Asher on Aspen: When in Rome |

Asher on Aspen: When in Rome

Shannon Asher
Asher on Aspen


(Denver Post)

I will never forget the first time I visited Ireland. Upon landing in Dublin, my friends and I went straight to a pub to celebrate our arrival. The bartender asked, “What’ll you have my dear?” Immediately falling in love with his accent, I stuttered for a moment and eventually asked for a Blue Moon without thinking. His eyebrows lowered and his face looked confused. “You’re in Ireland my dear. You’ll have a Guinness.” He proceeded to pour my pint without looking for approval. I remember thinking, “when in Ireland.”

The commonly used English proverb “when in Rome, do as the Romans do” has since been a life motto for me. It’s such a cliché nowadays, but where did it come from? And who said it first? The phrase can be traced back to the 4th century AD.

Having attended a Catholic school for 12 years, the story behind the phrase’s origins is an anecdote that has always stuck with me: Saint Augustine moved to Milan to become a professor of rhetoric. Unlike his previous church in Rome, he discovered that the congregation in Milan didn’t fast on Saturdays. Saint Ambrose, the bishop of Milan at the time, advised Augustine, saying: “When I go to Rome, I fast on Saturday, but here I do not. Do you also follow the custom of whatever church you attend, if you do not want to give or receive scandal?”

In other words, there will be local customs and traditions in any foreign land that you visit so try to adapt to their way of life out of respect for the native people. Embrace the culture and step out of your comfort zone. Break away from the daily routine and do things that you might not typically do. The phrase is about people and their folklore, and it can be related to a variety of situations in everyday life.

On a recent weekend trip to Denver, this proverb was on my mind more than usual. I engaged in the city’s annual Oktoberfest celebration, danced the night away at a country music honky-tonk, cheered on the Denver Broncos at Mile High Stadium, and attended a fancy, five-course meal at the Denver Food + Wine Festival.

While wandering around Oktoberfest, we encountered many bizarre German traditions. My friends and I witnessed a stein holding competition, a game of keg bowling, and a crowd of people participating in chicken-dance contests. Women wore the time-honored dirndl dresses and men donned leather lederhosen shorts. We ate bratwurst and sauerkraut paired with a variety of beers while we polka-danced our way through a live band playing traditional German music.

After the festival, we made our way to Grizzly Rose Saloon and Country Hall. Here, you will find the biggest country music fans in the state of Colorado. The enormous dance floor is the heart of the establishment, where patrons gather to learn two-step routines. This bar is about dancing more than anything else. There is different choreography for nearly every country song out there, and the Grizzly Rose regulars seem to know them all. As Julie Andrews would say, “I could have danced all night.”

The next day, on a whim, we decided to attend a Denver Broncos football game. It was a 2 p.m. game, and it wasn’t until a half hour before while sitting at lunch that we spontaneously bought tickets. We were lucky enough to secure seats in the 100 section in the eighth row for only $70 a piece—a deal that was too good to pass up. Once in the stadium, I immediately purchased a blue and orange shirt to help support my state’s team. We made a lot of noise and cheered on the Broncos enthusiastically while making every attempt to get noticed on the jumbotron.

The last soiree that made the weekend special was the food festival’s signature Dinner Under the Stars event. This lavish evening offered us the chance to indulge in a five-course dinner at the beautiful Ellie Caulkins Opera House in the Denver Performing Arts Complex. Each course was one mouth-watering delight after another. I don’t typically eat black cod miso or Peking duck breast, but when in Denver celebrating the restaurant industry, I reasoned I should try everything.

Can you imagine if I would have drank wine at Oktoberfest, declined to dance at Grizzly Rose, or wore a Cowboys shirt to a Broncos game? Or, what if I refused to learn how to ski upon moving to Aspen? My experience in all these situations would have been completely different and very limited if I would have resisted the culture. Following the status quo to learn about a new way of life is a great way to escape your comfort zone and try new things. How boring would life be if we just stuck to what was familiar and we never ventured out to experience life in someone else’s shoes?

Aspen Times Weekly

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