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Expat Advice: Culture Shock in Rome, Italy

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

Rome

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

no

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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 learned it while I was living there - although after 8 years, I am still not fluent!

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

No, I had moved to several other European countries before, but Italy was a dream come true.

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

I had a huge honeymoon phase - since living in Rome had always been a dream of mine. But the honeymoon ended as soon as I picked up the kids from school everyday - it was a hard place to live with 2 small 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?

I went through all of these phases. My biggest mistake was not embracing the culture fully - bit trying to compare and contrast everything with my American culture and seeking out English speaking friends. If I had thrown myself into the Italian culture and languge from the beginning, I would have had an easier transition and would have been happier.

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.

I had increased anger and anxiety. I also felt guilty for being away from my family in the States - taking my parents' two granddaughters away from them was hard.

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

I absolutely love the simple, fun, passionate lifestyle that the Italians embrace. I have been lkiving in Venice for the last 4 years and love the lifestyle there too - very family oriented.

What are the most challenging aspects of the new culture?

The language continues to be a struggle now that my children attend the local Italian school and all the meetings and paperwork are in Italian. I also long for meaningful friendships with the Italians, but my vocabulary is still too limited to have in depth conversations. My kids are fluent and I so envy them!

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

I have had a few emotional outbursts where I yell and scream in English out of frustration or compare the way things are done in the States, quite loudly, openly putting down the Italian way. So embarassing! I have since learned not to do that!

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

Please don't compare your new culture to your own - there's a reason you left yours - so embrace the differences! Learn the language as soon as possible - immerse yourself in it, make friends with the locals, send your kids to the local school, learn local recipes and customs - you will get so much more out of the culture that way!!!

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:

Italy expat forum topic
Working In Italy (1 reply)

I'd love to be pointed out to resources i can learn more about this. I have a EU citizenship but never actually lived in the EU, so I don't have any paper work besides my passport. I'm trying to see about moving to Europe and we're considering Italy because both my fiancee and I loved the country and culture. so, 1. Job requirements? what paper work is needed to work in Italy? What else do i need as EU citizen? 2. Having never worked in the EU or paid taxes in the EU, do I have access to medical care? How do I establish care? I have a few more questions relating to my fiancee's situation but I think that would get us started, at least in understanding how to even get to the EU.

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Italy expat forum topic
residency and having a car (4 replies)

Ciao a tutti! Well, my experience in Italy has so far been a bit difficult, not Italy's fault! Maybe some poor planning on my part plus (lots of) unexpected circumstances. I apologize if some of this has been discussed before, but I couldn't find the information I needed. So, the poor planning part is not realizing I should have nailed down a place that would provide legal residency before I got to Italy. I didn't realize all the ramifications of not having that, and I didn't know that it was going to be difficult finding a dog friendly rental. Maybe it's not difficult if the entirety of Italy can be included, but after getting very sick within 2 days of arrival and realizing how helpless I am here, my choices of where I should live for the near future are quite a bit less than the entirety of Italy. I've settled on Lucca although it may not work out if I can't find a place I can afford that allows dogs. Lucca has lots of friendly expats and also friendly Italians. My experience in Todi helped me understand how important "friendly" is. I'm in a B&B in Lucca Centro for 2 months while I try to find a long term rental. I understand hopeless in terms of dog-friendly rentals. In the US I ended up buying houses because there was nothing (decent) for rent that allowed pets. I don't really want to do that here. But I do not understand how real estate works in Italy. Each realtor seems to have his/her own list of properties and they don't know anything outside of that. So my first question is should I go into every every real estate office in Lucca and ask for help? Is it considered "bad form" if I have a stable full of realtors? I don't want to start off on the wrong foot because I don't know how things are done here. I've been told to be patient, but the clock is ticking on my short term rental, and it's amazing how 2 months can evaporate. And at the end of 2 months, it will be high season for B&Bs, and I can't afford those rates. The other concern I have is that I have a car only until the end of June. The current lease is not renewable. Question 2: how do I buy or lease a car in Italy without legal residency? Is it possible? I thought I read somewhere on this forum that I can buy a car (without a legal residence and carta d'identita) if I have some kind of document from the comune where my citizenship is registered (Calabritto). I can't find the post now. Can someone verify that? And what about insurance? Can I get insurance without legal residency? Anyone know anything about long term car leases through this company: www.leaseplan.com/it-it/ Maybe I'm looking at the worst case scenario, but it could be possible for me to end up without a place to live and without transportation, not because there isn't a place, but because I don't know how things work here and I am limited in my ability to communicate. I've also reached out to the expat community in Lucca by way of FaceBook. Thoughts? Suggestions? Advice?

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Italy expat forum topic
flat tax for new immigrants (1 reply)

Anyone have any experience with this tax regime? http://www.mondaq.com/italy/x/774336/tax+authorities/Moving+To+Italy+The+Resident+NonDomiciled+Tax+Regime

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Comments about this Report

rrideout
Sep 21, 2011 11:55

thank you for your explanation about not comparing cultures and diving right in. I think your report was extremely helpful to me!

guest
Jan 25, 2012 15:28

I only made it to the rejection phase. Im still frusterating about having tried so hard to learn the language and still isnt going my way.this is something i emersed myself from day one. You not knowing the language still makes me think its impossible

guest
Oct 10, 2012 12:35

I went through the same experience. I was shoved into an Italian grade school when I was five, I had just landed in Italy. Didn't speak a word in Italian at first, by the third trimester my grade in Italian was higher than those of my native classmates!!! And today of course I teach Italian. Girlfriend, you're not making a strong enough effort to learn the language; with the internet there are no longer any excuses. I suggest that you start using http://www.wordreference.com/it on a daily basis. They have a menu`a tendina (drop-down menu) with four categories: Italiano-Inglese, Inglese-Italiano, Italian definition, Italian verb conjugation. Use all four of them!!!!

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