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Expat Advice: Culture Shock in Florence, Italy

Aug 12, 2016

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Florence, Italy

An expat who splits his year between Florence and Miami discusses expat life in Florence. Like many other cultures, Italians are very proud of their culture and nation. He says that the key to acceptance is to avoid bragging about how things are done differently in your home country. In time, he says that your Italian acquaintances will ask you many questions about your home country.

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

Florence

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

No, but I have often visited Italy before moving.

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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, but I am learning... slowly.

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

Of course, I experienced none as most Italians I have made have gone out of their way to make me feel at home.

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

Not much

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?

Florence is a fantastic city. If you like Boston or San Francisco you will love it here. Florence is smallish, flat (easy to walk), much more inexpensive then Miami (where I live half the year), extremely cultured and cultural, great restaurants and exhibitions and located in beautiful Tuscany, near Umbria and Liguria, a train ride from Venice and Rome - what more do you need.

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.

First of all, a new resident in Italy has to remember that you are a visitor. Italians are very proud of their culture and nation so avoid statements that begin with "Well, in America....". No one on the surface really cares how it's done in America (or England, Germany, France, Canada, etc.) However, Italians do love and admire America and if you are low keyed about where you are from, you will get 100s of questions about the U.S. For example I also live in Miami and get asked constantly about my home town. Italians do mostly everything, from eating, to working, to socializing to arguing like Italians (melodramatic, passionate, opinionated, kind, welcoming, warm and unhurried) and not like Americans (hurried, impatient, largely ignorant about European history and art, gastronomically challenged - no spaghetti and meatballs in Italy). Be tolerant, be respectful, be patient, be nice, try to speak in Italian (though you will be surprised home many Italians, especially younger people speak English) and you will be welcomed and accepted. Acceptance is a big deal in Italy. Once you are liked, you are a member of the family and will be cared for, cooked for, and fussed over.

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

See above,

What are the most challenging aspects of the new culture?

Getting virtually anything done here involving a municipality takes forever unless you have an in, So safe yourself time and aggravation and hire an Italian to help you with the needs of daily living (phone, electricity, visas, licenses, permits, etc.)

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

Italians eat with knife and fork in each hand and do not switch forks after cutting meat to the other hand to eat. Also, do not drive or park in Restricted Zones within cities - you will be ticketed or booted.

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

Italy is a good base to see France, Spain, Portugal, Austria, "Eastern Europe", Africa and the Middle East, Air travel is cheap once in Europe (Ryan Air). Enjoy the world

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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