Rick: Rick's Rome
Please tell us a little bit about yourself. Who you are, where you come from, when you moved to Rome, etc.
I was born in Chicago, but lived most of my life in Florida. After several trips to Italy over the years, I decided to take a three month sabbatical in 2010. I wound up in Rome, where I met my future wife at an aperitivo on the Isola Tiburina. And the rest, as they say, is history.
When and why did you decide to start blogging about your experiences?
Blogging started out as a way for me to understand my new life here in Rome. By writing about it and reading what other bloggers are saying, it helps me gain a deeper appreciation for the culture that I’m living in, as well as the unique experience of being an expat/foreigner. It’s a form of self-inflicted therapy, you might say.
Do you have any favorite blog entries of yours?
My blog touches on three general topics: teaching English to Italians; the joys and woes of being an expat; and the things that foreigners (particularly Americans) might find amusing about Italian culture. This last category is my favorite and seems to get the most hits and the most comments on my website.
Tell us about the ways your new life in Rome differs from that back home. Did you have trouble getting used to the new circumstances? Did you experience culture shock?
It’s easy to be critical of other cultures and point out things that you find disagreeable. There will always be things about Rome that I don’t like; but there are also plenty of things about my native country that bother me, too. In Rome, for example, accomplishing simple daily tasks—post office, bank, etc.—is often frustrating and time consuming. Business hours at many shops are limited and erratic. The litter and graffiti is hard to tolerate, especially against the backdrop of such a beautiful city. But on balance I would have to say that I prefer the lifestyle in Rome to that of South Florida. It’s not always easy, but it is always interesting and genuine. And if anything, I experience culture shock whenever I go “home” for a visit.
Do you think you were fully prepared for what awaited you in Rome? If you could, would you change some decisions/preparations you made?
Can you ever be fully prepared? I think that I did the best that I could with the knowledge that I had at the time. Obviously there were some mistakes, which translated to a lot of wasted time. If I had to do it over again, I guess there’s one thing that I’d do differently: work even harder at the language before arriving. My Italian is passable, but it’s weak enough to exclude me from certain opportunities, both professional and social.
Every expat knows that expat life comes with some hilarious anecdotes and funny experiences. Care to share one with us?
Having grown up in Florida where we are all so dependent on our cars, I came to Italy with no idea how to use public transportation. The first time that I got on a train, I didn’t have a ticket, assuming that I could just buy one on board. The second time, I bought the ticket, but didn’t know that I had to validate it. The third time, I bought the ticket, validated it, and then proceeded to board the wrong train and wound up 100 kilometers in the opposite direction from where I wanted to go.
Which three tips would you like to give future expats before they embark on their new life in Rome?
- As I mentioned above, learn the language. You can actually “get by” in Rome with only English, but then you’re denying yourself from the fully enjoying the magnificent city.
- Just know and except that everything will take three times longer than you anticipated. Patience is not only a virtue, but a necessity in Rome.
- Give up on the idea of having a car and learn how to effectively manage the public transportation. Your life will be cheaper, but more importantly, less stressful.
How is the expat community in Rome? Did you have a hard time finding like-minded people or fellow expats?
If anything, the expat community in Rome is too good. If you choose to, you can effectively live inside the expat bubble, having only minimal contact with Italians. However, this would be a huge mistake in my opinion. Take advantage of the expat networks to help you ease into your new home and make some initial connections, but don’t rely on them exclusively.
How would you summarize your expat life in Rome in a single, catchy sentence?
Well, I could come up with my own catchy phrase, but I could hardly do better than Longfellow. "...Tis the center to which all gravitates. One finds no rest elsewhere than here. There may be other cities that please us for a while, but Rome alone completely satisfies. It becomes to all a second native land by predilection, and not by accident of birth alone."