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Expat Advice: Culture Shock in Genoa, Italy

Apr 01, 2015

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Genoa, Italy

An American couple from Hawaii is spending their first year retirement in Genoa, Italy. They've been having a wonderful time exploring the coastal city and nearby cities. Learning Italian has been challenging for them. Luckily, they brought their two dogs, which has helped them meet more locals as they walk through the city.

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

Genoa

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

No, but I have traveled extensively and hosted foreign exchange students from Italy, Germany and Turkmenistan before living in Italy.

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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 took language classes 4 hours a day, 3 days a week for the first 3 months we were here. My husband quit after that, but I took another month's worth of language class five days a week for 4 hours a day. Italian is very logical to pronounce - the grammar is somewhat difficult, but not insurmountable. My problem is I have no Italians with whom I can hold real conversations. Although the people are very nice, I have not been able to make any close friends here. They also talk extremely fast, so for me to understand them I have to request that they speak slowly.

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

no

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

not significant

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 love the culture of Italy. People are very nice and generally seem happy despite serious economic problems in the country. The only thing that is difficult/frustrating is dealing with the bureaucracy over the permesso di soggiorno. This is something you have to apply for within 7 days of arriving even though you have already obtained a 1 year visa from the consulate in your area of the United States. We started out at the commune of Genoa (Genova in Italian), were referred to the questura, who sent us to the post office. We went to 4 post offices which just told us something in Italian ending with finito before we finally found the right post office which had application packets. The application was all in Italian. After waiting a month or so, my husband and I had to go on different days to far apart areas of the city to take an Italian culture and government course, which was actually kind of interesting. Then, a month after that we finally got the permesso di sogiorno card.

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.

none

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

Genova is a beautiful and interesting city. There are always surprises to look at, i.e. statues, frescoes on old buildings when you wander around the somewhat dirty, mysterious alleys. The piazza around the old port is beautiful. There is a great acquarium and some restaurants where you can have dinner or drinks overlooking the yachts and the water. There is a little village called Bocadese which is now incorporated into Genova. It has a small beach where you can swim and looks very traditional. Another small village, Nervi, has a beautiful seacliff walkway with lots of restaurants. Genova is connected by rail with Cinque terre, Santa Margarita Ligure, Pisa, Milan, and Nice, France - all of which make interesting day or overnight trips. We brought our two dogs with us from the United States. Italians love dogs. They are allowed on buses, trains and in many restaurants. People stop on the street to pet and admire the dogs. There are water fountains for dogs everywhere. Italians seem to have a good sense of humor and are very nice, generally. There are many musical events to attend in various parts of Italy. Public transport is very good compared to the U.S. and traveling in a rental car on the highways is not difficult although Italian road designers seem to be obsessed with building tunnels, so you don't really get to see that much from the autostrada.

What are the most challenging aspects of the new culture?

Being able to understand the language.

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

Living in Italy and working on learning a new language has been a very interesting way to spend our first year of retirement. It has been fascinating to be able to travel around and see all the cultural treasures of Europe during the off season without crowds. The winter was a bit cold for our tastes, because we are from Hawaii. We will probably return to Hawaii in the fall, but I would not have missed this wonderful experience.

On the Italy Expat Forum

Join our Italy Forum and talk with other expats in Italy who can offer you insight and tips about living in Italy. Here are a few of the latest discussions on the Italy Expat Forum:

Italy expat forum topic
Elective Residence Financial & Length of Stay (13 replies)

Hello, 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. TOPICS: 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! Shawn

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Italy expat forum topic
Permesso Renewal (16 replies)

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. Joe

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Italy expat forum topic
Italian National healthcare system (8 replies)

Please can someone give me details on paying into the Italian National Healthcare system as an alternative to buying private health care. Thank you in advance.

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