Salambo Blog

Living in Rome

Barbarians at the gate?

Being a foreigner living in Rome is no easy condition, as Romans tend to make it known that they are a breed apart in the city. Is it still in the collective consciousness that the city was sacked and partly destroyed by foreign hords several times over the course of its 2,500 years history? Hard to answer, but today’s foreigners often come for their love of the city, and are after another type of wealth: culture and art history. They can take it back home but in their minds only, so what are they here to steal?

The obvious sign that one is considered a foreigner (even after living in the city for a few years) is to be constantly short-changed in shops and markets. It seems to be a national sport, and for anyone not into that kind of game, it is a highly annoying one. After a while, it requires a lot of energy to have to constantly ask for the price of every single item in a grocery shop (they are never marked), to have to mentally add up all the items to make sure one is requested the correct amount at the cashier, and finally to always check the change given. Even with that in mind, I still manage to get ripped off at the market on the odd occasion, and when it happens, I find it infuriating!

To calm down, I remind myself that I am lucky to be able to live here as a foreigner, that is without having to fully suffer the burden of the Italian administration, the unequal social system (based on family acquaintances and networks of friends), and the overbearing weight of the family structure. A foreigner always has the option to leave, which many Italians don’t. So in that way, getting ripped off at the market is a small price to pay for the opportunity to live in Rome for a few years. Let’s see it as a form of residence tax!

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This entry was posted on January 12, 2011 by in Daily life in Rome and tagged , , , , , , .
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