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Expat Advice: Culture Shock in Palermo Sicily, Italy

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

Palermo Sicily

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

Absolutely nothing before I left

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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?

Learned the language after I arrived.

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

Not too much...always thought that Europe was more advanced...well some countries are but not Spain and Italy.

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

VERY VERY significant. HUGE!!

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?

Never was a honeymoon stage...spent 2 years in Spain but the real nightmare began when I accepted a contract to work in Sicily.

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.

Yes, anger...frustration...drinking more, definitely depression....but I had a very very bad time when I arrived in Sicily. Palermo is not a good city to move to at all.

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

The people are so lazy that they never complain about anything. The people seem to be kind. Food is good. I do love the water and the mountains.

What are the most challenging aspects of the new culture?

the mentality! These people are something else. Palermo is the wild wild west. Also, the loneliness. This can be a real winner!

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

To reduce culture shock you should have the following before you go:

Lotsa money!

Speak the lingo.

Try to have at least a friend or two to call on when you arrive Research the particular area to find out what the place is like... better yet visit for a week and do some hands on research and then move there prepared.

Go with a significant other or family member so you have someone to talk to.

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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Hello all My wife and I are living in Lombardia, having entered on an elective residence visa a short while ago. We have been to the local questura, who sent us to our local post office where we filled out and mailed in a set of completed documents there along with the required fee. We have an appointment at the Questura for fingerprints etc. about 5 months from now, and hopefully we will receive our ID cards thereafter, but likely not for some additional months. I am 75, my wife is 34. I have had medicare plus a good supplemental plan when in the US. My wife has had private health insurance we paid for in the US. Both my supplemental health insurance plan and my wife’s private coverage will expire the end of December 2018. I understand we cannot get into the public Italian National Healthcare system until our ID cards arrive. However I don’t know if we can buy into the private healthcare system in Italy before that time. Can we? If so, what’s the best way to go about it? If we can’t get into the private Italian system, I assume we will have to get private coverage from companies outside Italy. I have checked a couple of firms online, but I am beyond their age limit. So in spite of my excellent present health and excellent health history, the only figure I have been able to get for me – for fairly limited coverage -- are around US$ 600/month. Quotes for my wife are, of course, less. I’m not sure whether or not I should continue my supplemental plan in the US, at about $250/month, which is, of course, only valid for treatment in the US. What is your experience and your suggestions about the above?

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Hi everybody! Me (32) and my girlfriend (30) are from the Netherlands. We moved to Liguria / Italy last year but we had a lot of set backs. After 1,5 years we wanted to go somewhere else and it turned out it was going to be Sicily. We have been there, and there is a big difference in kindness of people there. They are so much warmer and they are so generous. Unlike the general people in Liguria. Anybody here living in the Enna province? Or better, in Nicosia?

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Comments about this Report

Sep 27, 2010 15:08

I am puzzled as to why you would accept a job in a country, yet learn nothing about it before you arrived. If your nightmares began when you accepted the job, then why did you proceed with the application?

Sep 27, 2010 22:35

I agree with the previous commenter. I would also add that this interview gives me no insight whatsoever on the challenges of moving to Palermo. Answers are vague and don't make sense - some of these answers could be for any European city. This person is clearly going through the "rejection of the culture" stage...

Oct 4, 2010 15:36

We're thinking about moving to northwest Spain in August 2011. You made a comment that Spain was not 'as advanced' as the rest of Europe...I'd love some more detail on that if you have a moment. It could save us lots of Culture Shock! Thanks.

Nov 9, 2012 11:33

I guess you weren't ready to blend with the locals, I have been living in Sicily for 6 years and I really love it here! great weather, excellent food and a great place to raise a family, your observations are vague and just seem like a bunch of stereotypes of sicilian people, shame on you!

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