01 June 2008

Being Polite

People in Rome are some of the nicest city people I have ever encountered. I love the West Coast, but even there people rely on spatial norms and eye contact to get folks to move out of the way. People in New York and Chicago don't even pretend and just shove by. Although the people in Philly are friendly if you talk with them, they are not likely to say excuse me if they bump you. I have noticed that people here use a lot more apology with one another. There is much more scusi, scusa, and less shoving than people do in the States. Although they get close to one another and have a smaller personal space, they are aware if they might have hurt someone. It is normal to yield to seniors on the bus, and if someone does not, another person will ask people to get up. Taking care of one another is important and community is extant, even in the heart of the city.

Even the dogs behave and greet each other politely. Here are a few dogs (Sienese dogs, but I have seen this happen in Rome, also) meeting each other, politely. Because they are so polite, it stuck out when I saw that dachshund being impolite!

I attribute some of this to a heightened awareness fo being part of a community. I came across this article (http://reallyrome.com/blog/2007/12/19/dont-name-your-kid-friday-in-italy/) when reading some travel blogs about Italy. In December 2007, some parents were denied the right to name their child what they wanted (Friday). Instead, they registered the child’s name as Gregory. As that is my husband’s name, I think they made a great decision the second time around!

The government claimed the child would be ridiculed and would fail to develop appropriate interpersonal skills as a result. Communal harmony rates above individual liberty, in this case. Even amongst my American friends, do any of you think this is wrong? I am in favor of a little regulation in the interest of long-term harmony, I think. Where do we draw that line?

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Works Cited

Fiona Wild, ed. Eyewitness Travel Rome (London: Dorling Kindersley Limited, 1993), 2007 edition.

Hawthorne, Nathaniel. The Marble Faun. New York: Penguin Books, 1990/1860.

James, Henry. Daisy Miller. New York: Penguin Books, 2005/1878.

Powers, Alice Leccese. Italy in Mind: An Anthology. Toronto: Vintage Books, 1997.

Steves, Rick. Rick Steves' Italy 2007. New York: Avalon Travel Publishing, 2006.