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?
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 speak very little Italian. I rely on my wife who is nearly completely fluent. I also use Google Translate and know a few words.
Were you worried or concerned about culture shock before you moved abroad?
Not really. We lived in Uruguay prior to Italy, and many things are similar in the two cultures, such as stores shutting down in the afternoon and close family ties.
How significant was the culture shock you experienced when you moved abroad?
The first time, in Uruguay, it was significant especially regarding housing standards and business deals. In Italy, the "shock" is not as great but there is a constant learning curve in terms of getting things done. Buying a registering a car for example. Banking. Buying a house. Taxes. All of these normal daily routines are literally foreign.
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?
There is a honeymoon phase. In Italy, the beauty and charm is ubiquitous. It is captivating. Then, there can be (and this happened to me) some jarring encounters with people who seek to take advantage and exploit. After this, the sheer magnitude of what it would take to integrate and become familiar with this culture takes shape. Then, finally, it all loops back to "purpose and meaning." What exactly am I doing here, and in life in general? What am I contributing? What gives me meaning? These larger questions always come to the fore after a while. Meaning and fulfillment cannot come from a beautiful view and leisure. Connections with others are important, and difficult in a new land.
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.
The changes accentuated the need for me to take care of myself. This includes exercise and good nutrition. But also daily meditation, connecting with people from the States regularly via Skype, and working actively to reduce the inner noise and expectations that can lead to depression. Basically, the "reset" has been healthy. You cannot stay still. You will regress or evolve. And landing in a new culture can be a healthy disruption that provides an ideal opportunity for renewal.
What are some things you appreciate most about the new culture?
People in general, just walking around town, are not glued to their cell phones. People relate with one another. I often encounter Americans and sense a defensive posture, an guardedness. Italians are very welcoming and effusive. The social fabric are stronger. They have "family values" here. I also like not understanding the language well, It gives my brain a rest. If English is spoken all around me, I can't help but tune in and make judgments and get caught up in other's drama. Here, languages flow around me without my mind giving it meaning. I feel more free here, and less bombarded with media frenzy.
What are the most challenging aspects of the new culture?
The language. This is THE biggest barrier. Conducting business and getting things done is very confusing. Obtaining a valid Italian driving license is a huge, monumental task that may be beyond my grasp. And, things are legitimately confusing because each region can do things a bit differently. It's hard to find out procedures and how to deal with things because you end up with different answers.
Did you "commit" any embarrassing or humorous cultural blunders? If you did and you'd like to share them, please do tell!
I'm sure I have, but ignorance is bliss. A time or two I haven't know if I was in the men's or women's bathroom because there isn't a standard way of designating them.
Do you have any advice or thoughts about culture shock you would like to share?
There's an inner journey and an outer journey. Living in a foreign country means that the "operating system" in your brain that worked in the States is now wildly unhelpful. So survival requires opening up to the vast universe of the unknown. This leads to change, to transformation, and learning to be comfortable in the midst of ambiguity. It's healthy, but it can feel unsettling.
Dual Citizen & Residency or Not
I've been reading through old posts here and on the Americans Living in Italy FB group, trying to find out some information for when we have more time to spend at our holiday home. I apologize for the long question, but better to have it in one place and there is a wealth of experience with this group! We won't retire from teaching for about 7 years, but will have a home there now and hopefully dual citizenship by the time we retire. My sincere thanks for any clarification anyone can share about my questions!!!
1. DH is working on JS. Once acknowledged, I can begin the JM application. If we are both dual citizens, are we required to notify the comune of our presence if we are just staying in our own home for an extended vacation LESS than 183 days? The only thing I've read that would make registering as a resident important is for the purchase of a car. I'm not worried about the medical benefit right now.
2. As we would be registered in AIRE, we don't want to have to register as a resident at the comune, then unregister when we head back to the US if we are staying less than 183 days per year. I don't think it makes sense to go back and forth like with residency. It sounds like registering with the comune cancels your AIRE registration, and we would have to reregister again with AIRE upon our return to the US.
3. I have read that as citizens we can register our home as a primary home in Italy though AIRE, which would reduce our IMU. Anyone have experience with this? Can this be done if only one homeowner has citizenship, or do we need to wait until the JM process is complete (which I know can take up to 4 years)?
4. If we decided to stay longer, and haven't registered, how does the Italian government know of our presence if we aren't residents? We are NOT planning to cheat the system, but how would they track us? It seems from what I've read that whether or not we are registered residents, the 183 day rule would apply.
5. I know that if DH is not a registered resident, I would not be allowed to stay longer than 90 days until the JM process is complete and I have an Italian passport, correct?
6. If we decided to declare residency and stay longer than 183 days, we are subject to income tax on our teacher pensions as citizens of Italy, (but as foreign residents that particular pension is not taxable), our withdrawals from our 403b accounts, and a tax foreign bank accounts. I think we would need to ay a wealth tax on our home in California, but I'm unclear if there is a difference on this wealth tax if we are foreign residents or citizen residents. What is the tax rate for foreign held real estate? Are the property taxes paid on our home in California deductible from the wealth tax we would pay in Italy? We might sell, but the wealth tax on the value our home near San Francisco could be affect our decision to keep our home or not.
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We are in the process of applying for elective residency and juggling all the balls in the air, so to speak seems a bit of a challenge. As I understand it one must first obtain a rental contract prior to the visit to the Italian consulate in the US.
1 - Are landlords/owners willing to give rental contracts contingent upon successfully obtaining an ER Visa.
2 - Did you pay the deposits, realtor fee and first months rent upon issuance of the contract but during this waiting period?
I understand it can take up to 90 days for the VISA to be granted. and the hold your passport so if one were to rent prior to and pay first month rent, fees, deposits anticipating a successful granting of the VISA you could not travel to use the property while waiting, is that so? Can anyone explain in detail how they navigated this illogical process? Can one apply for Elective residency while in Italy?
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