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Expat Advice: Culture Shock in Torino, Italy

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What is the name of the city or town that you are reporting on?


Did you receive any cross-cultural training for your move abroad? If yes, was it before or after the move?

All we got from the company was a house hunting trip. Most you learn after you arrive.

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If they speak another language in your new country, do you speak the language? If yes, did you learn the language before you moved or while abroad? If no, are you planning to learn the language?

We started Rosetta Stone before leaving. It's really best to have as much Italian as you can prior to going. Younger people do speak some English, but most people say they do and don't really. Beware if they say ok, ok - they may not get your intent.

Were you worried or concerned about culture shock before you moved abroad?

Yes, I knew the living spaces were significantly smaller and wondered how I'd adjust.

How significant was the culture shock you experienced when you moved abroad?

Huge! It's like a 3rd. world country except for the cell phones everywhere you look. Lots of graffiti. Run down buildings. Many business still running with paper and pencil. Store closures. Limited shopping hours. The extreme heat without a/c in the summer - and the heat indoors anytime it's slightly chilly outside. The medical care - no records kept at your doctors office, no lists of your meds at the pharmacy so you don't get drug interactions. And don't get me started on services for special needs kids...

Expats often talk about going through the "stages of culture shock." Examples include the honeymoon phase, the irritation-to-anger stage, the rejection of the culture stage, and the cultural adjustment phase. Do you feel like you went through these or any other stages as you settled into the new culture?

Went from a few days of "honeymoon" to dying to leave.....It takes a good year is where everyone told me. I'm thinking it takes longer...

What, if any, were some of the changes you noticed in yourself that might have been caused by culture shock? These might include things such as anger, depression, anxiety, increased eating or drinking, frustration, homesickness, etc.

Depression, homesick, definitely. Especially when the internet has iffy connections or when it took months to even get it set up. The continual mold on the walls of the bedrooms-- that no Italian we met thought was a problem. Anger at the continual bureaucracy where ever you go. The sheer amount of paperwork needed to come. And then being told much of what the Italian embassy told you in the US was wrong or not had an apostle or wasn't an official translation of your child's birth certificate.

Medical care -- waiting hours for an x-ray at a facility you wonder is sanitary.

What are some things you appreciate most about the new culture?

Cheap wine, Fresh food , Rich history, learning a new language and watching my kids learn it.

What are the most challenging aspects of the new culture?

The claustrophobia of living so close to others, the small living accommodations, and tight spaces. Even the parks are small. And are only built to fit preschool sized children. Hard to find places for older kids to play outside. I think elementary school children must stay locked in their apartments when they aren't at school.

The crime: all the door locking, alarms, bars on the windows of peoples bedroom even in the suburbs.

Did you "commit" any embarrassing or humorous cultural blunders? If you did and you'd like to share them, please do tell!

I do it all the time....most due to mispronunciations or verb tenses.

I wore shorts and a t-shirt out in my "garden" (think no grass, just bricks) due to what I'd call heat. I swear I have permanent heat stroke here. My landlord comes out of his apartment in long pants and a coat. I'm from the northern US. I got the funniest look from him. He can't understand why we haven't turned on the heat yet.

Do you have any advice or thoughts about culture shock you would like to share?

Please find out as much as you can about what life is really like there. See apartments of people - coworkers - so you can see how they really live. It takes hours to do a tiny load of laundry. While it is running, don't turn on any other appliance or you'll blow your fuses. And you may have to air dry that laundry all over your apartment because it rains for 3 days straight. You can hear all the neighbors all the time. And the ones across the street.

More Expat Advice about Culture Shock in Italy

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Comments about this Report

Oct 5, 2010 04:46

Hi I'm Italian but I was expat in the States for several years and I'm currentlly expat in Morocco.I grew up in Torino and I like the city very much. I understand that staying without air conditioner in summer time it's difficult if you are not used but there are big parks if you look for them. Regarding the doctor i think that is much better keeping your records yourself : in the States I hated the fact I couldn,t have the results of my analisis and visits and in order to get all my records I had to costantly discuss with nurses and PAY to have them . Unfortunately there is crime but consider that it isn't worse than in New York,Philadelphia,Los Angeles....and all the big cities in America. I would be carefull in sayng that is like the third world..people could be upset. I know it's difficult to adapt to a different culture and life but if you dont learn to appreciate the new experiences and the positive side you'll be miserable.When you move it's always difficult no matter if you go in the States, in Italy ,in Morocco....but if you try to enjoy the differences instead of complainig you will be happier .I learned never look back but always forward

Oct 8, 2010 17:29

I lived in Italy for 2 years and would often ask, "Why don't they have dryers in homes here? My clothes take forever to dry and sometimes smell moldy" I was told that dryers waste energy. I had to reply, "The washer's energy saver cycle takes 3 hours!" My apartment looked like a chinese laundry most of the time I lived there. Air conditioning in apartments means you buy a big machine that looks like a portable dishwasher and run a tube through your window. You have to cut the glass to get the tube through. Most people just don't do it. The machines don't work well anyhow and the cost of running one is ridiculously expensive. Italy is SO OVER-RATED! Everything there is ridiculously difficult. It doesn't have to be, but people have no understanding of a convenient lifestyle b/c they don't know what one is. Efficiency and customer service are a foreign concept. Italians are the worst. I have lived in 5 foreign countries. I have never loathed a place and its people like I do Italy. Italy is a miserable place to live!!!

Oct 24, 2010 06:31

I live in Italy and I absolutely loathe it. I can't wait to leave.

Nov 8, 2010 22:02

Holy Cow!!!

Nov 24, 2010 16:37

Torino has lots of history which I love, but I could do without all the bureaucracy to do the simplest tasks.

Jan 8, 2011 11:43

If you loathe Italy, by all means, leave! we won't miss you.

Feb 20, 2011 00:32

Incredible! It seems to me that the original post person and several reply post-persons should have left the American attitude at home. You know the one that I am referring to... "I want it on schedule, precisely as ordered, and wrapped to suit my American taste." I have stayed in Torino 4 times so far, and the thing that I would ask you to appreciate is the very thing that you are complaining about. No, they don't mind living without A/C, and hanging clothes to dry. I love that EVERYONE goes on a month-long vacation in August. Oh, and you can focus on the run down buildings, or perhaps notice that many buildings are older than our country! I am an american who plans to spend a good amount of time in Torino. So please, lighten up, and get rid of the spoiled American attitude. Or, perhaps you should just stay in the USA. Some people are just not cut out for living out of the country. Ultimately, you control the outcome of your experience....

Mar 20, 2011 10:36

some Americans have the arrogance to believe are better than others without respecting the culture of other countries ........

Jun 23, 2011 05:47

Hello, I am not an American, but German, in the meantime tuned to Germany. I have spent 5 years at Turin and i loved it. My only problem was that due to my long working hours I failed to create a little bit of a private life and I have always felt quite alone. At a certain point I lost the energy to stay always on my own, but i miss Turin very much. Life, weather, atmosphere end mainly not having a/c for me was lovely. If I would have a good idea how to ceate a little more of a private life with some private contacts, I woud turn back immediately.

Jul 19, 2011 09:37

Having lived and worked in Italy for the past 10 years I can find some common ground with all of the above comments. I fail to agree that the absence of ac is any basis on which to base your opinion of a city/country. However I am constantly frustrated and infuriated by the senseless administrative processes and convoluted bureaucracy. Also, Italians tend to complain about unimportant things but then accept a lot of other rubbish that would cause a revolution in another country. However, Turin is beautiful, vibrant and relatively safe city with an amazingly rich and diverse history. I am very happy with the health system here - both my children have free pediatric care and were born without us spending a cent on all the pre/post partum care. All pre-natal testing was free. My husband has had a serious illness and has been successfully treated in an avant-garde manner, again completely free. After all this time I am having to make some big decisions about where I want my children to grow up - here or in Ireland. I feel Italy is becoming more small-minded and exclusive, with little community spirit and even less social consciousness. These things are important to me and my family. The best of both worlds will be to spend a lot of time in this beautiful country but not to actually live here, thereby removing the daily frustrations that are threathening to make me leave.

Nov 24, 2011 22:50

Ok, I feel your pain as I have lived here for close to five years. The "mold on the walls" is because they don't usually have vents in the rooms. Open the window every now and then and that should take care of it. Forget about the cost and buy the washer/dryer combo that has the 15 minute cycle. Those three hour wash cycle ruined my clothes and caused a major backlog. "crime"? Get out of that city. Where I live maybe old with graffiti but it's not dangerous. Medical care does leave much to be desired, on all levels.

Jun 9, 2012 06:38

I really wish people would think before they write these culture shock questionnaire's. As an American living in Florence, Italy I don't think all of us look at Italy the same way, and that goes for anyone who is not Italian who lives there. That being said the person answering this form should have had the decency to not say "third world" and make petty comparisons that any decent research beforehand would have told him. If you google even for two minutes living in Italy, you will know about the air-conditioning, or washing machines etc. Crime in Italy is MUCH LESS than in the states and there are parks, you just have to do your research once again. Italians love children and go out of their way to interact with them which I find extremely charming. I love living in Italy and the trick to truly being happy here is to embrace the good and the bad and have sense of humor. Remember, Italy is not going to change for you!

Aug 29, 2012 04:41

I agree with much of what you said. I have lived in Peru and Costa Rica and I feel that living here in Torino is much harder. It is definitely a dirty gritty city without much fresh air. I have found the people to be rather "slow to warm". But I suppose coming from Northern California it is a HUGE adjustment. I personally could never raise a kid here. There would surely suffer Nature Deficit Disorder. I haven't minded aid drying laundry, but I am just a solo female so there is not much. The heat has been tough and also the pressure to look a certain way all the time. People praise Italian style, but all I see are women under a HUGE amount of pressure to keep up to an image ideal and many of them look the same to me and quite uncomfortable. If I go out in Jeans and no make-up I am treated like a homeless person. But I do love the coffee.... :) Yeah, I feel that living her was a good experience, but I will definitely be going back to California. I'll take the wide and wild Americas over the suffocating Euro-culture any day!

Oct 3, 2012 14:03

This review is very objective and we should be thanking the reviewer for taking the time providing reputable observations. Those of you who are from Turin have merely biased opinions and most likely haven't worked nor have had businesses in many other cities other than Rivoli or Settimo. Since I have lived and worked in many other EU cities, many of which I prefer even over N. American cities, Torino is definitely at the bottom of the list. That said, Torino, where I have lived for more than six years, is probably one of the least places you should consider living in Italy. It even gets worse if you have to work or do business. Between the greed, incompetent private and public services, criminality (tax evasion and perpetual corruption), it's difficult to see more than doom and gloom for the Piemontese capital unless you are in the money laundering business. If coming to Italy is absolutely necessary you would be wise choosing a destination in the Northeast.

Mar 10, 2015 11:59

I know this thread is several years old, but I just want to say that as a fellow American I am so embarrassed by this post. It is this kind of attitude that creates the "ugly American" stereotype. Not all of us are this unwilling to adjust our expectations and resistant to opening up to a new culture (and perhaps even learning something valuable from it).

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