Expat Advice: Culture Shock in Florence, Italy
An experienced expat provides amazing insight into life in Florence, and how unpredictable the settling in process can be - even for someone who has lived all over the world! From the beautiful countryside to struggling with the health care system, read about the experience of moving to Florence, Italy.
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?
Moving to Italy Soon?
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 am in the process of learning Italian, which is super necessary if you want to deal with anything official, including the healthcare system. I have had government healthcare providers hang up on me because my Italian was so bad and they did not want to slow down to allow me to understand.
Were you worried or concerned about culture shock before you moved abroad?
Not at all. I have lived in 10 different countries in my lifetime - in Asia, North America, Europe & the Middle East. Culture shock is a natural process and I knew it would not all be honeymoon, though I thought being a European country it would be much easier than other places I have lived. Unfortunately this left me totally unprepared for just how difficult things would be.
How significant was the culture shock you experienced when you moved abroad?
Very significant. I was pretty shocked by the way I was spoken to in supermarkets and treated by the municipal healthcare providers. Getting my residency was especially tricky because I kept providing them with the documentation they requested, and they would then come back and put another barrier in place. Until I had an Italian friend come with me I was unable to to get my residency, when she did come with me they said everything was in place and they didn't actually need the last document they had requested.
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?
The honeymoon phase lasted about a week, which is unusually short for me. I know in a few months time I'll get past it, but Florence is a very lonely city for an expat, which makes it harder to settle.
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.
Definitely anger and depression, feeling so helpless.
What are some things you appreciate most about the new culture?
I love the history, art, food, wine. The whole city and surrounding countryside are a feats for the eyes. And being so much closer to home as well really helps.
What are the most challenging aspects of the new culture?
Trying to accept that as long as I have an accent I will always be treated as a second rate citizen
Did you "commit" any embarrassing or humorous cultural blunders? If you did and you'd like to share them, please do tell!
not that I'm aware of but I am sure they happened :)
Do you have any advice or thoughts about culture shock you would like to share?
Every place I have lived has been so different. Before I moved to Thailand I expected to experience huge culture shock, yet the transition was amazing and easy. Before moving to Italy, I expected less culture shock and experienced the most I have ever had! Just go anywhere expecting culture shock and know it's a natural process. If it's still unbearable after a year or two it's probably not the place for you.
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