One of these things is not like the other

For most of us, the day begins with getting out of bed and getting ready. We all have a routine we follow every day, whether it be for work, school or an eight-hour Netflix binge.

Here are some things that are the norm in Rome that are oddly different from what I am used to having in my daily routine.

The Bathroom

Just about everyone’s day begins in a bathroom. The biggest difference between a bathroom in Rome and one back in the States is the funny-looking “second toilet” next to the normal-looking toilet, or at least that is what it looks like to me. The second toilet, as we refer to it in our apartment, is actually called a bidet. A bidet is sort of like a sink, except it is not for your washing your hands, where you are supposed to wash yourself after going to the restroom.

When I first heard of this, I was immediately blown away, since it seemed so far-fetched to me. But after talking with some locals, I learned that bidets are very common among Southern European countries, specifically Italy. Everyone tells me that studying abroad is a time filled with new experiences when I am supposed to experience things I would never encounter in the States; sorry, Italy, but the bidet is not one of those experiences I am willing to try.


In the States, breakfast consists of a rather medium-sized meal, such as a couple bowls of cereal, some Mexican sweet bread, french toast, and of course the occasional batch of pancakes! If you are a huge fan of breakfast, then Rome will be a bit of a problem for you since the typical breakfast consists of a simple and rather small croissant (cornetto in Italian) and espresso taken as a shot! That’s right, Starbucks lovers, there’s no such thing as venti, or all the fancy lattes you are used to. Here, you get a tiny piece of bread and an even tinier cup of coffee!

Public Transportation

Driving is not on this list, because even though I am from SoCal and used to the 405 and LA driving, that does not compare to the driving style here in Italy. Let’s just say there is a reason why UC students are prohibited from driving while abroad. Since we are not allowed to drive, we have two options to get around town: on foot or on public transportation.

Walking around Rome is actually rather nice, since you get to enjoy the sites and the atmosphere, but eventually those feet are going to get tired, believe me! The way public transportation normally works is that you pay once you step on to the bus, or at least that is how I have always experienced it in California, no matter what city I was in. You would think that it is the same here, but it is not. Here, you have to buy a ticket from a tobacco shop before you even get on the bus and scan it on a machine once you are on board.

Public Transportation, Part 2

Although buses are the most common form of public transportation to get around the city, they are definitely not the only option. Along with a fleet of buses, Rome has two trains, a subway system, and another set of railways above-ground, kind of like the Bay Area’s BART.

Now, when it comes to public transportation, I am no Neo, but never have I ever felt like I was inside a can of sardines like I have while on the tram (Rome’s version of BART). Every single morning, it is packed way beyond capacity, and if you don’t fit … well, it doesn’t matter, because you have to get to school! Besides getting squished and possibly pick-pocketed, there is another thing to watch out for: the infamous train police! It is quite common for a public transportation official to be patrolling the buses, trams and trains checking proof that you paid to ride.

Drinking Fountains

UC Merced students have all seen and used the hydration stations in the dorms, the dining common and even COB, and while they are very green and simple to use, Rome does not have such advanced water fountains. Here, you don’t have a flashing light that shows you the condition of the filter, or have a motion sensor that starts and stops the water. Rome is actually well-known for having very clean water, but what a lot of people don’t know is that you can actually drink out of ANY fountain in Rome! So not only does Rome have drinking fountains on approximately every block, you can also drink out of the fountains in the piazzas! (WARNING: Do not drink water that has coins sitting in the fountain’s base, drink the water that is flowing from the top or the side!

Eating Out

The biggest difference in meals, besides the actual food, is that depending on whether you sit inside or if you take your food to go, the price of the food itself changes! Though tipping is not a thing here in Italy, they do charge what is known as a service charge if you eat inside the restaurant or bar.

A Bar is Not a Bar

To most of us, a bar is a place where you get drinks such as beer, cocktails and other alcoholic beverages. Here in Italy, a bar is a place where you go to get coffee, a simple pastry, or maybe a sandwich or a slice of pizza. So when you see all of us check in at a bar on Facebook, it is more than likely a cafe rather than the typical bar we are used to.


Doing laundry is quite simple: You put the darks with the darks, the lights with the lights, the whites with the whites, then you throw them into the washer, and then you throw them into the dryer, and then you fold them when you are done. Or at least that is how we do laundry in the U.S. Here, everything is the same up until the part where instead of throwing the clothes into a dryer, we throw them onto racks to let the sun dry them.


For most Americans, dinnertime is about 6 or 7 p.m., give or take. For Italians, dinnertime is at 10:30 p,m. Though we all have a slightly different schedule that we live by, I personally am usually asleep by the time Italian dinnertime has finally arrived.

Grocery Stores

Have you ever purchased fruit at a supermarket? If you have, you know that you pick the fruit you want, place it in a plastic bag, have it weighed at the cash register and then pay for it. Here in Italy, you have to first put on a plastic glove so you don’t contaminate the fruit you are not buying, then you have to take it over to a giant machine that looks like something from the cockpit of the Millennium Falcon in Star Wars that has several buttons where you don’t know what does what or why it is making noises! Maybe I am exaggerating a bit, but most of us UC students were all quite confused when we got to the cash register with our bags of fruit and were told to go back to the end of the line!

EM.2016.04.07 Differences of Rome
Produce Station: The Force Awakens (credit: Esteban Martinez)

The way this machine works is that you first place your fruit on the scale, then you enter in the fruit’s code number, which can be found next to the price of the fruit. Once you punch in the number, the machine tells you the price of the fruit per kilo (also known as what the rest of the world uses even though the United States still uses pounds … ) and prints out a sticker that you place on the bag of fruit, which is then scanned at the cash register.

There you have it, folks — the top 10 simple daily differences that I have noticed so far while living in the ancient city of Rome!

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