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Expat Advice: Culture Shock in Rome, 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?


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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 learned it while I was living there - although after 8 years, I am still not fluent!

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

No, I had moved to several other European countries before, but Italy was a dream come true.

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

I had a huge honeymoon phase - since living in Rome had always been a dream of mine. But the honeymoon ended as soon as I picked up the kids from school everyday - it was a hard place to live with 2 small 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?

I went through all of these phases. My biggest mistake was not embracing the culture fully - bit trying to compare and contrast everything with my American culture and seeking out English speaking friends. If I had thrown myself into the Italian culture and languge from the beginning, I would have had an easier transition and would have been happier.

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.

I had increased anger and anxiety. I also felt guilty for being away from my family in the States - taking my parents' two granddaughters away from them was hard.

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

I absolutely love the simple, fun, passionate lifestyle that the Italians embrace. I have been lkiving in Venice for the last 4 years and love the lifestyle there too - very family oriented.

What are the most challenging aspects of the new culture?

The language continues to be a struggle now that my children attend the local Italian school and all the meetings and paperwork are in Italian. I also long for meaningful friendships with the Italians, but my vocabulary is still too limited to have in depth conversations. My kids are fluent and I so envy them!

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

I have had a few emotional outbursts where I yell and scream in English out of frustration or compare the way things are done in the States, quite loudly, openly putting down the Italian way. So embarassing! I have since learned not to do that!

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

Please don't compare your new culture to your own - there's a reason you left yours - so embrace the differences! Learn the language as soon as possible - immerse yourself in it, make friends with the locals, send your kids to the local school, learn local recipes and customs - you will get so much more out of the culture that way!!!

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Comments about this Report

Sep 21, 2011 11:55

thank you for your explanation about not comparing cultures and diving right in. I think your report was extremely helpful to me!

Jan 25, 2012 15:28

I only made it to the rejection phase. Im still frusterating about having tried so hard to learn the language and still isnt going my way.this is something i emersed myself from day one. You not knowing the language still makes me think its impossible

Oct 10, 2012 12:35

I went through the same experience. I was shoved into an Italian grade school when I was five, I had just landed in Italy. Didn't speak a word in Italian at first, by the third trimester my grade in Italian was higher than those of my native classmates!!! And today of course I teach Italian. Girlfriend, you're not making a strong enough effort to learn the language; with the internet there are no longer any excuses. I suggest that you start using on a daily basis. They have a menu`a tendina (drop-down menu) with four categories: Italiano-Inglese, Inglese-Italiano, Italian definition, Italian verb conjugation. Use all four of them!!!!

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