How To Survive Being An Expat


1. Appreciate Your Life

Be thankful that you wake up alive each morning. Don’t take your situation for granted, most people never get the chance to live abroad and experience what you’re experiencing. Don’t sweat the small stuff like the fact that in Italy people have no concept of sidewalk space and they would rather throw you in front of a bus instead of stepping aside. So what! You stepped in dog shit and getting your residency is difficult, at least you’re not dying from terminal cancer.

2. Make Friends (It’s way better than sitting in front of FB all day crying)

Having good friends can make or break any experience. What do you love to do? Find a group of people who like the same thing and get to know them. Join a writer’s group, a painters group, a knitting circle. Friends will not come to your door magically. Leave. Your. Apartment. Surround yourself with people who have a great sense of humor. Friends that can help you accomplish what you set out abroad to do. They help you to feel good about yourself and they will totally understand all of your frustrations and complaints.

3. Be Considerate

Accept others for who they are as well as where they are in life. You did not move abroad to bring your motherland with you. This is how people are. Find their quirky things endearing, tease them, but don’t judge them. For example, try to see the incessant stares from the locals as adorable. Or pretend that you’re a movie star. This is what fame feels like. Roll with it.

4. Learn All The Stuff!

Keep up to date with the latest news regarding your career and hobbies. Go to events, and festivals. Try new and daring things that has sparked your interest – such as dancing, cooking, skiing, gardening, how to taste wine or find truffles. Being abroad doesn’t mean you should put “you” on pause. Learn about the country you’re in. Stay up to date on the one you came from. Take on an internship. Take an online class. Learn everything you can about what’s going on around you. Document it. Keep a daily journal with photos like the PROJECT LIFE project. See the place like you’re studying a new planet. Keep notes on the weird shit the locals do.

5. Whine Less, Take Action More.

Instead of being depressed over your situation, try to find a solution to your problems. Try to see each new obstacle you face as an opportunity to write a funny blog post, journal entry, funny youtube clip, or put it in that life book you’re making about your travels. Turn everything terrible into comedic relief. It’s the only way to avoid becoming the “insane and bitter” expat. Nobody likes those dudes. They’re scary.

6. Do What You Love Even If You’re Abroad

Most people hate their jobs! Being abroad might give you a once in the lifetime chance to do something new. Try it! Go big! When I arrived I wanted to write. Competition for English speaking things is lower here so getting published was less of a challenge than at home. BAM! Instant awesome and my resume is pimped. What can you do abroad that you couldn’t do at home? Go for the dream! If you fail, you’re abroad and nobody will even know. WINNING!

7. Enjoy Your New Life (Even When It Makes You Crazy)

Go for long walks with your camera. Sit and watch people interact and talk. Do a random act of kindness. Sometimes I walk around with change and give it to the street vendors and my husband follows me screaming, “STOP DOING THAT!” Sit at the park with a bottle of wine, get wasted, embarrass yourself. Go to the theatre. Every single day try to ignore all of the irritating bullshit and remember at least ONE REASON why you fell in love with the place to begin with.

8. Laugh At Yourself And Everyone Around You

Don’t take yourself seriously. You can find humor in just about any situation. Honestly, this is the best advice for living abroad, living in general, working or being married in general. If you can’t laugh at things, you’ll struggle. SO LAUGH. Everything about being alive is ridiculous. For example, last night I told my husband (after we had church sanctioned relations), “You know, sex is kind of insane when you think about it. You’re always trying to put your mini leg into my guts. I mean, literally, it’s in there right near my intestines, nestled between the bladder and colon. That’s not sexy. That’s fucking ridiculous.” He stared at me for a second, said, “wow,” then rolled over and had nightmares. Try to unlearn that, my friends.

9. Forgive

It’s exhausting walking around with pent up anger and frustration. Take responsibility for the times when you’re being close-minded and ethnocentric, and forgive others for being the same. Like when people say, “But you don’t look American, you’re not fat!” take that as the perfect time to take a deep breathe, forgive them, and then launch into detail about how you underwent 200,000 dollars of corrective surgery to make you more “european.” Or, forgive temporarily until you can hire someone to kill them. That works too.

10. Try To Remember That Everyone Doesn’t Get To Be An Expat

Be grateful that you get to have the experience that 99% of people in the world wish they could have. Yes, it’s annoying that your friends and family misunderstand the frustration and struggles of being an expat but at least you get to experience those struggles while they are at home eating mac n cheese and being lame. So, just smile when they tell you that you’re lucky, and then write a journal entry later about how annoying they are.

11. Invest in Real Relationships

Always make sure your loved ones know you love them even in times of conflict. Nurture and grow your relationships with your family and friends by making the time to spend with them. This can be hard if you’re dating cross-culturally because your partner will DRIVE YOU CRAZY, but try anyways. In regards to family, this one is hard to do abroad but you CAN do it. Write at least two friends a lengthy email every week. Include pictures. OR, at this is a great one, sign up to MailChimp. Create a newsletter, send it to your friends and family every week so they can see what you’re up to and you can stay connected. Creating a new life doesn’t mean severing the old one.

12. Be Honest With Yourself And Others

Being honest is the easiest route every time. I don’t lie simply because I’m lazy. I don’t have the energy to keep up with my own bullshit. Tell people how you feel and let them get mad. Tell them the truth and let them get mad. It’s not the end of the world but losing someones trust is. If someone loses that, it’s over.  Also, being out of your native land does not mean you can regress as a person. In fact, take this chance to be the most honest you’ve ever been. Mean what you say and say what you mean. Be the YOU that expectations at home made impossible.

13. Work Out, Do Yoga, Or Meditate

Meditate and do Yoga every morning. Even for 15 minutes with a YouTube video will totally change the level of frustration boiling over inside of you. When I feel homicidal rage I do this and it melts away and the population in Italy gets to live another day. Everyone wins!

14. Who Gives A Shit About What Others Are Doing

Concentrate on being the best you that you can be and stop worrying about what everyone is doing, thinking, or saying.

15. Try To Be Optimistic (With or Without Multiple Glasses Of Wine In Hand)

You get to choose how you feel about things. Try to find positive things even on the worst days (like the days you have to deal with international bureaucracy.)

16. Love Unconditionally. This is the hardest one for me. We can do it together (with Wine!)

Love everyone in spite of themselves. That opera singer upstairs that never shuts up! How charming, free music! Your mother-in-law who wants to iron your panties, no, hell no, but I love you for trying. Now give me back my undergarments.

17. Tenacity!

Don’t give up. Closing yourself inside of your house is giving up. Get out, make an ass of yourself, and more than anything stop caring about everything so much. If you keep trying things will turn out as planned but living abroad means you have to try three times harder than you’re used to.

18. Get Er Done!

Accept that you can’t change things. Don’t spend hours complaining about things that are out of your control. Change the things you can. You can’t make your new home like your old one. Accept that (but still make fun of it regularly).

19. Be The Best You That You Can Be

Eat healthy, workout (YouTube has ten billion free videos), drink water, take your vitamins, DO SO MANY PUSH-UPS!

20. Self Confidence

Don’t try to be someone you’re not. Don’t try to blend in with your new surroundings. For a long time I thought that everyone wanted me to be Italian (and some did) but it turns out that people like my “weird” and “different” way of thinking, acting and being. The more you like yourself and keep being you the more others will get on the “you” train. But you’ll never impress anyone by trying to fit in. You can’t. Don’t bother.

21. Take Responsibility

In every irritating scenario try to ask yourself, “how much of this could be me?” Own what part you played in the situation, learn from it, grow from it. Being alive isn’t about being right, it’s about being a better person at the end of the day. If you keep blaming your unhappiness on everyone else 100% you’ll never grow into anything but a delusional “ren fair.” A ren fair is a term coined by my friend Josh, which means, renaissance fair expat, the completely antisocial, bitter expats who suck the happiness and life from any room they walk into. Even if things are really bad because of someone else, take it as a chance to grow up. Is your in-laws calling you fat? Take it as an opportunity to learn how to fire back witty remarks, stand up for yourself, or calmly problem solve in a positive way. It’s a chance to do something besides crying yourself to sleep. You’ll come out tougher in the end. When my in-laws were being total fuckfaces, I cried, a lot. Then I realized that I was being weird around them too because I was scared of them. I started being me, completely, openly and honestly, and when they irritated me I would say, “Let me be dudes, I got this.” And eventually they backed off. Also, making fun of them helps.

65 thoughts on “How To Survive Being An Expat

    • Thanks a lot, love! I wrote this mostly as a “here is a way to not murder people, Elizabeth.” post. I’m glad that it’s helpful for other people. Feel free to add to the list if I left something off.

      • I totally agree that living in Italy is pretty special, something you lose sight of when you are getting frustrated by the endless ‘annoyances’ that are so common in everyday life in Italy!
        I was surprised to see the positive energy of this post given you seemed a little depressed over Halloween.
        Reading this one has given me some energy too! Thanks!

  1. Loved this. It’s substantial, hilarious, helpful, and true. I do complain a lot about my situation, but I’m not the average expat who moved to a complete different CITY. I moved to a complete different “town” in the country in India, where my neighbor is a cow, the train goes by my house 20 times a day, I can’t go grocery shopping by myself (even if I wanted to), all our neighbors burn their trash every Friday, and every Saturday the power is out until 5pm. At least, somehow, we have internet where I can read about other expats’ struggles and be jealous of them.

    • Thank you! I’m glad you liked it. Yeah, being an expat in India would probably be too intense for me so I salute you for doing it. Judging from your blog though, it seems like an incredible experience albeit really frustrating. I really enjoy reading about your journey (and kittens with rabies lol).

  2. I think this is great advice for an expat or anyone! I spent two months last year living in Dubai. To my great disappointment and sadness, it didn’t work out due to the job I had. I came home and it feels like I never left which is not a good feeling when I thought I had the next two years mapped out in Dubai. So – all that to say that these days I work and then I come home and essentially barricade myself in for the weekend and purposely try to avoid contact with anyone. I think your advice works for anyone on any level. Now if I could just make myself do it. But I do thank you, it made me think.

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  4. Thank you, thank you, thank you! I just moved to Milan to live with my Italian fiancee and have spent the last three weeks holed up in this tiny apartment. I really needed to read this right now. Definitely going to follow your blog. Also, I will bet you money that Milan has more dog shit on the sidewalk than Florence.😉

  5. I like every detail of your post. It’s very informative yet so fun to read. These tips really are very honest and motivating. This is exactly what expats, who are looking for something to cling on, needs. Very inspiring, very well said, indeed. Thanks.

  6. You are so right about the Italians’ unwillingness to move over on the pavement.! I have only been here a little less than three months and have found it harder adjusting than I would have thought. Will definitely take some of this advice on board. Thanks for a great post.

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  8. I just wanted to say thank you for this post. We are going to be moving from New Zealand to Cagliari in a few months time, for a few years, and I keep having panic attacks about how the hell we are going to survive over there. The extent of my italian at the moment extends to ‘grazie’ (which at least ‘I’ can pronounce correctly, but my husband sounds more like Brad Pitt in Inglorious Basterds) and ‘che cazzo’………which could come in handy. While I am sitting here freaking out over how I am going to be able to figure out what I am buying in a supermarket, or that we wont be able to go to the movies for a few years (unless the movie consists of someone saying ‘thank you’ and ‘wtf’ over and over) – I read your blog post and realised I just need to take a few breaths, chill out, and appreciate that it ‘will’ be a challenge, but that it’s a challenge that LOTS of people would kill for the chance to have. I won’t starve, and I can always watch movies on the laptop. Legally of course.

    • Haha! I loved this! I’m happy that you enjoyed the post and found it helpful. Learning the language was pretty rough for me for a plethora of reasons. When push comes to shove, just point and grunt or dance. I feel that interpretive dance is an excellent way to communicate. Keep me updated on your move and let me know if you need any info or help finding stuff🙂 good luck!

      • Hi Antonella! My husband moved over to Cagliari about 3 months ago – I had to stay behind to finish work, pack the house up, sort everything out etc. I just booked my flights last night, and I fly out in just under 3 weeks🙂 He seems to be loving it, and says that the beaches there are some of the nicest he has ever seen in the world (and given how much travel we have done, and coming from New Zealand, that is high-praise!)

      • My husband moved over to Cagliari about 3 months ago – I had to stay behind to finish work, pack the house up, sort everything out etc. I just booked my flights last night, and I fly out in just under 3 weeks🙂 He seems to be loving it, and says that the beaches there are some of the nicest he has ever seen in the world (and given how much travel we have done, and coming from New Zealand, that is high-praise!)

  9. Hi,
    This is wonderful! I am currently sitting at home feeling terribly sorry for myself…. I moved to Rome 5 months ago after 8 years of dreaming of doing exactly that. As soon as I got here I lost my job, my money disappeared and I am currently despairing as to how or what to do next (other than running back to England which I am still refusing to do). Expectations – even if you try not to have them have a way of sneaking in….. I was disappointed to find that the city and industry I thought I wanted to work in is a heaving, writhing, grasping and sometimes malevolent tourist machine….. As well as being one of the most beautiful and breath-taking places I have been….. Ah well!! Soooo many issues you mention here get me down daily…. particularly the bloody staring!!! It seems late for the culture shock to have set in – but it sooo totally has. Thanks so much – after this I shall remind myself daily that I risk turning into one of those spent, miserable expats I have met so many of already. Onwards and upwards!😉

    • I’m so happy that this post could help you out a bit when you’re having a low moment. Honestly, there were plenty of weeks where I ONLY had low moments. Just remember that we all go through it and try to get involved with some expat communities in Rome if you can. That totally saved my ass. And it’s never too late for culture shock to set in. It took me nearly two years to freak out.🙂 Thank you for the kind words. Keep me updated on your journey, I hope to see you around here more often! Baci, ME

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      • Yeah, I took an alternate tack to wine and instead consumed large quantities of pasta. Carb loading for non-athletes. In any case, all is well. I saw you’re moving back to the US. That will be an equally wild ride. I sent your site link to approximately 1 million expat friends bc I thought it was so dam* funny, so expect more followers on your trek! xo

      • Thank you so much babe! That’s sweet of you to spread the love. I’ve done the wine and carb thing in the form of 10,000 gallons of gelato. We’re not moving back to the US permanently, only for a bit for business. We’re returning to Italy. So far it’s been a really ridiculous ride. I’m not sure if I should document it here or if I should continue keeping everything Italy focused. What’s your thought on that? Are you feeling better now?

      • You cannot overdose on gelato. Good call. Ah, ok, I see you’re in the US already. Personally, I think the ‘US expat going back to the US after years in Italy’ is fascinating AND very relavant to your blog…especially since it’s only temporary. I imagine returning must have all kinds of re-adjustments both positive and negative (food, roads, lack of 10-hour meals, less abandoned dog poo) not to mention sticom-worthy hijinks about your Italian sweetie adapting to American Life in the Desert. Maybe create a new category like Expat Returns or American Expat in the US to separately categorize them. Forgot to look how you categorized today’s post. Anyway, I like how you organize the posts up at the top. Our plan is to stay in Como forever (and ever ever ever ever) but sometimes I think about going back and what it would be like. If I would like it. Who knows. All is better here – thx for asking. I suppose it’s all about reinventing yourself in a new context – be it motherhood or foreign land. At least that’s what I decided. ps: very very sad about the adorable, heart-opening doggie. So sorry. xo

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  13. Hey M, I really love your blog, Got so tired of the blah blah blah Under the Tuscan bum stuff. I Sent your blog to everyone I know struggling in Italy( a shitload of people) Well I’m something of a veteran now, Ive survived Twelve years here. I speak fluently, always have, if Im on the phone they mistake me for an Italian often. Ive got married here, got divorced here (yes in the Italian courts) !! Bought a house here. Taught in an Italian university and schools, then started my own business. So theres a lot I’ve experienced. After 10years were up. I stopped raging so much against the stupid things that drive you mad and getting so damn angry, and realised that yes I’m living the dream that so many people wish for. Love your blog! so inspirational. Im near Como🙂 Love to keep in touch by email on your US adventure. A

    • Amanda! Thank you so much! TWELVE YEARS!? After 5 I feel like my brain is a strange mush. I don’t know how you’ve handled 12. Cheers to that! Feel free to email me anytime. I’ll also be updating my other blog very soon. I’ve been lazy…

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  15. This is a great post Misty! I just reblogged it to my own blog so all of my readers can benefit too! I recently posted a similar one to my blog:, but I love all the humor of yours!! I think having a good sense of humor is absolutely essential for surviving life abroad! I’m really glad I found your blog and I’m looking forward to reading more. I’m also curious how you went about finding opportunities to get published in Italy? I’d love any tips and tricks so I can look for similar opportunities over here in Spain! thanks!

    • Thank you. I’m glad you’re enjoying the blog. I’ll check out your blog, thank you. I am actually in the US working on book stuff right now because it was the best option for me as far as publishing opportunities were concerned. I wouldn’t even dare to attempt publication in Italy.

  16. Pingback: How To Fight Expat Depression: Just Remember You’re Not Alone | Living In Italy.Moving To Italy. Loving In Italy. Laughing In Italy.

  17. Thanks for being so honest. I am depressed, becoming mad, confused and frustrated, but reading this makes me feel normal again and to try to be a little more positive(God willing): Its my third year living in Italy with my cute, wonderful Italian husband, but everything else is like a endless porca miseria. I’m still trying to find the dolce vita” now I realise it doesn’t exist anywhere outside, I guess you have to find the beauty and joy and kindness in everything inside( even if it does not make any sense.Take care:)

  18. I just started reading your blog last week – you’re f**cking HILARIOUS! My favorite line in this one: “Sometimes I walk around with change and give it to the street vendors and my husband follows me screaming, “STOP DOING THAT!”” I nearly scared my co-working by barking out a laugh. Looking forward to reading more!

  19. Dear M.E. Evans i totally loved this. i will definitely put this on practice. I love Italy, its my favorite country in the entire world and i am thinking on moving over there soon i hope. So this advice u wrote here will help me to start changing and become a better me before and after i go to italy. Thank u.

    • Hi,i am sarajane from shillong meghalaya india, last year i went to visit in italy and i stayed in genova for 3 month, and i really like the italian culture,i dont understand their language but i went to school to learn its not so easy but i have learned a few words its really interesting i love the people they are too good.Italy is one of the best place i’ve ever been to.i like the people their because they really care about their family and some of them are really romantic its very cutei surely will visit italy again someday

  20. Nice blog!
    Do you know of a good travel group for a single person in Florence or Italy over the Christmas holiday.

    Thanks so much,

  21. Do you know of a good trip for singles to Florence or Italy over Christmas. I’m looking for a nice group holiday experience rather than a trip to meet someone.


  22. I’m a little late to the party, but I love this! Your tips are so honest and insightful, and just spot on! I definitely appreciate the ‘if you can’t change it, laugh at it’ attitude. You’ve earned yourself a new follower🙂

      • I’m currently envious of my husband living abroad while I wait in the US for my responsibilities here to be over. If you want, you can check out my story at (The blog is in it’s infancy, so any tips would also be appreciated!)

  23. “Don’t sweat the small stuff like the fact that in Italy people have no concept of sidewalk space and they would rather throw you in front of a bus instead of stepping aside.”

    LOL! SO true. New to your blog. I like what I am seeing. :O)

  24. Hi!! Im super late to this blog post but am totally loving going through your blog lately! This post particularly resonated with me as I’m really trying to pull out of the moping phase of being a very reluctant expat and trying to find a place for myself in this insane country. Ive been here officially for 3 years but went back and forth to NY a lot (where I used to live and LOVED). Now im officially here, and trying to juggle my husband and his work being in smalltown Umbria while I try to find happiness and purpose in Rome (Umbria WAS NOT cutting it). Needless to say the economy does not make this so easy. I’m going to have to print this out and put it on my bedpost, or tattoo it on my body or something. But thanks for making me feel less alone!

  25. I love this. My husband and I lived in Germany for a few years, and we are HOPING an upcoming job opportunity for him will bring us back there within the year… this time with 2 kids! The first time around I was younger and it was easier for me to get down and out about the stuff I missed in the states and everything that was different in Germany… Now what I would give to go back and experience it again! Perspective is a funny thing.

  26. hi… this is one beautiful article. it had me thinking about me, becuz i moved to italy few months ago and i had problems with my residence and everything, and to mention i am still with no job.
    how did you learn italian? this is the thing that botheres me a lot? i am trying but i give up from time to time.
    so your blog really helped to realize hello i am in italy some people would kill for it.. i will try to go out and stop whining :))) all kisses..

  27. Your sense of humor is out of this world! I was LOL-ing as I read through. Im an expat, too. And guess what words i keyed in google to get me here?…..Right.😉

  28. Thank you for this and your other expat posts. They’re helping me tremendously as I adjust to the fact that I married a man who lives in a country where I don’t speak the language or read the alphabet or…well, I know you know.

  29. I loved this!!!! Thank you so much. Getting nervy about my move to Italy, I’m mostly scared that I’ll be lonely. This was the slap I needed to realise I need to make things happen🙂 thank you a thousand times over x

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