Wednesday, January 28, 2009

As the Romans Do: Riding the Tram

Tonight I rode the tram home from school, as I have been doing these past few days. It seems safer than walking through the alleys and dodging motorbikes. (Even on the sidewalks--three of them came pretty close to me the other day. I guess the actual street was too crowded.) Riding the tram gives me ample time to digest the things I learned in class and to do some people-watching.

The first thing you notice on the tram is that Italians seem to have no personal space. They crowd right in and smoosh up against one another, no problem. This makes sense if you consider Rome and how people live--all crowded together. You also notice, though not always by watching but more by smelling, that American hygiene and Italian hygiene are not always the same thing (this is of course even more apparent when combined with the whole no personal bubble thing).

A lot of my fellow tram riders seemed to be coming home from work with their borsi (bags) and tired faces. It was after 8, which is about the end of the work day from what I have seen. But you have to remember, Italians believe in long lunches, so even though they went to work at 8 or 9 that morning, they did take a 2-3 hour break in the afternoon before working again. This is a huge difference from America, where we would rather plow through the day and then relax.

I actually experienced that difference first hand in my class tonight. Social research methods is scheduled from 5:15-8 and at about 7:05 our professor gave us a choice: take a five minute break and then come back until just before 8 or keep going and get out at about 7:40. All of the Europeans (4 of them) in the class voted to take a break and us Americans (there are only 2) voted for skipping the break in order to get out early.

Five minutes later, when class was supposed to start again, the only ones in the room were us Americans. We had to wait another couple of minutes for the Europeans to come back from their walk/smoke. I'm not saying one school of thought is better than the other, I just think it's funny how ingrained these things are.

Another thing I learned today, which I hope to put to use sometime soon, is the best option for mailing (postcards) is the Vatican City. Because the Vatican is actually its own country (no passport stamps though) it has its own postal system and post office. And I've heard from various sources that they are far more effective than the regular Italian post. So it's a good thing I've been too lazy to buy stamps at the tabacchi on my way to school, because I'll need to buy Vatican City stamps in order to send them from the Vatican City post office.

I should probably end here so I can finish my compito (homework) and start reading some of the books I got on gender in ancient Rome (possible thesis topic? we'll see).

Buona notte!

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