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Expat Advice: Culture Shock in Verona, 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?

Yes, from my Italian sweetheart as well as my military service around the world.

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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?

No, I'm lazy but I know enough to get by.

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

Not so much but it living in Italy isn't all as glamours as it is when you simply visit for a few days or 2-3 weeks. The flare goes away quite quickly when you realize its a third world country in comparison to the USA e.g. medical, utilities, car costs, toll roads and fuel.

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

Moderate to significant but you will adjust after 6-8 months.

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?

Yes, yes and yes. Once you become part of the fabric, you learn that its just another place but a lot more expensive! The food is great and that includes FRESH produce! It's the entire country is a Whole Foods store.

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.

Frustration with store hours and the inferior quality of many goods. Oh, and forget about returning anything for any reason.

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

People are usually more sincere after you’re accepted. Whatever you do, don't ever tell an Italian how its done better in America.

What are the most challenging aspects of the new culture?

Well, I’m retired from the US Army and fiancée is Italian and lives in the north. I have visited there fairly often and I have also been stationed throughout Europe. It’s very pricy but the culture is very nice! However, there are drawbacks to all the glamour. American’s will have to accept many concessions as to lifestyle. Shops have segmented work hours; utilities are markedly higher, and you can completely forget about returning anything you buy, regardless of the reason. Theft is fairly common so watch your property and your back. Also, you need to consider medical provisions as well. Get sick and go to a doctor can be a real eye opener. BTW: If you think fuel prices are high in the US of A then you’ll get a rude awakening when you fill up a car in Italy. If that doesn’t affect you, the highway toll fees will. Still, the United States is clearly going to hell in a hand basket so these seemingly stark drawbacks may not be all that bad.

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

Don't expect people to smile and say hello as you pass someone on the street. They won't even make eye contact with you unless you're in the down town shopping districts.

I wash my car while bareback and I deeply offended a few people. It is considered very rude to display your body in public.

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

Don't tip as it is not required and they will consider you as stupid. Sure, they'll take it but they won't respect you. Also, drink your coffee slowly, regardless of the thimble size cups.

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:

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Italian Drivers Licenses (73 replies)

I am looking for any feedback on obtaining an Italian Drivers License during the first year in Italy. While I speak fluent Italian, my wife does not. Any insights on the process or Italian Driving Schools that work with individuals who are not fluent in the language? I have also read that some expats"fly under the radar" on this which seems risky and would prevent you from legally buying car. Thoughts?

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Italy expat forum topic
Tax question (5 replies)

My wife and I are about to move to italy where a company is going to sponsor me for a visa. I would be a contractor for them and would like to understand better how taxation works. We will be living there for the 7 years to get full citizenship. Hypothetical numbers Income as a contractor would be 130k euro. I understand that Italy has a tax agreement with the USA but I dont completely understand how it works. Since it is over $100k, it would be the italian tax rate of 43%, but how does that apply to USA taxes? Also what about the social security? I read it could be about 10.5% as well? So roughly my net income would be: 130000 - 69500 (53.5%) = 60500 euro? Is this enough to live on in Italy? We would own our home and vehicle. It would be a very comfortable income in the USA but we dont have nearly the tax rate as Italy does. Do we pay the USA taxes also? Or is the taxes we pay in Italy a credit to what we would typically pay in the USA?

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Italy expat forum topic
Sicily Move (2 replies)

Hi First post..just joined up I have this crazy idea of buying a run down or cheap place in Sicily to retire to in about 6 years time,so just started looking around now. Based in UK so maybe flying out for a few days in November to check out further. I visited for the first time this year and loved it being a big fan of Montalbano & Arancini! Been checking out some blogs and noting the plusses and cons of moving over! I noted the 1 Euro places in Gangi a while back but obviously these are extremes but as my budget is very small about 30k Euros in total, there do seem a large selection of properties up to around that total, obviously requiring renovations. I have been looking online at places like Gangi, Montalbano Elicona, San Piero Patti across to Castelbueno and even down as far as Palazzolo Acreide, which I visted earlier this year. I am under no illusion of it like being on holiday and I would have to learn the language as well so any advice would be welcome and thoughts on the areas that I mentioned or indeed other places that you think might be of interest? Dave

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Comments about this Report

Oct 7, 2010 04:03

I bought some items here in italy and I returned them with no problem. I bought the wrong size shoes. In customer services, I think Italians do what they want if they can get away with it.

Oct 21, 2010 10:51

Return policies in Italy are governed by state law which requires store owners to accept returns only if the item is in some way defective or deceptive (eg size 6 shoes in a box with size 8 written on it), even if these items have been sold in a sale. All other returns are considered to be at the shopowners discretion - I generally have found that they are fairly accomodating as long as the item is returned within a reasonable time frame although many of them only offer the possibility of exchanging the item with one of similar value.

Aug 28, 2011 09:09

" its a third world country in comparison to the USA" For the higway and fuel costs? Medical...really sure that usa is better?? Always heard that if you are not whealty enough to afford private clinics, public sanity leave quite enought to complain about (In usa more than in italy) " It is considered very rude to display your body in public."??? Ever been in a beach in italy? Are you able to go topless, or even full nude in any place in usa? Because in italy is commonly accepted. "don't ever tell an Italian how its done better in America" Why should you do that? In my opinion your evaluation standars are different from the rest of the world, and honestly sounds a bit silly to me. If not,... i might have been living too many years in a different country that italy, cause surely that is a country which vary so much depending on the places where u go (and there's too many dislikes), but too many of your perceptions sounds quite weird to me.

Mar 6, 2012 22:53

Italians are straight forward they lell you to you face if u not good and medical well its sends a mesage out americans they live on fast food so does the british and it cost nhs eat healthy at home and eat out once a week o and keep of the alcahol drink

Mar 9, 2012 20:07

I don't get this person's criticisms. I think it might be because he has been in the military for a long time, and expects things to be "in order". Yes, the large Italian metropolitan areas are expensive - as they are all over Europe. Northern Italy is a very sophisticated place with excellent transportation (btw, the rest stops that frequent Italian highways put American rest stops to shame, by a long shot - as well as often serving superb snacks and small bites). I find people friendly, but somewhat reserved. That's true in most places. It's not Long Beach, CA. Food is uniformly of high quality, and reasonably priced. Once one knows one's way around, one discovers ways to economize, if necessary. I think the key here is that no matter where one ends up as an expat, there is going to be some adjustment to be made. Those that are more rigid or controlled in their outlook (not a bad thing, just a personal proclivity) - or who are constantly comparing everything with what they *know* in America, are going to have a more difficult period of adjustment.

Dec 26, 2013 18:10

I think part of the main reason the OP didn't have a great experience is the lack of effort in terms of learning the language. No matter where you go, if you don't make an effort to learn the language but you plan to live there, locals tend to brush you off. The US is the same way, many people who don't speak English will get brushed off, because it's hard to explain things within a limited vocabulary.

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