Adapting to Life in Italy
Having worked with many new residents over the years, the JCU Housing Office would like to offer some advice about the things we find our students struggle with the most. Many of these items are interesting cultural points to reflect on and are not necessarily specific to apartments provided through JCU Housing.
Distance: A European Perspective
You may need to prepare yourself for a new concept of "far". In Rome, anything within a 30-minute walk is considered "close." Often times, especially in the city center, you will find areas in which walking will get you where you're going more quickly than public transportation. Rome is much larger than you may realize and, during your time here, you may not see more than a small fraction of the entire city!
Though unnerving to some new residents, the presence of graffiti in Rome does not signify gang activity. On the whole, Rome is an exceptionally safe city. Petty theft and pick-pocketing are common, but there are very few instances of violent crime.
Residential Areas and Perceived Safety
Residential areas tend to be very busy during working hours: approximately 8:00 a.m. – 8:00 p.m. When stores close, the quiet is sometimes unsettling to students. All of the areas in which JCU Housing places students are among the safest in Rome. This is not to discount the fact that you are living in an urban setting, and proper discretion should always be exercised.
Expressions of Attention
Unfortunately, some expressions of male attention in Italy (and the other Mediterranean countries) can still manifest themselves in a more archaic fashion. Men can be perceived as much more assertive, bothersome and inappropriate. Also covered during the JCU Orientation Sessions, students are encouraged to consistently ignore unwanted attention.
Customer Service in Italy
This is a difficult topic with many contributing factors and socio-economic implications, but we will do our best to highlight some of them. Customer service in Europe is different compared to the United States. Generally speaking, less attention and lower priority is given to customer satisfaction.
You might be wondering why this is significant in relation to JCU Housing: JCU does not own the housing premises you will be residing in. With a tough real estate market to the landlord's favor, they have a consistently secured business. Because there are always more renters than available apartments, landlords have the power to say, "If you don't like it, you are free to leave."
This is one of the more disturbing issues faced by locals when renting apartments. Our office takes steps to ensure you do not have to worry about this. As a tenant, there may be times when this weighs on you. In spite of our efforts, there may be instances when the time to fulfill a maintenance request or to provide general improvements is much longer than expected.
Don't be disheartened! Italians are among some of the most lovely and hospitable people you will meet. Just remember that a smile and patience in the face of a grumpy or rude employee will get you far.
You should be prepared to use the public transportation system. Public transportation is active in some form 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The most common form of evening transportation is the night bus (the notturno), which runs approximately twice an hour from around midnight until 5:30 a.m. This situation is very common throughout Europe. Information on how to determine which bus line services your neighborhood is included in the Roman Housing Booklet, your apartment guide, and on the public transportation system's website. Your RA can also provide assistance. Taxis are also an alternative, though they are much more expensive and therefore not very practical.
Being a Good Neighbor: Law and Culture Collide!
The ways that you make use of your apartment may be quite different from what you are used to. In Rome, the house is a private, family place, which may greatly differ from your living style as a student. Even though your walls may seem thick, you can often still hear most of what your neighbor is doing or saying, and vice versa. Most of your neighbors are average Italian citizens with families and full-time jobs, in need of 7-8 hours of sleep every night.
By law, silence is required between 11:00 p.m. and 7:00 a.m. and again between 1:30 p.m. and 4:00 p.m. Please respect this law by keeping noise to a minimum during these hours. Don't expect your neighbor to sympathize with a sentiment of, "...but I am in college, this is how college kids live."