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Expat Advice: Culture Shock in Florence, Italy

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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

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