Postscript: When In Rome, Do As The Romans Do

Jun 24 2013

By Reham Ibrahim

I had a great time during the two weeks that I spent in Rome; I learned about the origins of type, I met a talented group of people from all over the world with the same passion for design, and I got to know some of SVA’s amazing faculty whom I’ll be joining in Fall 2013 for my MFA Design program.

Aside from all that, I could not have embarrassed myself more in front of Romans when ordering food or drinks! It took me a while to write my blog post since I was waiting for my last few days in Rome, to see if I would come up with more ways to embarrass myself.

It all started when I ordered an iced coffee. I was expecting a large glass of coffee, ice cubes and milk, after a sunny, hot day in Rome. Instead, it was served in a coffee shot glass. I thought to myself, how is that tiny thing going to quench my thirst? I asked the waiter if he could pour the drink for me in a larger glass to add more milk and ice. He just stared at me in shock for a second then laughed it off, thinking I was joking. I didn’t dare ask him again. I gulped down my iced coffee in a few sips. I must add, it was super delicious, but the glass was oh so little.

That night we went out for dinner in a cute little restaurant (I’m really bad with names, and directions) close to our hotel. As soon as the waiter brought out some bread for our table, I turned to him quickly and asked for some butter. He gave me a huh?-look and asked what for. I thought to myself huh? For the bread? But I didn’t dare say anything after my first coffee incident. He saw the disappointed look on my face then just said “We don’t put butter on bread. Only olive oil”. I soaked my bread in olive oil and ate quietly.

As the menus were handed out, I was hoping desperately that there would be a chicken dish available. I was craving some chicken, especially after eating a lot of pizzas and pastas. When I realized there were none available at the restaurant, I asked the waiter to add some chicken to my pasta. By the look on his face I thought to myself oh no, what have I done now? I think he let out a huge sigh (or was that just in my head) as he said matter-of-factly “We don’t put chicken in pasta. Only meat”. So my day ended with no chicken in my pasta, no butter on my bread, and no large iced coffee.

I still had a great time in Rome though. But I decided that if I visit again, I would eat as many chickens and drink as many large iced coffees as I could, before arriving , so that when I’m in Rome, I would do as the Romans do. Or at least try.