Home expat life 24 Ways That Italy Changed My Life For The Better And Weird

24 Ways That Italy Changed My Life For The Better And Weird

written by M.E. Evans May 21, 2014
San Donato Val di Comino, Frosinone, Lazio

San Donato Val di Comino, Frosinone, Lazio

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.


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Mani (A New Life Wandering) May 21, 2014 at 6:27 pm

Sounds like Italy made you a better person.

M.E. Evans May 21, 2014 at 6:34 pm

I think it did. Do you feel the same way in your expat experience?

Mani (A New Life Wandering) May 21, 2014 at 6:40 pm

It’s hard to tell… I only lived in india for 3 months, and I’ve lived in the US for 4 years now but before I moved here, the country wasn’t very foreign to me since I had visited many times and it’s the neighbor country of my home country, Mexico.
I hate to say it but I don’t think the US has made me a better person. And I just can relate to many of it’s cultural aspects like everything being a competition, the love for money, work being life and someone’s identity, etc…
Mexico is more like some things you described about Italy: food is about socializing, family and friends are important, etc.

M.E. Evans May 21, 2014 at 6:45 pm

I’m not sure that living in the US makes anyone a better person. It’s a corporate country (entirely money focused) and that’s why the people are all on prozac (it’s true). The only good thing about the US is the ability to reach financial dreams and the ability to study at the best schools in the world (for a hefty price). I do like the multicultural aspects, that’s nice, (Italy isn’t multicultural at all, so people are surprisingly racist and close-minded). But I completely agree that it’s difficult to be motivated to be “good” in a country that really emphasises monetary gain above all else.

Mani (A New Life Wandering) May 21, 2014 at 6:51 pm

Right. It obviously has its good sides and I did marry an American. So I shouldn’t criticize too much 😉

chris May 21, 2014 at 6:38 pm

It is so nice to hear all the good things that rubbed off, or assimilated themselves into your cells. Cherish it, because if you stay here (without frequent trips to the motherland) too long it begins to fade. I always feel more at home, there. The minute I get off the plane a big smile comes and I sigh and say to myself, I am home.

M.E. Evans May 21, 2014 at 6:39 pm

Oh Chris, you haven’t read very much of my blog have you? LOL.

M.E. Evans May 21, 2014 at 6:41 pm

These sort of “yay” Italy posts are rare here on Surviving. 😉

Pippa Pirrip May 21, 2014 at 6:57 pm

I missed my dog SO much when I was in Florence! Everyone was out with their little dog & mine was with her sitter back in the States. The silver lining was that no one thought anything of it when I randomly dropped down to love on their dog! Here I get looks like, “Holy crap Crazy Lady, wtf are you doing to my dog!” There people smiled at me and would either “speak” for their dog, telling me her name or whatever or they’d say something nice to me and ask where my dog was (I don’t think anyone asked if I had a dog, they just assumed I must have one at home. Probably hanging out with my husband and kids or something.)

One day! Hoping I can do a post-doc in Europe, I’ll take Bexley with me everywhere I go!

Paula Heath May 21, 2014 at 7:10 pm

Hi there,

I don’t normally comment on blogs, I don’t know why, I just don’t, however I seriously love your blog! I moved from Melbourne Australia to Milan Italy to attempt to learn the Italian language 4 weeks ago, your writing has made me feel better about what the f I am doing here, I even am laughing out loud at what you have got up too. You are really funny. Thanks so much misty, I love it….


Sent from my iPad


M.E. Evans May 21, 2014 at 7:36 pm

Thank you so much Paula! You just totally made my day! How are you enjoying Milan?

Bellavia May 21, 2014 at 7:58 pm

I had become a food snob when returning to the US, too….well, for the first few years. I was so snobby I’d turn my nose up to American coffee (Moka, in tow, of course), any ‘restaurant’ or even some family’s idea of dinner. oops. But, now I can admit, I totally dive into chinese or Chipotle when I get the chance. 😉 I still only drink espresso, however. lol

One positive thing, perhaps, regarding the US and it’s obsession with money is the ability to actually have some. It’s one thing that really drags me down about Italy….the reliance of the nonni economy because jobs pay shit and there aren’t any to begin with. New ideas are scoffed at and doors close easily.

Other than that, I have to agree the US –and Americans–have a lot to learn from il bel paese. 🙂

M.E. Evans May 21, 2014 at 8:15 pm

I couldn’t agree more. The financial situation in Italy is tragic. Our generation would starve to death without the assistance of parents and grandparents which also stops progress, and hinders Italians from learning how to be self sufficient. I wish we could combine Italy’s culture of family with the US’s ability to make money and inspire new thinking and ideas. Did you know it costs around 10,000 EURO to start an LLC? It’s just insane. Other democratic socialisms are doing a lot better in this area. I suppose Canada is nearly a mix between Europe and the US. 😉

Kristen May 21, 2014 at 10:42 pm

I certainly don’t dismiss your life improvements through living abroad, and wish I could’ve done same, but as I pondered your list I have to say many of the items simply get learned/resolved by just growing older, regardless of where one lives. With ago one tends to refocus one’s priorities and I’ve managed to find the right balance between work and life, quality over quantity, in the crazy USA. One can break-away from the template. I do still cling to my individualism over the collective and besides my family is soooo small I’d never make a good Italian (although I should get points because the suocera lives with us). Now, item #1 does have me somewhat concerned. I thought public urination was frowned on in most civilized countries. 🙂

GirlinFlorence May 22, 2014 at 8:21 am

great great post – I can agree with almost everything. I am now noticing the crazy ‘dog’ people now that we got a new puppy, its actually quite frightening. someone actually barked at ginger ( or me, couldn’t really tell] the other day. Plus, I can 100% agree that because of Italy, I actually enjoy food and love to cook – my idea of a normal meal before was tuna on some bread and some crap chips or something similar.. shame.. ragu should not be titled ‘prego’

Tiana (@TianaKaiMiami) May 22, 2014 at 9:20 am

So true on the food front. I felt like a major foodie snob during my last trip back home. I didn’t eat oil for three weeks and I didn’t have the heart to tell everyone, including my family, that it sucked that bad! I got a PHD in peeing when I studied in New Orleans, so our lady parts may have crossed paths at some point. 😉

Packing my Suitcase May 22, 2014 at 9:52 am

Girl you deserve an award for this post!! I could write I huge comment about it in here, but I will try to keep it short:
1. Funny as always, I love it!
2. I would say half of the things you said about myself: especially regarding eating slowly, appreciating the food, spending more for something with good quality, how to better take care of a dog (mine came from Brazil with me and I think that if he could speak he would say Im a better owner here than I was in Brazil), this thing of not having people looking at you all the time (people here dont really care what Im wearing or what Im doing, unless is against the law haha), the interference of speaking another language on your mother tong, especially when you have to write ahaha etc etc.
3. I would love to meet you in person hahaha Im going to Italy in September for 3 weeks and I will be very close to Florence. And whenever you are around Munich let me know 🙂

M.E. Evans May 27, 2014 at 11:16 am

Awe, thanks! I will definitely let you know the next time I’m in Munich. My husband was actually just there last week. I’d love to meet! Keep me updated!

Packing my Suitcase May 27, 2014 at 1:04 pm

Sounds great!! 🙂

Simba May 23, 2014 at 3:04 am

Right on the spot, and craftily-worded 🙂

It’s that whole love-and-hate relationship in Italy, in a nutshell, with you (as an expat) in it. Anyways, this made me smile- as did the rest of the blog. Can’t believe that I haven’t stumbled upon this before! Thanks for sharing, and keep on writing!

Okayest Mom May 29, 2014 at 3:27 am

Great list! You can do heels on cobblestone?! You’re amazing! (I saw women carrying huge toddlers in their arms while walking in heels on cobblestone and wondered if I would ever do that. The answer is no.) And I, too, felt “shunned” when I returned because no one one catcalled me anymore!

cherisejoelle May 30, 2014 at 12:41 am

Great article! I have been living in Florence too and have noticed a lot of the same changes it’s awesome!!

d0menica June 5, 2014 at 7:03 am

Hi Misty (M.E.?)

I am living in the US. I am planning my trip (or move!) to Italy right now for next spring after I’ve graduated college at UVM. I have read almost every article on your blog and I think you kick ass.
You are honest, hilarious, and fucking helpful. I am just trying to learn as much as I can.
I laugh out loud while reading this shit.

I have one question. In one post you wrote that most of your friends are english-speaking tour guides. How would someone like me get a job doing that? In Florence, or Rome… or elsewhere?


M.E. Evans June 12, 2014 at 5:54 pm

Thank you Domenica, that’s really sweet of you! Uhm, you want to practice Italian as much as possible (babbel or duolingo), and then just contact the tour companies and apply. An understanding of Florentine history or art is helpful so you might want to do a good amount of studying (unless you’ve majored in art or art history or Italian history). What did you major in?

Amanda June 25, 2014 at 4:46 pm

Dear Misty left you a message over on how to be an expat in Italy post, because I didnt see your more recent posts here. Love your blog! A

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[…] 24 Ways That Italy Changed My Life For The Better And Weird […]

Cirene July 30, 2014 at 8:18 pm

I really envy your way of life. Do you plan on living in Italy for the rest of your life? I know I would… I lived in Vicenza (30 minutes outside of Venice) for 3 years.. I miss it terribly. I miss the simplicity of life and living abroad. I also am sorry I never learned to truly speak Italian. And I agree with a comment I read.. It seems that living there has made your life better.. I know it made me realize more about my own country and the things we cannot seem to get right (food) I love following your blog!


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