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Living in Italy: Challenges and Culture Shock

By ExpatExchange Members

Summary: For many expats, settling into life in Italy is anything but a dream. Members share their experiences with culture shock and general frustration.

Living in Italy - Challenges and Culture Shock

Italy is a dream vacation destination - the amazing food, beautiful architecture, bustling cities, etc. But, for many expats, settling into life in Italy is anything but a dream. The truth is that for may expats life in Italy presents many challenges.

"I had so much difficulty initially settling in that I never experienced a honeymoon phase. I have been frustrated from day one. Every day is a challenge here. Italians make things much more difficult than need be. It's almost like they intentionally do it to foreigners here in Florence. I am here almost 2 years and leaving in June. I have never gotten out of the irritation, frustration phase," explained one expat in Florence

"..Experiencing depression like never before. Most foreigners here are married to Italians and there is no real expat atmosphere. It has been very isolating. Sure, I have my regular group of friends to go and do things with and I get out and have fun, but it is a small group and, quite honestly, this town gets stale quite quickly (unless you're a barfly). I have done quite a bit of reading since I have been here," said one expat in Florence

"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," explained an expat in Torino.

"It’s very pricy but the culture is very nice! However, there are drawbacks to all the glamour. American’s will have to accept many concessions as to lifestyle. Shops have segmented work hours; utilities are markedly higher, and you can completely forget about returning anything you buy, regardless of the reason. Theft is fairly common so watch your property and your back. Also, you need to consider medical provisions as well. Get sick and go to a doctor can be a real eye opener. BTW: If you think fuel prices are high in the US of A then you’ll get a rude awakening when you fill up a car in Italy. If that doesn’t affect you, the highway toll fees will," an expat in Verona described.

Many expats expressed frustration with learning Italian. "I wish I had known just how difficult it would be to learn the language and how isolating it is not being able to discuss the problems of the world as Italians love to do. We went to classesx and learned some holiday conversation but did not really have any conception of how uselss that is when living there, so recommend that folk really study before they come," explained one expat.

An expat in Rome advised, "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. 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!!!"

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Comments about this Article

guest
Jan 9, 2012 11:51

I am an Italian citizen who lived in the US for 40 years and two years in Italy. My Italian family in the states were fun to be around and had a zest for life. Living in Italy was a real eye opener, Italians like to do everything the hard way and make things much more difficult than they really are and then complain about it. Life there is frustrating, nothing gets done on time or at all. The people complain and do nothing to better their lives. If you buy something, even if it is faulty, damaged or spoiled forget returning it, it just won't happen. If you have a car and Italian insurance and you get hit or your car gets stolen, again forget about collecting anything. If you buy a house and the real estate agent, geometra or whoever else is a thief, prepare for 3-7 years in court and lots of cost and I mean lots of cost and frustration to ever collect anything. When I got my dual citizenship, the person at the Italian consulate in America was thrilled to help us, however, when we said we were moving to Italy she said you don't have a clue of what you are getting yourself into. I was actually upset with her comment, but now I wish I had listened to her. Italy is a beautiful country and an awesome vacation spot if you know how to handle some of the basic problems you WILL encounter, to live their forget it, never again!

guest
Jan 9, 2012 12:06

Oh, forgot to hit on the bureaucraticy. Nothing will compare to the crap you will endure with bureaucraticy in Italy. It is long drawn out stupidity that never ends, when will they learn there are easier ways to do things. I was always a person proud to be Italian, now I feel ashamed at what has happened to my beautiful country.

guest
Jan 9, 2012 13:10

language is the key! Even if you speak it poorly people appreciate the effort. Yes,things and life are different but isn't that why you moved? I've been in france for 5 years and everyday is a new adventure,learning how things are done and even sometimes why. If you wanted an american style life you could stay in the US.

guest
Apr 30, 2012 05:55

We are an american couple who retired in northern Italy in 2005. The first few years were wonderful, but this past year has been horrible. We were living on savings and so did not have to pay any income taxes. (21% sales tax insures you contribute your share.) Then we received a summons from the tax authorities accusing us of evading taxes because we had a nice car and we must have been hiding 30,000 euros in income to operate it. It further demanded 20,000 euros for each of the years we did not pay taxes. You can imagine our outrage. It was finally dismissed after 3 hearings, burden of proof on us, and $5,000 in legal expenses. It was enough to convince us to leave our beautiful home here and return to the states. Now that we are receiving pensions, we have found that income taxes are very high here, and you will pay twice; once for Italy and again in the US. Gas, propane, electricity and water are all very expensive here. Don't be fooled into thinking one is offset by the other. We can tell you there is very little offset. And there is little hope things will improve in the near future. The economy is in bad shape and taxes will keep increasing.

guest
Apr 21, 2015 11:23

I totally agree. You just cant get everything instantaneously. Don't bring your old culture to Italy - it just doesn't work. Sit back and enjoy the quirkiness. I left the UK because everything is just rush rush - no time for anyone, now it takes half an hour to get a stamp at the post office but who cares, I meet the locals, we have a laugh, they think I'm French because I have blond hair but hey, I love my life, the panorama, the food, the wine and I have learned to love life! the Dolce Vita, embrace it!

First Published: Jan 05, 2012

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