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Expat Advice: Culture Shock in Tuscany, Italy

Submitted by gazelle

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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?

I tried as much as possible to educate myself on the culture, and learn the language, before the move.

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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?

I speak what I call, "Engliano". I study everyday but I seem to take one step forward and two steps back daily.

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

No, I wasn't. I felt that it would be the same as when I visited. It seemed pretty advanced but just older. I wasn't worried one bit.In fact, I welcomed the change and new life.

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

Severe! Depression, crying, wanting to go home, rejection of the culture, idealizing my own culture, embracing the culture on some days, rejecting it the next. I'm still bouncing from stage to stage.

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?

Yes, although I feel the adjustment stage feels like a prop plane taking off with turbulence. I hope you understand that one.

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.

Tan skin and tall as I am multiracial. I will be honest, there is a lot of sex trafficking here and the prostitutes seem to be either from Brazil, Russia, Ukraine, the Dominican Republic or Nigeria. So if you are blond or look like any of the above mentioned, get ready. Everyone seems to think that I am either Brazilian, Dominican or Moroccan, so I got a few pocketbook grabbing, stares, propositions. I might add that once the people realized I was American, they would soften.

As far as being tall is concerned. I think had I been able to find nice clothing in my size, I would have felt better. Anything over a 7 1/2 American size shoe, gets stuffed into a size 40 if you are a woman. Clothes for a tall 6 footer are mostly XXL and even then, sometimes they are too tight across the shoulders( I am a size 2 by the way)

I also couldn't find cosmetics that weren't too dark or too light. Everything was some kind of bronzer that turned two shades darker or gray. It was also a challenge to find hair products for curly hair. I have since adjusted and found loads of things but in the beginning, it was depressing. I was constantly being stared at because I was different, so I always felt that I should look my best and couldn't. Boy that was hard....next!

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

The natural beauty and the history. There is so much history here, beyond the ancient ruins. I like to walk around town and when I see a street named after a person, I learn about it.

I love the old people: they seem to be more accepting, sociable and

What are the most challenging aspects of the new culture?

The language, sex roles, classism and being an outsider. The language is difficult due to the sentence structures and loads of pronouns.

Too much male and female and posturing. It SEEMS as if women are meant to be like a combination of dolls and domestic servants.

Classism - if they think you have money, they are extremely nice. If they think you are average or poor then, you are invisible. To me, it seems as if they everyone is concerned with giving the appearance of having money or wealth. Wealthy people are treated as if they are gold and average are treated like pests.

Being a perpetual outsider - I am the American woman - when properly identified - so I always feel evaluated. People will watch everything you do, and how you do it. They are very curious and for someone from New York, that can be annoying.

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

Numerous, but I don't care because I am the perpetual outsider - the American. I live my life around diversity, being multiracial. I am different and if I am living here, I not only want to absorb but also share.

Had people not shared in the past, the Jewish community would have kept that awesome coffee to themselves.

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

Be prepared to open your own business, if you plan on working.

Don't expect to find the same food or products in grocery stores.

Don't expect anything to be translated.

Try to connect with other expats,as you may not be afforded the opportunity to connect with the locals. Sometimes, they can be very standoffish with an air of cultural superiority.

If you are American, expect many to believe that your culture is everything seen in the movies or videos.

If you are a teenager, and person of color, don't be surprised if young hiphop listeners use the N word. Don't get angry,and don't blame them, blame hiphop.

If you are Native American, don't be surprised if you see the words, "Rosso Pelle" or Red skin in school and childrens books.

If you are Jewish, don't be surprised to see swastika graffiti on the walls.

Lastly, don't be frightened by anything I have written in this block. See it and judge for yourself. Just like America, everyone is not the same and every town is different.

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Comments about this Report

May 23, 2012 07:06

Wow. That was a great way to explain the culture shock you have been dealing with. Why do you say to be prepared to open your own business if you plan to work? Are jobs that hard to come by? Maybe moving there isn't such a great idea, but visiting? Thanks for sharing your experience!

Jun 5, 2012 01:15

Im so nervous! Because of a job transfer my family and I might have to move there for a couple years, and im a freshman highschool in the u.s.!

Jun 5, 2012 08:34

Dear Guest who will be freshman in high school. Tell your mom, to make sure that she enroll's you in an online high school program. If there is one available for your state through the public school system, tell her to enroll you before you go! If not, find one online because they may put you behind a grade in Italy. Unless you plan on graduating in Italy, it may be a problem when you return. Hopefully, you will attend the expat school in Pisa or the one in Florence. I don't think you will have much of a problem fitting in with the children. Children are a lot more tolerant and welcoming than adults.

Oct 24, 2012 22:44

The Native Americans can be called "pellerossa", not "Rosso Pelle".

Sep 11, 2014 05:57

Very well said. I like your report. Right now, I am living in Germany, but I plan to move to Italy sometime in 2016. Thanks. Ciao, Patricia

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