First Time On Surviving In Italy?

Your First Time Here? STOP. This is mostly a humor blog. If you’re offended easily or struggle with sarcasm or irony you should skip my website and watch this instead. Also, I swear, kind of all the time and ramble on about the capybara. You still there? Winning! I’ve Put Together Some Of My Most Popular Posts For You To Start With:

How To Move To Italy

10 Reasons That I’m Surprised That Someone Married M.E.

In My Husband’s Family, Leaving The Table Is Like Announcing You’ve Eaten A Child 

21 Ways To Survive Being An Expat 

Why Everyone Should Live In Italy At Least Once In Their Lives

25 Things I’ve Learned About Italy 

Christmas In Italy 2013: The Time The Blowdryer Ate My Mother-In-Law’s Head

Moving To Italy: Studying And Living 

13 Things That I’ve Learned From Marrying An Italian Man

 

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Photo Day! Paris Pictures I Forgot To Show You Guys

I love France. It’s beautiful, it’s fun, and the people let me act like an idiot. I went to Paris a while ago and I just realized that I forgot to share my pics with everyone. It was a fun trip, I crashed one of my best friend’s honeymoon, my husband and I went to the ballet, and all that good stuff. Plus it was during Bastille day and that was rad.
Getting Ready

Getting Ready

Getting Ready

Getting Ready

Breakfast

Breakfast

Paris Paris Paris Paris

This is how we do lunch.

This is how we do lunch.

Paris

Meeting up with one of my best friends in the world IN PARIS on her honeymoon. Yes, we crashed their honeymoon.

Meeting up with one of my best friends in the world IN PARIS on her honeymoon. Yes, we crashed their honeymoon. Also, I quit smoking shortly after, cause, ya know, health.

Bread

Bread

Eiffel Tower again

Eiffel Tower again

DSC_0191

They did fireworks behind the tower and played music about united people. It was awesome.

They did fireworks behind the tower and played music about united people. It was awesome.

Awesome Eiffel Tower

Awesome Eiffel Tower

Eiffel Tower again

Eiffel Tower again

8 Tips To Surviving Your Italian In-Laws

I can see their point.

I can see their point.

You’ve moved to Italy and met a man who is different than anyone you’ve ever known in your life. If you’re partner is anything like mine he’s probably emotional, passionate, loving, a great cook and is embarrassing in the PDA department. They’re also dedicated to family which is usually bittersweet. On one hand, family values are important and it’s something we might lack a little in the US, on the other hand the devotion to parents can be exhausting and a form of contention. In many cases it can be a deal breaker. The lawyer league of Italy reported that the “Mother In Law” is the number 1 cited reason for divorce in the country a few years ago. I would be interested in the view of a man who is married to an Italian woman (I think it’s less of an issue, honestly) but my experience and from what I hear, most problems arise for women who marry Italian men.  As a fellow expat friend of mine put it, “It’s like the mother has a vagina made like a black hole and for his entire life the son is fighting the gravitational pull to be re-wombed.” Yep. Sums it up, but it’s not just the mom in my experience. Sure, for years the Italian mother has done so much for the family that she’s rendered everyone pretty much dependent on her, but to be honest everyone in the family has their own hold on the man of your dreams. In my family, my mother-in-law fought our relationship like a champ, my father-in-law never fought it but he tried to “educate me” on what’s expected of wives in southern Italy (indentured servitude). It took about four years for us to come to terms with the fact that we all had to coexist, I sure as shit didn’t want to be a “nice Italian girl,” and I didn’t want people to touch my underwear or lingerie, EVER. My family is unique (insane) in a lot of ways but many of my friends have confirmed that they’re also “typical” in many ways. After four years or tears and battles, we kind of figured out how to co-exist. Mostly.

1. Don’t be sweet and passive. Women are pretty much groomed to be sweet and passive in most cultures but Italian culture is a little different. People mistakenly believe that all Italian women are dominant spitfires who run their homes but that’s not necessarily true all the time. Italian culture is surprisingly misogynistic (what culture isn’t?) but Italian women are allowed to be more passionate and feisty. Yelling and speaking ones mind is something that happens a lot in Italy and often more than in the US (were people are encouraged to repress ill feelings until they can strategically dismantle someone). If you do the, “yes ma’am, yes sir,” nice, quiet thing, it’s only a matter of time before the entire family decides you’re a freak and starts walking all over you. In my family, my in-laws are really bothered that I don’t nag my husband. My father-in-law especially takes my calm, quiet approach as some sort of mental disability or as a lack of love for my husband. If I loved him, I would yell at him more, probably in public, and maybe call him fat in front of his friends cause that’s a thing. I would also iron his sheets.

2. Follow their lead. Watch what everyone else in the family is doing and try to be useful. They’ll appreciate it. If your family is like mine it probably looks like this: The men sit on the couch being lazy as fuck while the women run around the house like maniacs trying to do everything. Unfortunately, if you have a vagina and you marry into an Italian family they totally expect you to be running around with the women being stressed. I’ve tried sitting it out but I just got yelled at and told that I will be a terrible mother. I AM lazy but also I don’t think it’s cool to wait on lazy fucking men. I’m not a maid. My happy-medium to this is forcing my husband to help out. This in return makes the women scream at their own husbands to “look how useful Francesco is, why can’t you be more like him!?”

3. Eat but never try to cook. Food is important in Italian culture (no new info, I know) and no matter how great of a cook you are, you’ll never be better than your husband’s mother. Forget about it. Just praise the mother’s cooking and avoid cooking for them. Even if your dish is professional quality it won’t be good enough. Praise, praise, praise, but forget about doing the whole, “let’s bond over how we both cook,” thing. Your food is dogshit. That’s it.

4. Set boundaries. A friend of mine put it best, “Italian families see each member as an extension of themselves, there are no boundaries.” In my experience it’s completely true. It doesn’t seem to occur to people that you might not want them to come stay at your house for the entire duration of the only vacation you have for the entire year. They’ll struggle to understand why they can’t just buy you orange curtains that they think would look good in your house. Why can’t they inform you when you gain or lose weight? They are just trying to help! If you’re not Italian, you’ll probably struggle with your mother-in-laws need to rush over and baby your boyfriend/husband when he’s ill, you’ll probably struggle with spending every vacation with his family, and with the family’s overbearing opinions about your decor, life decisions, sex life, choice of mop. You want to be fair and  understanding that family means a lot but being understanding doesn’t mean that you have to be okay with being controlled and dominated. If you don’t set boundaries right away you’ll just become frustrated, bitter, and explode. My rule is if I wouldn’t let my own parents do it, I don’t let them. Being Italian doesn’t get to be an excuse for having no consideration for my lifestyle or culture. If I have to respect them, they have to respect me, that’s it. I’m not saying you should be mean to your in-laws, but I am saying you should be honest with them. Tell them “no,” or explain why you don’t like it when they come over and clean out your freezer while you were in the bathroom for ten seconds peeing. No.

5. Set boundaries again but this time with your husband. And again. And again. And again. It’s important to get your partner on board with what you need and how you feel but sometimes that can be difficult. It was difficult for my husband to set boundaries with his parents because he’d never, ever done it before. If they’re fine with their mom going through your laundry hamper or coming over to re-fold your laundry, it doesn’t mean you have to be okay with it. Tell them how you feel. Trust me, if you don’t you’ll become resentful and start screaming things during fights like, “What!? Hungry? Call your mom over! She can whip out a tit!” Another issue is that the concept of age is different in Italy. Thirty is ancient to an American but very, very “young” in Italy. My family really struggles to allow my husband to make decisions for himself because he’s “too young,” and my husband often feels like he can’t handle large decisions because they’ve convinced him that he’s too young and I’m like, FIFTEEN YEAR OLDS IN MY COUNTRY MAKE BIGGER DECISIONS! FOR GOD SAKES JUST CHOOSE A MIXING BOWL! That happened at Ikea once when we were first dating and no shit he called his mom to help him get “the right one.” It’s not like this now. After he initially stood up to them it became second-nature and now we’re a team and we hold hands and scream, “NO YOU CAN’T….” at his parents and it’s awesome.

6. Learn to shrug off criticism. There will probably be more nagging and criticism than what you’re used to from your in-laws. Just accept that they probably dish out the same amount to their own children, know that the rest of us are dealing with it, too, and laugh. You really have to have a great sense of humor. Sometimes it’s difficult, I know, about the ten-millionth time that my ma in law told me that I dressed terribly and am always “a mess,” I started to feel really bad.  After a while I realized how hilarious it was and just started to laugh. It helped that my husband jumped in and set some boundaries.

7. Don’t try to fit in. You’re not Italian. Even if you speak Italian fluently, dress Italian, look Italian, you’ll never be Italian. There will always be things about you that noticibly sets you apart and that’s probably why your partner married you to begin with. I know it’s a stupid cliché but really, truly, just be yourself. Eventually, after years, you’re weird expat shit will become endearing. Probably. I’ll let you know when that happens.

8. Love them. I know it can be difficult even if you’re not an expat, but try to love your in-laws even if they are annoying as shit. I promise you that I can win the contest of “who had it harder” and I still manage to love mine. I try to remind myself that our problems are part cultural, part insanity, and part them just trying to be good parents to their son by protecting him from the evils of the world (ME). My father is an immigrant (Iran) and he’s every bit as batshit crazy as they are and his weird way of “loving” is offensive and downright boundary-crossing (in a different way, he sends my husband pics of them together at midnight with “miss you” under them but that’s another story) but I know that he means well. When they drive you crazy just try to remember that it probably comes from a good place, or fear, or tradition, or brain-washing and it’s not personal. Except when they grab your tits and tell you they suck and then ask everyone in the bridal shop how “she’ll possibly find a dress because look at how small her boobs are!” That shit is totally personal.

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Francesco Goes To The Pool OR My Italian Husband Is Adorably Weird

Francesco has decided to get in shape which he doesn’t really need a lot of because he’s already a babe. He went out and got a gym membership and has been pretty dedicated, going every night. The gym that he signed up for has a large swimming pool. He’s been dying to get near it so he can splash around and remember his more wonderful days when he was young, single, and banging foreign girls on the slides after closing. In preparation of remaking the childhood classic ‘When Fuzzy Dolphins Mate,’ he went shopping for some swimming gear. So far he’s purchased:

1. Goggles

2. Earplugs

3. A Condom to wear on his head

4. A Speedo

When I told him that people don’t really wear head condoms here unless they are joining an olympic team or trying to have sex with a whale he glared at me and barked that I sounded like “deh stupid American types who cares too much what others think.” He has a point, it is ridiculous to care, he’s right. It’s stupid and doesn’t matter at all what anyone wears, ever. Then again, think about the children. They’re splashing around just having the best time ever when a man cruises by in a speedo that probably has an Italian flag on the butt, and the kid screams because he’s just spotted an Italian stallion (part wild animal) in a banana hammock that leaves none of the man fuzz to the imagination. It’s really about protecting these poor, sheltered, protestant children.

 

Authentic Italian Food Might Look Different Than You Think (Chicken Alfredo is not a real dish)

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Italian Expat Series, Author Lee Foust, A Great Writer And Good Friend

jpegAfter much nomadism, I have come to consider place to be less of a geographical reality and more of an illusion of significance associated with our troubled concept of identity. Frankly, too many people reside out of place for nationality, language, culture, or race (another outmoded and imaginary concept according to geneticists) to be as significant and we believe them to be. Notice the pause, the hesitation when you ask someone, “Where are you from?” What information do you expect to extract? A self-proclamation for your profiling? I have come to believe that a free, unafraid human being lives beyond place’s strict confines or its conformity to a nationalist, a racist, or a demographic ideal.

My book of fiction, Sojourner, collects 19 poems, 7 short stories, 6 prose poems, and 7 non-narrative prose pieces, each exploring the mysteries of their characters’ relationship to place: house hunting, traveling, running away, returning, studying, getting lost, emigrating, dreaming, cheating, squatting, dying, sleeping, surviving, relocating, getting married, and coming home.

Sojourner is divided into two large sections and a short middle section dividing the other two thematically. The texts of the first part focus mostly on Americans ill at ease at home or traveling, and those of the latter half on expatriates of all types. The three texts of the middle, dividing section bridge the gap between casual travel and persistent foreignness, and treat of the madness of the moment of decision, who we are before we relocate and then the aftereffects of our nomadism.

 

Here’s a topical table of contents for Sojourner:

 

  1. An American boy stuck in murderous US suburbia.

  2. A suburban youth seeks apartment in the big city.

  3. Freaks cruising a San Francisco nightclub circa 1992.

  4. SF yuppie cheats on girlfriend with Irish orphan.

  5. Drunk Parisians lament servitude.

  6. A French junkie scores in Florence.

  7. American Goth homeless on the streets of Amsterdam.

  8. A brother laments death in Lubbock.

  9. A brother survives death in NYC.

  10. Americans drive to Toronto to see Patti Smith.

  11. Americans and Brits fight over Brooklyn.

  12. House hunting in NYC.

  13. Air conditioning for the NYC masses.

  14. Sister Morphine stalks the Lower East Side.

  15. A Syrian emperor in Ancient Rome.

  16. Italian dreams in NYC.

  17. An academic drinks beer on the Lower East Side.

  18. Friendship as reflected in two bars, one in SF and one in NYC

 

  1. Captain Anarchy stalks the streets of NYC before and after 9/11.

  2. A traveler loses track of place for a night.

  3. An American writer permanently relocates to Helsinki.

 

  1. Sex change in Pontassieve.

  2. Savonarola sieged in piazza S. Marco.

  3. Berlusconi is Vesuvius.

  4. Naples is a befana.

  5. Shakespeare studies in Rome.

  6. Florence chokes on itself.

  7. A Venetian nobleman commits suicide with a displaced Frenchman during carnival.

  8. Beatrice in Purgatory.

  9. Commuter train, Florence—Pontassieve.

  10. American soldiers buried in Tuscan soil remembered.

  11. Florentine poet publicly dismembered.

  12. A happy expatriate returns to Florence.

  13. A perfidious Italian wife acts Bluebeard outside Orvieto.

  14. An Irishman visits Volterra.

  15. Love in ghostly Florence.

  16. Love in abandoned Assisi.

  17. Love in duplicitous Poznan.

  18. Words are a place too.

 

My website: www.leefoust.com

My blog: http://leefoust.blogspot.it/

A free, downloadable CD’s worth of performances from Sojourner: https://soundcloud.com/lee-foust/sets/sojourner-previously-entitled

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Lee Foust is a well known expat author and professor in Florence, Italy. You can purchase his book Sojourner on Amazon. The eBook version will be available this week.

 

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Italy On The Internet

The internet is buzzing about Italy these days. Vintage photos, singing nuns, economic crisis, the pope, aaah Italy. I’ve gathered some of my favorite Italian news from the internet so I can share it with all of you.

This Singing Nun Makes That One Dude Cry And Shocks Everyone Else

These Vintage Snapshots Of Italy From Charles H. Traub

 The Evolution Of Pizza In This YouTube Video 

Photos Of The Abandoned Psychiatric Hospital In Tuscany 

Pope Addresses The Mafia And Asks Them To Stop Doing Evil 

(Unlike religious institutions who historically only do good).

Singing Nun On The Voice

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Being An American Expat In Italy Means Always Missing “Home”: Culture Shock And Reverse Culture Shock

United States and Italy

United States and Italy (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Culture shock is a real thing. People experience it in different ways with varying degrees of severity. The time it takes to adjust is also different for everyone. I hardly noticed the culture shock when I first arrived in Italy for school because I was surrounded by so much familiarity in the midst of all of the differences. However, when I decided to stay in Italy with only one friend and my boyfriend there the entire thing changed and I experienced an array of feelings that spanned enthusiasm to suicidally shitty depression and isolation. When I’m in Italy, 90% of the year I miss parts of the United States. I miss my friends, my family, efficiency, and things like “doggy daycare.” The other 10% of the time that I’m in the United States I miss Italy. I miss the food, the long walks through winding streets, I miss being able to take my dog with us to hang out, cheap wine, and grocery stores that carry real food.

There is no real solution. Being an expat is accepting that something is always missing, nothing ever feels complete. You’d think that you could just pop back and fourth to have everything but reverse culture shock is a very real thing too that can be even more of a mind-fuck than normal culture shock that one experiences when moving to a foreign land. When you leave the homeland for years you never quite feel “at home” ever again because home is more than one place now. In the US I miss the places that I met my husband and our memories together. I miss the calm lifestyle, wine outside on the patio with Oliver tangled under our feet. I miss the stench of Florence and the irritating and loud Italian women talking about how stupid are their husbands in the street. In Italy I miss sounding intelligent. I miss talking about sociology and life with the command of language available only in my native tongue. I miss sarcasm and irony which are not common in the Italian culture.

Italy

Italy (Photo credit: Boston Public Library)

When I come back to the United States, time has passed, my friend’s children are older, I’ve changed, they’ve changed, and while I have the most insane/amazing friends in the world, it still takes a minute for us to get over how weird it is that I’m sitting in front of them in real form and not on Skype. In the US I forget that I can pick up a phone and call people, so I never do it. I feel panicked in massive grocery stores, I try to bag my own groceries, and when people speak to me with an accent of any kind for reasons I can’t understand my brain tells me to switch to Italian. Can I help you ma’am? Si, aspetta…vorrei…a new brain. What the hell is wrong with me!?

I’ve yet to find a solution to this problem. Maybe it’s easier if you do a 6 month split between countries? Maybe I just don’t Skype home enough? Maybe my friends DON’T VISIT ME IN ITALY ENOUGH (bastards!). It’s hard to say. What I do know is that when you move abroad you’re getting so many amazing, new experiences. You’re growing, and changing, and seeing incredible things. Yet, every day for at least a little while you’ll miss your childhood friends, the ones who understand you and don’t think it’s that weird that you hate cooking, swear like a truck driver, and treat your dog like a human toddler (back off! I like my fucking dog okay!?). You might miss the humor that is native to your tongue (and humor is completely cultural, it differs hugely from place to place). You might miss pop culture references, like when I tell my husband that he dances like the 80′s cartoon version of Optimas Prime and he stares blankly at me and says, “What’s the hell is dat?” Is it worth it then to always be missing something? I’m not sure. It’s just my reality now.

I think what I’m getting at is that everyone I enjoy should follow me from country to country and stop depriving me of a complete life. I think that’s fair.

 

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What I Do When I’m Not Writing Here. 

Devil insects, Emergency Death Storms, And Allergies. 

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