It’s impossible to live abroad and not come home forever changed. Living abroad, no matter how prepared for the experience you think you are, is always more difficult than you’ve planned. I thought that since my family is multi-cultural that I could easily blend in and figure shit out. Totally not what happened. However, I did struggle, and as a result I became a stronger person. Now I’m so tough I ride unicorns through flame hoops while playing metal on an air guitar. True story.
1. Bathroom habits. I’m now more like a dog. I am fearless when it comes to peeing in public which is way more useful than you’d think. I’m pretty sure that most Florentines have at least caught a glimpse of my bare ass or hoo-haw at some point. My lady bits are like leprechaun sightings.
2. This might not be a “better thing” but it’s funny. Italy kind of made me a wuss in some areas. “Camping” now requires a tiny cabin, with a shower. I expect a dance club, pool, and cafe to be located in the camping area. However, I am no longer used to heat or air conditioning inside the houses so my ability to withstand extreme temperatures is higher.
3. Dogs are members of the family. In Florence dogs get to go everywhere and they do. I am a much better dog haver since living in Florence. I get annoyed when people don’t treat their dogs like family members. Dogs like Prada, too, bitch! I am confused when high-end stores won’t allow my dog inside in the US. It’s not that I can afford to be in there but I like to walk around on occasion to see what not poor people do in their free time. In Italy, the D & G girls would scoop my muddy puppy up and snuggle him. Why the fuck don’t you want to snuggle my muddy dog? SNUGGLE HIM!
4. Dining. I eat more slowly, restaurants are for people and conversation, food just happens to be there. I am the US’s worst nightmare. I fully expect to sit at a table for at least a few hours. If my food comes too fast I get stressed out. Stop trying to force me out! I’m drinking!
5. I don’t care what people think anymore. I’m so used to being stared at that when I go in public and nobody looks at me I feel shunned. Why isn’t everyone watching me? Look! I’m picking up a can of corn. Sigh.
6. I gesture a lot when I talk now which is probably good exercise. I seem violent from far away. “Ma che cazzo fai!” hand gesture, hand gesture, wave like a maniac.
7. I’ve become a food snob. If something isn’t delicious I just won’t eat it (which is fine because more wine!). But I care about the quality of my food a lot. This is good because I no longer have the tastebuds for processed foods or random chemicals that companies chuck into our diet.
8. Yelling doesn’t bother me, at all. Seriously, yell at me. Couldn’t care less. My skin is a lot thicker which is nice.
9. Eating in front of a t.v. instead of at a table seems somehow wrong. I was pretty much raised eating dinner in front of a television but after years abroad I can see how dinner with family and friends is so much more important and necessary for maintaining that connection. In the US, we’ve really lost a connection with each other over the loss of our family dinners.
10. I’ve learned that holy water is a real thing that you can get from the church. I’m much better prepared for a hostile vampire takeover.
11. I’m more confident. After moving to a foreign country, I kind of feel like I could do anything. It’s like being Jane in the jungle, I’m amazonian now. RAAAAR!
12. I am not really the type, but if I wanted to, I could nag the fuck out of someone. Seriously. It’s a skill.
13. I appreciate slow food, the act of eating rather than getting full. The dining experience is much more important now than it used to be. The idea of plopping into a table, shoveling food in, and leaving immediately totally weirds me out. This is good because I can maintain a healthy weight without killing myself at a gym every day.
14. I’m more family-oriented. My husband has been a very good influence on me in terms of family. If I’m mad at a family member, he’ll remind me that it doesn’t matter if they are a total dipshit because family is all there is in life. It’s really sweet unless I want to kill someone. Then it’s annoying. But mostly sweet. When my brother and I fight (which we do pretty much always), my husband will call him and try to work it out. Because family. FAMILY.
15. My priorities have changed. Both of my parents show affection through “things,” so I used to care a lot about stuff. I don’t care about stuff at all anymore. Italians are much less materialistic than Americans and that’s something that really rubbed off on me. I care about clothes, food, wine, going out and traveling, but I don’t really give a shit about stuff. If I have to choose between an experience or “things,” I’m going to choose the experience. It’s made me a much happier person. I also expect less from others. So, yay to not being a spoiled brat!
16. I kind of already said this but it’s important so I’ll say it again. I care about quality more than ever, especially about the quality of things I’m putting into my body. There is a very noticeable difference between produce quality in the supermarkets here and in Italy. I’m way more attuned to preservatives, chemicals, and crap. I can actually taste it now and it scares the shit out of me. “Mmm, this apple tastes like…death. Delicious!” No.
17. My goals are different. Now, everything that I do is about my family and friends. What job is best for my family? What do my friends need right now? What can I do to make sure we get to spend enough time together now and in a few years? Before I moved to Italy I was kind of a selfish asshole. Everything was about me, my personal success, and more me. I mean, I’m obviously not totally cured because I write a blog entirely about my life, but I also do it so that I can spend more time with my husband, travel more, and eventually hang out with kids more (if I have them, my vagina is still scared).
18. Quality over quantity. In the US it’s all about QUANTITY. In Italy it’s more about quality. Now, every year I’ll spend a lot of money on three pairs of shoes, and a few main items, but they are all very high quality and will last for years. Instead, in the US I would buy one thing that was 10 dollars in every color and replace it every three months as it ruined. This is good, for the environment, to support local businesses (in Italy high quality is usually Italian made), and also better on my checking account in the long run. I spent 300 euros on my last pair of winter boots, they were handmade, and are still in flawless condition after four years of daily wear throughout the winter. Seriously, it’s worth it.
19. I can speak another language. It’s kind of shitty in some ways because it also impacts my English (not awesome when you’re a writer) but it’s fun to have a secret language in the US AND a sort of secret language in Italy (English).
20. I wear less makeup and care less about my hair. The au naturale look is more popular in Italy which I appreciate (cause I’m lazy).
21. About the point above, except for high heels. High heels on cobblestone. I can navigate it like a champ so I’m more than ready for the circus. Bring it on.
22. I feel more a part of the collective than ever before. Yes, Italy is a democratic socialism, but it’s also the mentality that you find within the family. There is an idea that everyone is an extension of each other and individualism just doesn’t make sense. Now, instead of thinking, “I paid for this, if I don’t need it I should sell it and get my money back,” I think, “I paid for this, I’d like my younger siblings to have it because money within the family is money spent well.” It’s nice.
23. Cooking. I’m a much better cook. I’m a 10,000 million times better cook. Before Italy I couldn’t cook worth shit and now I can actually make homemade pastas and sauces and all of that. Kind of awesome.
24. I’m more knowledgable about world news. I’ve always been interested in world news and affairs but in the US you have to search out the information on certain channels or in specific newspapers. In Italy even local papers touch on world issues (except for things owned by that fucktard Berlusconi). I feel much better informed on what is happening on a global level.