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Rome: Hello Culture Shock!

Updated: Mar 6, 2020

The Colosseum

First international trip…… everything planned… reservations made… backpack packed. Everything will run smoothly.

The universe interrupts, “Here, Hold my beer!”

Everything that I didn't plan for happened: Lost luggage, money stolen, missed trains, wandering the streets lost, almost kicked off a train, vertigo... The list seemed endless.

My parents met, fell in love, and got married in Italy and growing up, I wanted to come here and see why. Finally, I am in Italy; a young, naive girl plucked from the Tennessee hills and thrown into the jaws of the metropolis.



After traveling for over 24 hours, exhausted, we landed in Rome. I don’t remember much from the airport to our hostel. Jet lag haze.

Don't get caught unaware with jetlag, know what it feels like and how to cope.

And, lack of planning on my part, I didn’t know how to get from the airport to my hostel. Luckily, my travel-savvy friend, RaeAnna, was with me and had known what to do. She planned. I followed like a lost puppy. #lessonlearned

Once we checked into the hostel, we chucked our bags into our lockers, except for my poor hubby’s bag; It was somewhere over the Atlantic. We changed clothes, brushed our teeth and headed out in to the Roman sun.

Touching the Colosseum

After almost being run over trying to cross the streets, (imagine the Atari game: Frogger)

I look through my jet lagged eyes at the Colosseum in the sweltering Italian summer.

Didn’t I just leave the humidity? Luckily there are fountains all over the city to fill up my water bottle.

The Colosseum is massive structure and it is difficult to take everything in.

All around me, rush rush rush. I almost got lost in the crowd.


I didn’t know what to gawk at first: the beggars, the souvenirs being peddled, or the Nascar driving. Grabbed my pants in a panic… yep… My money belt is still under my clothes. No one is taking my money today.

We need to get out of here and head somewhere quiet.

RaeAnna went up to someone working a kiosk and asked them if they spoke English. The man’s response, “Yes”.

She then asks directions, in English. The man responds in Italian.

RaeAnna looks a bit confused.

She asks the man again, “Do you speak English?”. The man, again, replies, “yes”.

She asks the same directional question in English. He again answers in Italian.

OOPS. #schooledinItaly

Too much too soon. Language barriers. Jet lag. Me constantly reaching for my money belt to reassure myself that my money wasn't stolen. I promise I wasn’t groping myself even though I got side-eyed from people looking at me like I was some creeper. Yep… I blended in. I needed to find a quiet place to sit and let it sink in.

I wasn’t sure if I was cut out for international travel.

I’m sure anyone seeing me talking myself down must've thought I was Dustin Hoffman in Rainman obsessing about Wapner. Sit. Walk. Head down. Don’t make eye contact. Wipe that goofy smile off your face. Find a quiet road. Sit. Uh oh.. Find a bathroom… One side effect of jet lag for me: extreme yucky belly!

Jet lag began to hit: the brick wall. Legs feel like concrete and I have a massive brick weighing me down (in my belly).

Keep moving.

All of a sudden I hear men yelling at us.

Walk this way!

Was I walking? I can’t remember walking.

Complete haze, stomach screaming. We were beckoned to a restaurant across the street. The men pointed to us. Cat-called for us.

I turned around looking for the people they were bellowing for. Surely it couldn’t have been us. Didn’t they notice the jet lag that was oozing from us and me gripping my stomach… I mean my money belt?! :)

We sit outside, my group ready to eat, me too queasy to eat. Uh oh.. Nervous stomach kicks in overdrive… Ummm.. “Dove Gabinetto?”

Snap of fingers and a group of about 4 paraded me to the “gabinetto". They opened the door and I was blown over by the stench.. No other word for it!

My first toilet experience and I stood there in a miserably hot room full of flies while looking down a PVC pipe hole in the floor. Are you kidding me? How am I going to poop?! I can’t do this.

Where’s my American potty? I wanted to cry… but the “wall” was preventing it. Squatting? Oh Universe, the joke’s on me. #cultureschock

My first night in Rome was an eye opener: losing luggage, the PVC “toilet”, the man who schooled us, the heat, and seeing a family (Dad, Mom, child, dog, and groceries) on a small moped flying off into the Roman night.

After sleeping, I felt like a million bucks. I head out into the world wiser.

We hop on the subway and off we go!

I saw firsthand, someone’s hand reach around a tourist and with the quickest of hands, slide that poor person’s glasses right out of their pocket. Then a minute later, I glared and shook my head at a man that was looking in to my husband’s cargo pants pocket for a goody. Not today!

But, you can’t always be too careful. The Spanish Steps are crowded with hoards of people. Maneuver through that. Plus, I'm all hot and sweaty. Where’s my gelato?

At the top of the Steps, a man grabs my husband’s finger and in one to two seconds he ties some ridiculous contraption of string onto the finger and then demands money. I’m telling my hubby, “Don’t open the money belt”. Does my husband listen to his wife?

Sure enough, the man’s accomplice is distracting me and I am causing a scene, backing away with my arms behind my back, all the while yelling to my husband,


Michael looks up at me and, just as quick, the man grabs Michael’s money and the two run off in to the crowds never to be seen by us again. Great.. Just great.. Luggage gone. Money gone. Thanks Italy. This isn’t starting out the best. We may have to break up.

Once I calmed down and stopped giving my hubby the silent treatment, the city was absolutely stunning. I had to keep telling myself that this won’t matter years down the road… it’s been 13 years since then.. And that’s right… it doesn’t matter. We kept our marriage intact and had a lovely time in Rome.

Heading out of Rome was a relief because it was too much too fast for me at the time. I get on the train (a little antsy.) I look into my train compartment and there is a nun sitting there. Thank you God!!

Lucky for us too: I didn’t validate my train ticket.

Halfway to our destination, the conductor comes in to our train compartment and demands my ticket. He then glares at me.

The conductor wanted to kick us off the train. He begins yelling and gesturing in Italian. I am scared to death. What am I going to do? I didn't plan on this!

All at once, the nun went to bat for me. They yelled back and forth in Italian.

I tried not to cry because I knew we would be sent off on the next stop. Then the conductor leaves. The nun pats my leg. She says in English, “All is well. You can stay.” *Huge sigh of relief*

Rome happened 13 years ago. With more travels under my belt since then, I have learned to go with the flow better. Plan more. Relax more and not be so rigid and scared. All in all… we had a blast!

Rome and I didn’t see eye to eye at first but I think it was a test. Hold my beer? I guzzled it!

What are some of your funny stories or hiccups from Rome? Any pick-pocketing mishaps for you? How did you survive? Comment below!

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