Everybody who has spent time in a different country knows that expat life is not quite like anything else in the world. The confusion of the first few days and weeks, the slow, but steady process of acclimation, the little peculiarities and quirks that might strike you about your new surroundings: almost any situation you encounter can make for a great story. If you are so inclined and want to blog about it, of course!
Our InterNations recommended blog section features talented expat bloggers from around the world. Their offerings to the blogosphere have been selected for their great entries and high quality, whether they may be funny, informative, interesting, deeply personal or a combination of all of the above.
Let’s hear from our featured bloggers in Italy:
The expat community in Italy is thriving. There are many Americans, Brits and Europeans living in Florence alone and it’s easy to meet people. When I first came, I definitely struggled because I didn’t know where to go; I had no internet and relied a lot on my boyfriend. Now there are so many expat groups around town that I never feel lonely. Even through babysitting, I have been very lucky to find lifelong friends and people who are family to me here. We organize hikes, wine nights, share books and recipes. They are a big part of my life in Firenze.
The blogging started when the stories took on a life of their own. It was a natural progression. Blogging is a convenient way to stay connected to family & friends, I never expected others would read my words. I continuously question if writing is something I want to do. However, when I’m not working on design, writing has become an outlet for my creativity.
Get a working knowledge of the language before you move here. I’ve muddled by and do OK nowadays, but it’s taken me 3 years to get to upper intermediate level – so still a long way from fluent - in Italian. This is largely because I’m lazy and don’t study, but is also because I arrived here starting from cold, bar a couple of online lessons. Yes, it’s possible to get by if you arrive knowing nothing, but it will enrich your experience so much more, and make the settling in process a thousand times easier, if you can chat to people and make friends.
My life in Italy so far simply brims with anecdotes; the group of little old ladies in their eighties who set out for a long walk every day, rain or shine; the many hours spent chasing my own tail inside Italy’s bureaucratic machine; acting as taxi driver for an elderly Italian neighbour to his hospital appointment but then being asked by the nurse to make sure he understands all the hip-replacement terminology she is spouting – in Italian…
Join an expat community and start getting information and general tips from others that are already living in your choice city or area. You won’t get better information than directly from the source and expats have a very unique and relatable view on issues that natives can’t even begin to understand. This also helps in that when you arrive, you won’t feel so alone, you’ll already have a group of instant friends ready to show you the ropes!
I wasn’t prepared at all! I hadn’t heard of our area (Trentino) or city (Rovereto) before my boyfriend applied for his job here. Rovereto doesn’t have the same international appeal as, say, Rome, Venice or Florence, so there wasn’t really a way to get an idea of the area. For example, information online suggested that temperatures would be 10 degrees lower throughout the year than what they are as their readings came from a weather station on the top of a mountain. We arrived in April half expecting snow! We went in with a lot of unknowns, but we were lucky and things have worked out. If I could change anything, I would have liked to learn more Italian before we arrived.
We prepared as best we could, but given the fact that from a legal point of view it is almost impossible to move here if you don’t have a company sponsor or marry an Italian, there were some huge obstacles to get past. It was also difficult to enter the Italian school system at the middle school level. Probably, it would have been easier if our daughter had started in elementary school when the teachers are more compassionate and the academic material is easier. She had to do six hours of homework a day that first year: three in Italian and three in English. In the end she got better grades that many of her classmates and is completely independent and fluent this year.
In hindsight, I would have changed pretty much everything. I probably would have moved directly to Rome versus staying in Milan for 12 years, I certainly should have taken Italian lessons – seriously – and I would have tried to watch more Italian TV (I am not kidding), ‘cuz that’s basically the best way to really learn the local language…Talk Shows. But, if you’ve ever had a taste of Italian TV, you would understand that I could never bring myself to doing it.
I didn’t really notice the differences or the culture shock until I started spending more and more time with my husband’s friends and family. The family dynamic, as well as the dynamic among friends, is very different between the United States and Italy.
Life in Italy for anyone with an Anglo Saxon background or up bringing is going to be one endless culture shock. From the language, the food, the society, traditions, bureaucracy, socializing, driving, everything! I was so lucky to have a good level of Italian (so glad I did a minor in Italian!) and a doting husband and even more attentive in-laws (no really they are great, I’m as surprised as you are?!?) who helped me lovingly through everything. The best thing to do is take a deep breathe, have patience, a wry sense of humor. Simply wait if you have to, don’t try to change the world, if you can do it, it will be done but if you can’t just let it go!
I think if I had returned to the US, I would have gone down a different path in many respects relating to both work and family. Here, I have carved a niche of creative work, where I began doing jewelry design by chance and now it is what I love to do and teach. Both career and family perspectives are different in each the US and Italy. Some things are easier to accomplish in one or the other country. I have adapted fairly well to my new culture and circumstances.
The only trouble I encountered in Sardinia was the language(s). When I moved here the only thing I could say was: ciao, pizza, pasta, spaghetti and cómo estás. For the first three months, I greeted everyone with a Spanish ‘hello,’ I got a lot of smiles and laughter and made a few new friends.
The biggest culture shock is realizing I can wear flip flops almost all year round, that and the numbers of forms that need to be signed, counter signed, rubber stamped and photocopied before anything happens in Italy.
I’m from Massachusetts and Ryan is from Colorado; we’re a long way from home so obviously we miss our family and friends but we love, love, love the Italian lifestyle and can’t imagine leaving Italy.
The expat community in Florence is amazing. There is such a strong and welcoming community here, and so many people are happy to help you if you need anything. I have met people from all corners of the world and that’s something that I really have come to love and appreciate about Florence - the diversity of people that come to live in Italy!