Expat Advice: Culture Shock in
Apr 01, 2015
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?
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?
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?
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.
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
More Visa Dates...
Hi to everyone!
Thank you again to all who helped on my last post. It was great of you, and I am just very thankful to all!
So I am starting a new post because I have a new issue with my visa dates...
I sent my visa back to the consulate (as they finally told me that I could), with ultra-clear instructions for the date changes. They sent it back very quick.
The arrival date they corrected and that is now fine, but the return date is the issue.
I requested a 365 day visa (which they did not give me the first time around). They granted it to me this time around by stating on the visa that I can stay or 365 days.
But... the return date that they put on my visa is about 14 days PAST 365 days, and that is very obvious on the visa when looking at the arrival and return dates.
I am concerned that this could be a problem...what do you all think? At this point, I have spent a lot of money going down to Miami, and then re-sending the visa overnight mail and sending it back to myself overnight mail, and I am hesitant to complicate the situation needlessly.
Should I just leave it as is or question them again? Any thoughts?
Thank you again to everyone!
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Less then a year away!
Hi guys, I am reaching out again as I am really struggling on how to get planning for my move. I am a 32 year old from Chicago planning on moving to Rome with my boyfriend in May. (only 10 months away).
I was born and raised in Poland but got my American citizenship about 2 years ago. I have a valid Polish and American passport. My boyfriend on the other hand, only has U.S. citzenship. His great-grandparents immigrated here from Sicily. (not sure if this helps his case).
Anyway, from my understanding. I can legally move to Italy without a visa or sponsorship using my Polish passport. How does my boyfriend go about starting his process to be able to go and live/work there legally?
Additionally, we both plan on moving there without having jobs there. We are bringing our savings (approx. $15,000 USD.) Was hoping to maybe start off with an airbnb situation until we can figure out where to rent etc. When we get there the goal is to pick up a job in a bar/restaurant or even better for a travel company or tour company. My boyfriend and I both have hospitality and travel/tourism backgrounds.
This is our dream and we want to make it happen despite any challenges. Guys, any info or direction would be greatly appreciated!
Thank you in advance
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Since people look onto this forum for guidance to how to make the move to Italy, perhaps this forum should also discuss the problem of Expat Fatigue. NeoExpats are full of hope, wonder, anxiety, sense of adventure, willingness to new experiences and tastes and meeting new people. When you first make your move everything is new. Everything is a challenge to be solved. The amazing restaurants with wonderfully fresh fish and vegetables, the incredible variety of local and regional wines, the exotic scenery and the wonderfully mild weather vindicates that difficult decision that you had to make to make the move. There are problems. There are always problems but they are quaint and humorous. Waiting online at the post offices while the customer at the only open window discusses her life with the teller who does not appear to have any urgency. Having to wait hours with immigrants to see government officials so you can get the documents you need only to find out that the officials had to go to another city to process the latest boat load of immigrants, is also quaint. After all what else do you have to do with your time?………………… Overtime things and attitudes change. The new and exotic becomes the old and mundane. All those restaurants now appear to have the same few dishes with only aesthetic differences but basically its all the same food. That huge variety of local and regional wines do not include the great wines of the world, just the same local stuff all the time. If you want a California Chardonnay or a Rhone Cote Rotie, you’re out of luck. Those quaint driving habits of the locals become reason for road rage on your part when you finally recognize that its actually incompetence behind the wheel. And then you really get angry when you consider that for you to get a license you have to go to driving school knowing that you already drive better than most of the people on the roads. That includes the police……………….. It’s not so much home sickness. Two weeks in the States proves to me that its not the USA that I miss. It’s the reason I became an expat in the first place. Its the New, the exotic, the change, the new experiences. Those things are easily found and more easily lost. Its important to consider this when making your plans. Are you leaving your old home because you’re tired of the same old, same old? Well then you are likely to find it again wherever you go. For me the solution is to keep moving. Give each place a few years and then seek some other place. Its not a longterm solution because eventually I will be too old to keep doing that but for now that is the plan. I understood this from the beginning and that is why we have not purchased a home. We rent so that we can easily un-rent and move on. Thats my solution but it may not be yours. However I just wanted to let the NeoExpats know about this. Looking forward to others points of view.
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