Expat Advice: Culture Shock in
Aug 18, 2013
One man who is living in Italy loves the history and beauty, but finds that many locals have a complete disregard for hygiene, manners, self control and courtesy.
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?
None. I personally find that being thrown into the fire is the best way to get warmed up... Quickly!
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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 do not speak Italian, I am now learning it but I have only found a few resolvable problems with language since many young people speak enough English to help me maneuver the Italian maze. I plan to learn the basics when it comes to conversational Italian, but at the moment I do not plan to be fluent but who knows!
Were you worried or concerned about culture shock before you moved abroad?
No. I have visited here before and I came prepared for anything.
How significant was the culture shock you experienced when you moved abroad?
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?
Being an American and having traveled much of Europe, Africa and North, Central and South America little surprises me. The one thing that surprised me about Italians (especially in Florence) is the complete disregard for the history and beauty that they daily shit all over. They, and their dogs, do their business all over the place. They lay their garbage everywhere. The most disappointing fact is that Italians seem to have mistaken "pride" with honor and integrity and this is a monumental mistake. The complete disregard for hygiene, manners, self control and courtesy are the main reasons most I talk to hate Italians but love Italy.
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.
Nothing. I came to observe and live my life with while exploring and seeing the historical beauty. I generally ignore the idiots and take a few deep breaths and chill. It's their country, I'm a visitor and I plan to move on.
What are some things you appreciate most about the new culture?
The under 40 are very supportive and helpful. Negotiating is easy. They all love to negotiate. Mostly they like to talk in circles, and never really get anywhere but they have been this way for years!
What are the most challenging aspects of the new culture?
Cost of goods. Lack of respect for themselves and their surroundings. Sad...
Did you "commit" any embarrassing or humorous cultural blunders? If you did and you'd like to share them, please do tell!
Yes. A man pushed my daughter out of the way to get by to take cuts in line at the Poste Italiane and I grabbed him by his jacket collar and pulled him to the floor. I laughed when he his pissed his pants. He did not.
Do you have any advice or thoughts about culture shock you would like to share?
Go with the flow but always be true to yourself. Life is for living. Be patient and don't get mad except for when it's absolutely appropriate to get mad. The one time I got mad (see above) it was a split, and I feel, appropriate decision. When a 40 something man gets impatient enough to lose his cool and push a child, he's should pray to God the father didn't send him to his maker.
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Looking ahead, I'll be 65 next year and will incur a penalty unless I sign on Part B of Medicare. I met with someone at Social Security yesterday, who said the only way I can opt out of Park B and not be penalized is if I am working for an employer who is providing health insurance. (The Nat'l Health System in Italy doesn't qualify, nor does purchasing private insurance.)
The penalty is pretty stiff - if out of the country for 1 year, it's a 10% penalty for the rest of my life. If out of the country for 5 years, it's a 50% penalty, and so on.
Has anyone found a way around this?
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We have found an apartment in Desenzano del Garda and are headed back to the US for an appointment with the consulate in Chicago to apply for our visa March 1.
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