extended family were born in Italy and when we lived there SOME of the native Romans and Venezians would say the most dreadful things, quite 'off the cuff' about those who were black, Romany or Asian. They are not (yet) accustomed to the increasing ethnicity of their own country and tend to treat tourists of different skin colours rather badly.

Please, do not mis-construe this to mean that ALL Italians are prejudiced. There are amany that ared more enlightened and there is a lot of education happening. But the prejudice is deeply felt by others.

This is the darker side of an otherwise beautiful country.
LJ is offline  
Mar 31st, 2008, 12:32 PM
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"There is a lot of casual racism in Italy"

I have heard a taxi driver in Rome say derogatory remarks about Africans in that city.
I have heard much worst said about African - Americans by my friends family from Detroit.
Racism is alive and well in many places on this planet!

danon is offline  
Mar 31st, 2008, 12:41 PM
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I think you were there during a very very busy time and the folks who were less than sweet and warm to you were experiencing extreme tourist fatique. I felt the same way while shopping on Fifth Avenue in New York City. We were there last summer on a normal summer afternoon. The stores were PACKED....long waits for dressing rooms at stores....and this was not a holiday or a weekend. The employees have to deal with hoardes of shoppers all day-every day. Many of them were cold or even rude (even at the Disney store!). While I would have preferred that they be nice to me, I certainly wouldn't want their jobs!!!
missypie is offline  
Mar 31st, 2008, 12:46 PM
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One more thing. Try this experiment: Ask a worker at your local McDonald's or Walmart for directions somewhere. There's a good chance they won't know. I've called stores before and asked an employee what exit I would take from the highway to get there, and they often have no idea. I happen to work right downtown in my city, so I know where most of the popular destinations are, but I bet most of the people in my neighborhood could not give you directions to the local art musuem or symphony hall.
missypie is offline  
Mar 31st, 2008, 02:20 PM
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I've been to several European cities and found people friendly and honest everywhere I've been, with two exceptions -- Prague and Rome. In the latter city, I was among other things screamed at by a tobacconist who refused to sell bus tickets (even though these shops were supposed to do so when I went), had a bank employee try pulling a blatant rip off scam when I tried to change money, and had some merchants try to short change me. Reluctantly, I'd have to echo your disenchantment with some of Rome's locals.
bachslunch is offline  

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