This well known saying advises one when outside your normal surroundings to adapt to customs, laws and behaviors when visiting new places. The saying is attributed to Saint Ambrose, then the Bishop of Milan in the 4th century. As the story goes, when Saint Augustine visited Milan, he noted that people didn’t fast on Saturdays as was the custom in his town. Confused, he consulted with Saint Ambrose which replied, “When in Rome, I fast on Saturdays. But when I am here, I don’t”.
The advice helped Saint Augustine adapt to this new practice and enabled him to become part of the community.
The traveler will always be a stranger no matter where one may go, after all, if he were a native he’d no longer be a traveler. However, it’s not a question of being a chameleon, who can change his color blending into his surroundings. It is more about learning enough on the practices, behaviors and customs of the place to be visited. In the end, it’s all about enjoying the experience of the travel to the maximum!
For example, despite all the globalization which exists, there are customs and traditions which never change. The “siesta” is one such example. Yes, the “siesta”, that period of time following the morn, during which most stores and places close at noon. Noon? Holy Noon! If it is important to know where the “siesta” is practiced, more importantly is to know when its noon according to the area / region visited. Is it 12:00 pm? Is it 1:00 pm or perhaps even 2:00 pm? It’s amazing how such a small event such as the “siesta” can alter your travel itinerary.
The way we handled this “siesta” issue in our travels, say in Spain, we invested that time in moving about from one place to another. For example, we scheduled our trip to Ecija from Madrid and via Cordoba, a trip close to 3 hours that combined train and taxi during the “siesta” time. Upon arriving at Ecija, we continued our trip and even enjoyed some “tapas” at “El Central café”.
In doing so, we arrived at our next destination, just as the daily afternoon activities became normal again. Before embarking on your next trip, investigate what the local customs are and in doing this, you can best plan and enjoy your trip.