When in Rome do as Romans do is a very popular phrase we heard many times. This expression comes from Rome and carries a very interesting story behind it.
When St. Augustine arrived in Milan, he observed that the Church did not fast on Saturday as did the Church at Rome. He consulted St. Ambrose, bishop of Milan, who replied: “When I am at Rome, I fast on a Saturday; when I am at Milan, I do not. Follow the custom of the Church where you are.” The comment was changed to “When they are at Rome, they do there as they see done” by Robert Burton in his Anatomy of Melancholy. Eventually it became “When in Rome, do as the Romans do.” (https://www.trivia-library.com/b/origins-of-sayings-when-in-rome-do-as-the-romans-do.htm)
This idiom is used when we are visiting a new place or migrated to a new environment where we need to mingle with the local people. To mingle with local communities, it is a must to know about their local culture.If we adapt their practicing customs then it becomes easy to mingle in local societies.
It simply means that when in a new place don’t be afraid to adapt local customs. Behave in an appropriate manner according to how people around you behave. It is a polite gesture to follow the customs of a society when you are a visitor there.
Various Cultural Behaviors
We often do not know that how people from different countries behave in a particular situation. What are their etiquettes of greetings and how will they react in the certain situation(s). For example:
Austrians are conservative people in general. They are also perfectionists and do not mingle easily. On other hand, in France saying Honour, shaking hands, being on time are important aspects of their culture.
Americans are very friendly people. They are independent, original and like to be unique from each other. They like a lot of personal space around them. They abide by the law and system. To greet, they will say “How are you?” While in Britain “How do you do?” is a greeting.
Australians are very casual and easygoing people. They love food and their fusion cooking is very famous. The colloquial greeting such as ‘g’day‘ for ‘good day‘ is very popular. In Canada, loud speaking and rowdiness in public are considered inappropriate. Canadians are basically very soft-spoken people.
Chinese people cannot say NO to any request. They consider it rude to refuse a request. Failure to perform a duty brings shame not just on the person, but on the family and community as well. Visiting is an important part of social life. Unexpected guests are also warmly invited to join the family for a meal. It is traditional to bring a small gift when visiting someone.
Southeast Asian communities are very family oriented. When greeting someone it’s safest to wait and watch for a gesture, then follow it. In Muslim culture, it is not acceptable for men and women to touch if not related by blood or marriage.
When in Rome do as Romans do Teaches Us
The world has now become a big global community and information reaches to the nook and corner of the globe within no time through internet. Thousands of people are migrating from one country to another for a better future. It is necessary to understand the people and culture of that area where you are visiting for personal, pleasure or business reasons. This will definitely help making your visit or migration successful. That’s why we say When in Rome do as Romans do.
Your comments and insights are always Welcome.