As I made it through the U.S. Customs check at the Newark Liberty International Airport in Northern New Jersey on my way to Rome, I could not help but feel a sense of déjà vu. Now, I have only ever been out of the country once, which was for vacationing purposes with my family. Needless to say, I depended on my parents in order to get us to our destination. So then how could I possibly be feeling some sort of familiarity if I’ve never done this on my own before? After being bored on my 7 hour flight, I thought “I’ve got it!” I had the same feelings when ordering at Qdoba for the first time (which, if you are unfamiliar, is basically the same thing as the Chipotle food chain). Yes, I’m serious. If you’re not quite sure what these feelings are that I’m referring to here, don’t worry, I’ll fill you in. For starters, the line is long. You might think that one would be able to get a head start on reading the information so that he or she may order quickly, or in my recent case, get through a terminal gate with efficiency. Wrong; information is displayed in what seems to be size 12 font or smaller. Now, as you begin to edge closer to the front of the line, unprepared as ever due to the tiny font on the information boards, an associate is rapidly questioning you. This person expects you to fire answers quicker than he or she can spit questions out at you, and anything less is an annoyance.
Okay, so maybe it’s not THAT bad, but I can at least blame my described state of mind on the pace at which certain aspects of the flying process operate. If racing…no, sprinting at Olympic speeds in order to catch a transfer flight, and receiving large amounts of stress when going through U.S. Customs are the only sacrifices that need to be made in order to arrive in Roma, however, I can assure you that I would do it every time.
When I did arrive to Italy, all the chaos began to go away, as everything slowed down. The culture here seems to be much more relaxed. Although this may be true, their roadways here still mimic the chaotic scenes of the airport. You learn very quickly in Roma that mopeds are not just for the mid-life crisis Dads. Everyone has one, and those who aren’t buzzing through traffic in these little scooters drive something similar to a small go cart, but whatever the case, they move fast. Even the traffic lighting is different. They have lights for cars, and lights for pedestrians, similar to those in Philly, but the yellow pedestrian light, in particular, is extremely odd. As opposed to the one in the States, the yellow pedestrian light in Roma stays on for a long time with no countdown, and turns red rather abruptly. You can pick the Americans out in the city because we all hesitate to cross during these yellow lights, while it doesn’t phase Italians, who cross without even thinking twice. It’s the little things that really pinpoint the tourists, and if you plan on staying in Roma for six weeks, I can already tell you that by fixing little details like the one described in this example, Italians will be more welcoming.