Despite only being in Rome for two and a half days, I feel as if I’ve already become a pro at navigating the Metro. Determine what your route is, find a station, swipe in your card, figure out what stop is yours, wait for the train, shove your way on the train and hold on for the ride until it’s time to get off. Be like the natives and don’t speak obnoxiously while you’re riding. I’ve seen plenty of Italians speak softly and quietly amongst themselves, I’ve seen a man read while waiting, boarding, commuting, and departing without looking up more than once. Being in the heart of the Catholic religion (Vatican City), seeing nuns only pay attention to their Bibles and not miss their stop became a common occurrence. It’s not uncommon to see people just listening to music while there for the ride. Since coming to Italy, I’ve been more aware of myself in the sense of how I present and carry myself, and especially the level my voice is at when I speak in public.
I’ve ridden the subway in New York City enough times to say that these two experiences are marginally different. Americans in America are loud, but it’s not as noticeable when everyone is being loud. For the most part, what we may think is a normal talking voice, is actually quite vocal. It’s not hard to pick out the tourists, just look for the ones who look completely lost. It may be easy to pick out the American tourist, but at that point, it’s not that bad since it’s an American tourist in America. These people aren’t as shunned upon in America as they might be someplace else. Somewhere like Italy.
Americans in Italy are loud. Only, compared next to the relative quietness of it Italians, it’s a lot more obvious that they’re a tourist of sorts. For one, they speak English, and for another, you can just tell for the most part. It doesn’t help that Americans and Italians have two different senses of personal space. Earlier today, a group and I were coming back from the Vatican to the hotel to rest for a little bit after a long morning touring the Vatican. We figured out pretty fast the Linea A Anagninia was what we needed to get on to head back to the hotel, and we could have had it onto the train that was at the station when we got downstairs, but we didn’t want to risk leaving someone behind so we waited for the next one. Within minutes the station was full and shoving was necessary to get everyone on. It was starting to get full when The Americans™ got on. These six American women were the perfect example of an Ugly American. They were loud, obnoxious, and were a little disrespectful of the other metro-goers. At one point they asked me if I was from Rome. At the time, I didn’t think much of it, but now I realize how ignorant even that question, asked in English, was; if I truly were from Rome, there’s no saying I’d understand them.
The next stop brought more people, making space tight, and the next stop bringing in even more people. These newcomers just started shoving their way in, to the point of probably too many people. At this point, I was crammed against the rest of my group members – and this poor unfortunate woman sitting beside us – and was uncomfortable, but I didn’t say anything. These newcomers sounded Italian, so this probably wasn’t anything new to them. It was to the Americans™ because before the doors were even closed, these women were yelling, again, in English, for them to “stop! Get off! You’re crushing us”. Yet, I was balancing on one foot, unable to hold onto any bar and was being held up solely by those around me. The newcomers continued on unapologetically, and I could hear them cursing them out under their breathe. These women made it known, loudly that they were not happy and that they needed to get off soon and would need to get through. Which, two stops later, meant everyone in front of them was forced off just so that they could. These Italians put up with these Ugly Americans and just from this experience I really began to understand why American tourists get a bad rep in these countries. It also makes me more aware of how these natives see me and those I’m with. Are we coming off as Ugly Americans the same way these women did? Or are we respectful enough that it’s not as noticeable? I’d like to believe it’s the latter.