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Expat Advice: Culture Shock in Torino, Italy

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

Torino

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

All we got from the company was a house hunting trip. Most you learn after you arrive.

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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 started Rosetta Stone before leaving. It's really best to have as much Italian as you can prior to going. Younger people do speak some English, but most people say they do and don't really. Beware if they say ok, ok - they may not get your intent.

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

Yes, I knew the living spaces were significantly smaller and wondered how I'd adjust.

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

Huge! It's like a 3rd. world country except for the cell phones everywhere you look. Lots of graffiti. Run down buildings. Many business still running with paper and pencil. Store closures. Limited shopping hours. The extreme heat without a/c in the summer - and the heat indoors anytime it's slightly chilly outside. The medical care - no records kept at your doctors office, no lists of your meds at the pharmacy so you don't get drug interactions. And don't get me started on services for special needs kids...

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?

Went from a few days of "honeymoon" to dying to leave.....It takes a good year is where everyone told me. I'm thinking it takes longer...

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.

Depression, homesick, definitely. Especially when the internet has iffy connections or when it took months to even get it set up. The continual mold on the walls of the bedrooms-- that no Italian we met thought was a problem. Anger at the continual bureaucracy where ever you go. The sheer amount of paperwork needed to come. And then being told much of what the Italian embassy told you in the US was wrong or not had an apostle or wasn't an official translation of your child's birth certificate.

Medical care -- waiting hours for an x-ray at a facility you wonder is sanitary.

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

Cheap wine, Fresh food , Rich history, learning a new language and watching my kids learn it.

What are the most challenging aspects of the new culture?

The claustrophobia of living so close to others, the small living accommodations, and tight spaces. Even the parks are small. And are only built to fit preschool sized children. Hard to find places for older kids to play outside. I think elementary school children must stay locked in their apartments when they aren't at school.

The crime: all the door locking, alarms, bars on the windows of peoples bedroom even in the suburbs.

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

I do it all the time....most due to mispronunciations or verb tenses.

I wore shorts and a t-shirt out in my "garden" (think no grass, just bricks) due to what I'd call heat. I swear I have permanent heat stroke here. My landlord comes out of his apartment in long pants and a coat. I'm from the northern US. I got the funniest look from him. He can't understand why we haven't turned on the heat yet.

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

Please find out as much as you can about what life is really like there. See apartments of people - coworkers - so you can see how they really live. It takes hours to do a tiny load of laundry. While it is running, don't turn on any other appliance or you'll blow your fuses. And you may have to air dry that laundry all over your apartment because it rains for 3 days straight. You can hear all the neighbors all the time. And the ones across the street.

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