Expat Advice: Culture Shock in
Sep 10, 2013
One expat who moved to Scandriglia, Italy appreciates the absolute beauty and says that where she lives brings the most joy of anything she has ever seen. Language has been the biggest challenge since her daughters are older and the local school wasn't prepared to handle that. So, they are being home schooled.
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?
No training but experience. We (my daughters and I) stayed for a month each year with my fiance. Fast lesson; visit is not the same as living.
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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 don't speak the language and struggle. It was worse for my daughters as they were older and the schools are not prepared for students that have limited knowledge. We found that to be the most difficult challenge. After two years we had no choice but to implement home schooling as well. The other children were wonderful however the teachers would not even slow down for them and would yell increasingly at my older daughter (middle school) that she learn the language of give an answer that she didn't understand. This was too much pressure and frustration for them.
Were you worried or concerned about culture shock before you moved abroad?
No. I had wonderful visits each time and the schools were interviewed beforehand. The administrator was very enthusiastic to have the girls and we foresaw no problems. Any other time we were treated very well for being tourists.
How significant was the culture shock you experienced when you moved abroad?
To us it was very significant. The language is only one part (a huge part however. Every and any relationship with other Italians are based on that). I do still have problems finding some basic medicines that have to be sent from the US (migraine meds like BC, etc). As others have posted, stores are limited, goods are a different quality and for much better clothing, etc (we can go to Rome) they are very expensive for quality and comfort. It is difficult at times to be known as , "la signora di America" instead of my name or stared at in many moments when we are known to be from elsewhere. At the local place we go bowling, we spent some hours there. In that time, there had been two birthday parties and then just the workers. Each group of people would stop playing their games to watch us for many minutes and the man whom worked the other side of the alley settled himself at the end of our lane to just stare at us any time there were not people needing any shoes, etc. Only one example but it does happen.
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 to all! There are still moments of anger for some differences that are frustrations for Italians as much as for me (some beaurocracy, red tape, limits, etc). Then there are moments I am aware of that I know I could never in my life have in the US for the wonderful culture some keep to them (meeting people from the older generation here stays very close to my heart; there are no others in the world with the stories, the perspectives on life and the advice they give to another in a moment you never would expect it).
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.
For certain there was anger as well as depression. I have gained quite a bit since moving here and homesickness has hit hard (especially the holidays). I can add that my husband is fluent in Italian (well he is Italian) and that has been the most contributing factor to our stress. While trying to struggle with the language, it is difficult for many Italians to be able to slow down in conversation and sometimes becomes an irritant to them so they ignore us completely or speak over me to speak only to my husband. This is especially true with schools to the point where I have just waited outside the office for the frustration.
What are some things you appreciate most about the new culture?
Oh my dear, the absolute beauty. Where we live brings the most joy of anything I have ever seen. While it is true that there is crime in some robbery it is also true that you are really safe from shooting, drugs, gangs, etc. When we searched for a home to buy I was really amazed to be looking for a home in prices based on the distance from services and age of the home as vs what I would have done in America; searching based on crime in the city or areas. It is true that when you are finally accepted you have true friends here and they are very close.
What are the most challenging aspects of the new culture?
Nough said on language. Being accepted can be difficult. People are very good here. You can run into people wary of you because you are not Italian, however. I have found there is a difference in how you are treated in many cases based on being a visitor or living here. Many neighbors, etc were very excited and eager to talk to us as visitors but closed up completely when we were known as occupants. Limits for a future for my daughters was frustrating. It is frustrating for Italian youth as well but we have had to face, after much research, that there are many limits to succeed here for young people and even more for young girls whom do not have an appearance in weight and looks that are preferred for occupations open to them; our nearest city, Rome is especially true in this.
Did you "commit" any embarrassing or humorous cultural blunders? If you did and you'd like to share them, please do tell!
Yes, absolutely. In one I can't even tell you because I somehow spoke the words in translation in a different order and insulted the other person. My husband was unconcerned and said if you understand I am not fluent then I was easily understood but somehow I said something I am not sure of to this day (smile). The other was when I was sick and had to get the girls to the bus stop so I just walked down there in my very large, fuzzy penguin pj's and oversized t-shirt. When I got there I was still half asleep and didn't notice all the parents had stopped talking and were staring at me. My daughters looked at me, looked at them and moved to the other side, stating that I wasn't really their mother in Italian. This did make the other parents laugh.
Do you have any advice or thoughts about culture shock you would like to share?
The same as anyone else before me; prepare for a simpler life and don't compare the cultures. Not even in your own mind. Learn as much of the language as you can and never say that there is something better in America then here. Answer questions truthfully about America but add something positive about Italy in the next breath. Italians still do the same as Americans in complaining about many things from their country but you have to always be respectful that you are not from their country and have boundaries in respect to their country. Don't be so hard on yourself and get a thick skin. The culture is different even in the way respect is given. Until you are very good friends, be more brief in first encounters and be open about the fact that you need their patience. Never speak to anyone as if they are wrong for not knowing your language and always convey your awareness that you need to learn theirs better.
On the Italy Expat Forum
Elective Residence Financial & Length of Stay
My wife and I are looking to move to Italy for a period 1 year. We are reviewing the process to file for the Elective Residence Visa with the intention of living in Italy for the period of 1 year - we will be applying to the Chicago consulate.
I understand there are multiple requirements for this visa, however I am focused on locating bonafide answers on 2 topics - hopefully from people who have been through an identical situation as ours.
1) Regarding "Proof of Financial Means", I would like to specifically know if we can use our savings and only our savings to qualify for this section? There is a lot of conflicting information on this topic, some people say that you need "income", while others imply that savings will be sufficient, but I have not seen a post anywhere on the internet that describes an exact example of someone who has used ONLY savings to qualify, and not an income stream.
Among other significant assets, we have $250,000 in a savings account which we would use to fund our stay in Italy. Since we only plan on being there for a period of 1 year, I cannot imagine that this amount would not be enough to qualify us to have the "financial means" to spend the year in Italy without having to work - however I want to confirm this with someone, or multiple people who have qualified on their savings alone, and have not had to rely upon an income stream to show "Proof of Financial Means".
If there is someone who can help on this topic, it would also be great to know how you went about explaining in your visa application how your savings would be used to fund your time in Italy by using your savings account.
2) Regarding our length of stay in Italy, we plan on being there for 1 year. This seems like it would be straight forward enough since the maximum amount of time you can apply to be in Italy with the Elective Residence visa is up to 365 days (based on line 25. in the visa application).
I have read some comments that indicate the Elective Residence visa is intended for people who are permanently moving to Italy for retirement, there are a few conflicts that I can see with the thought that it is only for people permanently retiring to Italy, I'll get into those below - but the basic question here is "can someone who only intends to stay in Italy for the period of 1 year apply for this visa, or is it only for people who are intending to retire in Italy permanently?
In the instructions for the ER visa it states a few things that would indicate that the visa would be perfect for people who only want to be there for 1 year:
1) Line 25. of the application says that the maximum amount of time you can apply for is 365 days. One would believe that since the visa is only good for the period of 1 year in this instance, and that permanent retirement to Italy would last more than 365 days, that this visa is for people who are looking to be in Italy for between 91 - 365 days.
2) As part of the requirement to file for the ER visa, you need to have your flights booked, including your return flight. If the intention was that you were moving to Italy permanently, why would they ask to have the return flight booked?
To sum up the questions:
1) Can you show proof of financial means by using ONLY savings?
2) Can you apply for the ER visa with the intention of only going for 1 year?
Any information which would prove that applying for the ER visa is a reality under these circumstances would be fantastic!
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So today, a mere 10(!) months after I submitted my application here in Firenze, I went to the questura for another madness-inducing, three-hour "stand around and wait" afternoon and finally -- FINALLY -- got my permesso di soggiorno!
We were hoping to get a little time to breathe and savor the accomplishment, but of course, this Friday will be 60 days before the damn thing expires, which means it's time to jump right back in and begin the renewal process.
You were all so wonderfully helpful back when I was first applying, and I was wondering if you could help me with a few lingering questions to which I've only been able to find ambiguous and/or contradictory answers for.
1.) Aside from obviously checking the right box and including a photocopy of my soon-to-expire PDiS, is the renewal application process otherwise the same as the original application?
I was told that a renewal is simply verifying that the conditions of the first PDiS issuance are still valid, which would suggest that only updated documents are required. I'd like to know just how far that explanation goes.
2.) Will applying for the renewal with a different address than the original create any problems?
The original plan was to stay in my current apartment, but some unforeseen circumstances with the building and the landlord mean I'm going to have to move at the end of my current contract, which lines up with the expiration of my current PDiS. I have a new apartment and a new contract that aligns with the time period of the renewal, but I didn't know if simply changing the address at all would add any new headaches.
3.) Is registering with the commune/Anagrafe a *requirement* for the renewal?
I'm not asking if I should do it (I will), or anything else along those lines. I'm simply asking if it's a REQUIREMENT for the renewal process.
Many unofficial websites list it as one of the steps, but the implication is that it's an obvious and important thing to get done if you want health care, car registration, etc. I have yet to see anywhere if it's an objective requirement and that a renewal application will be rejected or otherwise not accepted without it.
I'm also just generally curious what your experiences were with your renewals. Straightforward? Sudden curveballs you weren't expecting?
Thank you in advance, folks. I appreciate any help or insights you can offer here.
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