I frequently read posts from people describing that it is their dream to live in Italy. Understandable as Italy is certainly presented in a flattering light. Beautiful countryside, romantic towns, perhaps the worlds most famous foods, all hard to resist. It certainly is tempting to take the plunge. But there are hurdles, not all of which are bureaucratic or logistic. Some of them are personal. You have to give yourself an honest appraisal of whether full time living in another country is right for you.
Should You make the move? Once you have verified whether you can move to Italy, you should take some time to consider if such a big change is the right thing for you. You may be prepared for the bureaucratic hurdles you will be facing, but just as important are the psychological hurdles. They will take a while to really impact as you will begin in a honeymoon stage where everything is new and exotic. But eventually it will wear off and you will be looking for how you fit into normal everyday life in Italy
What kind of transition to life in Italy might you expect? My short and irreverant reply is that when you simply shrug and say “It’s Italian”, when things go sideways, you have made the first big step. But in truth, this very much depends on ones adaptability. There is a cliche about Italians that they are experts at going around problems instead of trying to bulldoze through them. They will have an advantage over you because they always seem to have a cousin they can call who knows someone on the inside. Still, this is a lesson that connecting with people around you is important. It a bit daunting at first. Different language, different culture. Everyone seems to have known each other since grade school (and in smaller towns this is often the case). You are the curious foreign newcomer. They don’t know what to expect. I cannot stress enough now important it is to BE SEEN! If you live outside of the town on a small place with land it can be easy to self isolate. You might surrender to just going out with other expats and eventually settle down into an english speaking cocoon. Don’t take this easy route. You made it this far, so continue to keep pushing the envelope. Expand your comfort zone. Shop, stroll, drink coffee. Greet your new neighbors and watch what they do and when. Finally……..Learn The Language!!
Language is the key to many doors! You will be treated differently when you at least try. Respect is an important concept in Italy, and when you show that you are working to learn the language people notice, even when you are making mistakes. If you apologize for not speaking well, they will smile and say. “Piano, piano”. Which means slowly, slowly. This will take you further in your “be seen” project as you will expand your conversations from ending after the “Hi, how are you” stage. Language is the golden key to making friends. Friends have conversations. Nothing fancy. Just small talk. Food, local gossip. A way of connecting and finding other people with whom you can perhaps find something in common.
Being Italian. Can you ever truly be Italian? It’s complicated. Italians will accept you, treat you with great kindness, bend over backwards to help you. But may find that you will always be stranieri or foreigners. It’s not something to worry about, it’s just something you will encounter from time to time.
It is said that Italians, especially outside the large cities, tend to be guarded in offering true friendship. This is likely because people are more accoustomed to a smaller circle that is primarily based on extended family. Being an acquaintance yes, of course, but Italians tend to take true friendship seriously. Americans especially are very informal. But in Italy, being invited over to someones house implies a closer relationship. You are not just an acquaintance any longer. You are part of the inner circle. Do not be discouraged if it takes a few years to develop these kind of friendships.