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Expat Advice: Culture Shock in Perugia, Italy

Aug 22, 2018


Perugia, Italy

An expat talks about living in Perugia, Italy where locals aren't glued to their cell phones and family values are important. He also talks about the challenges of learning the language, obtaining a drivers license and more.

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

Perugia

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?

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.

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
Answering your questions from my previous post so you can help me further (1 reply)

Hi, Everyone. Thank you so much for all your replies. So, i want to answer all your questions so you can further assist me, since most of you had questions for me. So, i will be useing my father as the bloodline relative and yes i qualify. I am an American citizen and live in the USA at the moment. Ok, so here are my questions #1- My friend who is on SSDI will they have to pay taxes to the Italian Government, in America they do not because it is not earned income? #2 - I will not be a Nurse in Italy, i will do online work being paid by an American Company, will i have to pay taxes to the Italian Government? #3- Do i need a Visa BEFORE i go to Italy since i may be staying more than 3 months to process my documents? #4- Do i apply for the 'Permesso DiSogiorno' once i arrive in Italy within 8 days? And , can i keep renewing the 'Permesso ds' till it hits 5 years than apply for perm resident in Italy? #5- Can i get a Dual Citizenship after the 5 year residence or i can get the dual citizenship right away? #6- If i do not want to get a Dual Citizenship can i live in Italy forever just with the Permesso di s??#7- Do i need atleast $30k , in the bank for Permesso Di S OR Dual Citizenship? #8- Do i need a rental house or Apartment & show proof of it with the Permesso di S OR Dual Citizenship? I need a rental and proof of it no matter which route i choose to go, dual citizen or permesso di s ?? #9- Will they keep my fathers ORIGINAL birth certificate or do i just show them the original and give them a copy? #10- Last but not least, where do i get all these documents in Italy for Permesso di S , and Dual citizenship? And the reason i want to process all my documents in Italy is because there is a 2.5 year wait in Chicago Consolate. Thanks everyone in advance.

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Italy expat forum topic
Moving to Italy, but do not meet financial amounts for Elective Residence (9 replies)

Hi all. I am planning on retiring next year and would like to move to Italy. I have seen figures of 31000 Euro and 38000 Euro for and individual and a couple. My pension will be a little short of that. I am wondering if there is another way to move to Italy in this situation. I have seen "after you have lived there legally for 5 years" you can become a permanent resident. So how does one live there legally for 5 years without getting an ER Visa?

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Italy expat forum topic
Please ease my confusion (7 replies)

Hi everyone. My post is long so please be patient with me :) Can someone please tell me if i apply for the "Permesso Di Sogiorno" in Italy does that allow me to live in Italy permanently? Is yes, do i just keep renewing it? At the end of 5 years of renewing it, do i have the option to become a resident of Italy or a citizen of Italy? As a resident can i live in Italy forever? With the "Permesso Di Sogiorno" do i need to prove i have an apartment or house in my name? Can a B&B or hotel address be used if staying longterm in them while processing documents? What other things do i have to prove with the "Permesso Di Sogiorno.? A friend of mine who receives SSDI from America will also be applying for "Permesso Di Dogiorno" but they receive SSDI from Social Security in USA. Will they have to pay any taxes to Italy on SSDI with "Permesso Di Sogiorno"? So, what is the difference between getting a "Dual Citizenship" & "Permesso di Sogiorno" or "Dual Citizenship", right now he is on SSDI and pays no taxes in the USA because SSDI is considered non-working income. If i want to get a 'Dual Citizenship' can i apply in Italy. What is the cost? Will any city in Italy process this? How long does it take?? Also for either one of these do i need to stay in Italy while processing? Also for either one of these that i listed do they need the ORIGINAL documents and DO THEY KEEP THE ORIGINALS?, or just copy them?

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