What not to do:
Try not to wear sweatpants or sweatshirts. It’s very American. Oh yes, also, try not to wear sneakers either. They will immediately think you’re a tourist. No one wears sneakers there. I’d say wear dresses maybe. They don’t really wear jeans. Dresses and a nice pair of pants with sweaters that can cover your shoulders. You MUST make sure your shoulders are covered for every class because we visit a lot of churches for day trips. So, let’s see. Dresses, nice slacks, dressy tops, lots of sweaters, and no baseball caps. NO FLIP FLOPS! But, make sure you pack light.
We understand that you want to remember the trip, but we recommend not taking a lot of pictures; it labels you as a tourist and an easy target. Also, try not to wear too much jewelry either, you know, incase it gets lost in your travels or someone steals it. Always carry your backpack or pocketbook on the front of you, especially on the Metro.
But whatever you do, do NOT—and I repeat—do not talk loudly or obnoxiously! They label Americans as loud and obnoxious people, so don’t let them think that about us. No calling out to your friends in a public place or wave your hands too much. Also, the Europeans wave differently from us, so don’t flail your hands like you usually do. Oh, and don’t be that stupid drunk American! They’ll stare and laugh at you and try to take advantage of you.
We know the food will be delicious, but one of the most common mistakes we see you people make is that you dip your bread into the olive oil. No, Europeans don’t do that; instead, they pour it on their bread, so try to do that instead. Also, they will get insulted if you put salt or pepper on the food that they serve you, so don’t season your food. Also, do not bother asking for ice in your drinks because they don’t have it; only Americans put ice in their drinks.
When we travel, is it really best to take on the new culture that we are experiencing? Should we put aside our culture and pretend to be someone we are not? If we are pretending, do you think the natives of the country will buy our act? The excerpt above was a general overview of a talk that my abroad program directors gave my group before we left for Rome; it essentially is a list of “do not’s.” Some of it was accurate, and some of it was not. However, my main contention is whether one should try to blend into a new culture or keep their own culture intact? And further, can one do both? In this case, I feel that this travel restricts our experiences; it becomes a journey of “do not’s.”