Raising Multicultural Children: The USA Versus Italy

If you follow this blog you already know that my husband, Francesco, and I are talking about having children. For those of you that don’t come here often, it scares the holy shit out of me. Like every couple thinking about having children we have a lot to think about. Like any multicultural family, we have some additional things to consider as well. Here’s my list of things that I’ve been considering/worrying about. Not in the order of importance. Actually the opposite of that. I really just like to delay the not amusing things because I avoid my problems.

*Talking about raising kids in Italy really makes some expats crazy pissed because they think that Italy is flawless and maybe it is perfect to them. I get it, people  want to defend their decision to raise their kids in the US.  But just a warning, if anyone is a dick I’ll change their comments to say something about how they can’t stop eating cat turds or something equally as hilarious to me.

1. My vagina. Goddamnit I like her. But, I did call around to all of my married male friends with children to ask about their wives vaginas and they all said, “Dude, it’s totally the same.” And I was like, “Okay but define the same.” And one friend screamed, “You are fucking crazy! The same means the same! As in it’s the same size and looks the same as before. You need therapy. Er, more therapy. Stop worrying about your vagina!” So that’s the blessing and the curse of having mostly male friends. They can fill you in about their wives vaginas but then they get an attitude when you ask them if they took measurements. This is the problem with testosterone. They hate measuring things.

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How To Fight Expat Depression: Just Remember You’re Not Alone

Let’s talk about the thing that nobody ever wants to talk about because it sucks: Depression. Usually it’s only a matter of time before expats experiences some form of situational depression, anxiety, or the need to hide under their bed with a bottle of wine for days on end. Hell, you don’t even need to be an expat. Sometimes life is just overwhelming and hard. Sometimes we are all going to deal with depression. It sucks. It’s hard. But at least we have each other.

Living abroad means a lot of things, a lot of conflicting things.  One minute life is a paradise and you find yourself  drinking cheap wine in a vineyard, tasting olive oil in an olive grove, laughing to yourself as old men wave to you in the street. Then five minutes later your world is full of confusion, humiliation, it’s a cataclysm of WHAT THE HELL AM I DOING!? This “what the fuck,” moment often happens after your dog poops in the street and an angry shop owner comes out to scream at you while you’re cleaning it up, your papers have been lost or denied by the consulate, your partner moves you into a family commune, or you end up in a house in the middle of nowhere surrounded by wild boars and the sound of deafening silence. Sometimes a breakdown can happen if you’re spending too much time alone or surrounded by people you like but don’t at all identify with.

gif: wheninlawschool.tumblr.com

I’ll never forget the first time I had a total mental breakdown. I was at one of my husbands’ friends’ home and everyone was joking around and laughing but I couldn’t understand why any of their jokes were funny. I just couldn’t get it. I was sitting at a merry table, while everyone was having the time of their life and I was totally bored out of my mind trying my hardest to relate to anyone on even the most basic level. It was as if the room froze, I looked from face-to-face, then back to myself and thought, “I don’t belong here.” I went to the bathroom and held back tears. Nobody was being mean, nothing was terrible, but it finally hit me that I didn’t connect with anyone in Italy at all at that point.  And I didn’t understand it because at home I could get along with just about anyone. I felt like an asshole and totally isolated. It was really, really rough.

Photo: myinsanebrain.com

Expat depression and overall insanity is totally common and you know what? It’s normal. One of my best friends just moved to London from Utah. She’s been totally dying to get out of Utah for years but when I Skyped with her and her husband the first thing they both said was, “This is really difficult. How did you do this?! Having a mental breakdown is a very real thing! Who knew?!” These are intelligent, hard-working, totally amazing, normal people. Okay, normal is a stretch, since she’s one of my best friends, but you get the idea. Living in a foreign country is really difficult for everyone at one point or another whether or not you speak the language. Living in Italy is even harder for us from the anal-retentive English-speaking world because the culture is so different from ours. Dr Kirsten Hogh Thorgersen wrote,“When you arrive in a new culture, you’re shaken in self-confidence, and the more different the culture is, the greater the challenge.”

The difficulty of living abroad often leads to anxiety or depression. In my case it lead to some weird form of social anxiety and agoraphobia where I would come up with any excuse I could to avoid leaving the house. And despite what many people think, depression doesn’t necessarily mean that you feel sad. You could be depressed and not even know it. Signs that you’re depressed:

  • difficulty concentrating
  • insomnia or oversleeping
  • irritability
  • significant changes to eating patterns
  • lack of interest

The worst part about being depressed abroad is you feel totally isolated and misunderstood within your new country, but also nobody at home gets it either. I mean, you’re abroad! How can you be depressed!? Well, unfortunately, it can be really depressing even if you live in a century-old city with incredible food. It’s okay. You’re okay! Every day I receive emails from expats who are struggling abroad. They feel stupid or confused, they’re angry or isolated, and I do my best to remind them that they are all epically awesome because despite the difficulty they keep on keepin’ on because they are total badasses. That’s right! Even if you’re in Italy having a hard time, you’re a badass! And you’re not alone.  You’re a part of the expat mafia, a group of rogue crazies who had the guts to put themselves out there even when things became rough. Sure, an old woman called you a foreign sack of shit, some embassy denied your paperwork, and your in-laws are trying to move into your guest room as you read this sentence…BUT! At least you’re doing something that most people would never get the opportunity to do in their lives. So, it sucks, it’s frustrating, but it’s an experience that can help you grow in new ways, too. And we’re all growing together! That’s exciting, right? I know, I know, but it feels terrible.

Photo: Hypescience.com

I’m a perfect example of a romantic, europe-obsessed woman turned Italy-repulsed homicidal maniac. It can happen to even the most positive, happy, well-intentioned of us. You’re not broken or somehow deranged for experiencing frustration. You’re in a foreign place and it’s normal to have one or two-hundred major meltdowns for various reasons. I mean, for the first time since being a child you’re thrown into a place where you don’t know how to navigate anything. Plus, you have to start over. It can be frustrating to start your life all over from scratch. New friends, new city, new apartment, new coffee maker. It’s a lot to take in, guys. And there will be days when you don’t even recognize yourself anymore. That was the hardest for me because I liked myself before I moved to Italy, damnit.

gif: giffy.com

So how do you deal with it all? How to help alleviate that sinking black feeling, that rapid heartbeat, or that strange new fear of going outside?

Take it one day at a time. On days that are really bad just try to focus on one positive thing. Write it down, put it on your wall! Or in my case, I combatted my depression with goals and activities. I started THIS BLOG (thank depression for that!), I wrote a book and a screenplay, I also learned how to Flamenco on YouTube. Yes, seriously, i’m terrible and it’s embarrassing but now you know my secret. I’m sure the people who lived downstairs wanted me to trip and die. Depression is hard but you can beat it! Beat the shit out of it. And, more wine, of course.

Gif: stxrbucksbxtch.tumblr.com

FIVE WAYS TO COPE WITH EXPAT DEPRESSIONS (Kick It’s Ass!)

GIF: entertainthis.usatoday.com

1. Make a goal or a list of goals. If you’re working towards something you’ll feel accomplished. Have a task to do every day. Take some pictures, spend the day outside stalking people like an anthropologist. You’d be surprised by how relieving it can be to follow someone in a supermarket whispering, “I’ve just spotted a middle-aged Italian woman buying what seems to be some kind of bread. She’s making her way towards what appears to be salami! Just get a look at her in her natural habitat! She’s examining it! She’s purchased the salami with tiny, round metal objects and paper squares. How fascinating!” Start a blog, or keep a notebook! Venting can be very helpful. Get it out! Take some online classes or take a class in your area. Painting, language, cooking, whatever! Check off some goals you’ve always had but never had time to accomplish!

2. Yoga. Every morning when you wake up, tune into YouTube and do a yoga video. Those videos will really help you to relax yourself. Exercise is a great way to combat fatigue, depression, and anxiety. Plus, it never hurt anyone to get a smokin’ healthy bod.

gif: yogabycandice.com

3. Hang out with people you love from home! Sure, you can’t invite them over but you can do activities with them on Skype or Facetime. Invite one of your friends to do a cooking date with you. You guys can cook together, drink wine, via Skype! It’s totally fun and worth it.

gif: hellogiggle.com

4. Get out of your house, even if it’s just to read a book at a cafe. If you’re anything like me, I get depressed when I’m home too much but I also hate leaving my house when I’m depressed. It’s a pain in the ass, really shitty, super frustrating cycle. Force yourself out! Sign up to one of those meet-up websites like: http://expatitalian.meetup.com. Always take a friend with you or meet in a very public place though. People are usually friendly and normal but can be rapey and psychotic. Go volunteer to walk dogs at a local shelter or buy cheap dog toys and donate them. Teach English.

5. Learn everything you can about the culture. The more you know and understand the less you’ll feel like an outsider. I mean, you’ll probably always feel like an immigrant, but at least you won’t feel like a total weirdo who is always in the dark. Plus, you’d be surprised by how useful it can be to be a cultural know-it-all! Learn the history, the language, the art, the food, become a master of it all and then just rub it in everyone’s face. Just rub it right in. That feels nice, right? Rub a dub.

Bonus: Try to remember that expat depression is usually situational and temporary. If you push yourself out and on you’ll improve hugely. If you have a history of depression or your depression persists and you’re thinking about suicide or self-harm please seek out a therapist for help. I’ve been to therapy and it’s awesome. You’re important, you matter, and I’d miss you.

Have you experienced depression or anxiety abroad? Please, share your story in the comments below so others can learn, relate, or find ways to cope. And of course, “share,” if you’re feeling sassy.

*This post is just suggestions and personal experience. I am obviously not a doctor or any kind of professional.

Total Tuscany Interviews M.E.: How Many Inappropriate Things Can I Say In One Podcast?

The awesome guys from Total Tuscany asked me to do a podcast and I gladly accepted because I love their stuff and really enjoy embarrassing myself publicly after having a cocktail (or ten) for lunch. I’m pretty sure that I’ll win an award for saying so many captivating things during one interview. You can find the podcast with M.E. on their website Total Tuscany. We cover a lot of ground during this podcast like my favorite things about Italy, what drives me insane, and threatening public masturbation. Let’s make this a drinking game. Take a sip (or a shot) of something every time I swear, say “camel-toe, unicorn, Capybara, or baptism,” or anytime Travis or Pat are audibly regretting their decision to interview me. In all honesty, it was so much fun, I love these guys and their awesome website. They do great podcasts that are fun and informative with expats I absolutely love. If you enjoy the podcast go ahead and share it with your friends (or use it as an opportunity to talk with your kids about the dangerous of drinking).

As with everything on my site, this isn’t kid-friendly so put on some headphones before you give a listen if you have little ones around. And also? Be happy that you’re not me, or not married to me (Francesco will be sainted, I’m pretty sure).

The Difference Between Stereotypes And Cultural Characteristics

I’ll be the first person to admit that when you live abroad it can be pretty difficult to be fair and avoid putting people into one large category. It’s human nature to group people in a way that makes it easier to understand them, identify them, avoid or relate to them. When your world is confusing you’ll try to make sense out of it in one way or another. 

One of the first things that I caught myself doing as I parachuted into Italy was compare everything to my own culture, and figure out how I could fit in. It was especially difficult for me coming from a degree in sociology. People were practically test subjects. Observing cultural characteristics is totally fine, and totally necessary if you ever want to comfortably live somewhere. However, it’s important to avoid stereotypes as much as possible. Stereotypes kind of piss people off, justifiably so. I’ve spent the past five years being stereotyped as, “that probably slutty, stupid American who hates family and love and probably stabbed her teddy bear to death as a child.” Writing a blog about living in Italy can be kind of sticky since I spend a lot of time discussing my experiences, making the occasional cultural and social observations, all while trying not to be too much of an asshole. There is a difference between dialogue, observations, and just being a dick. Even while being conscious of it, it’s kind of difficult to avoid being ethnocentric, though. It happens.  It’s especially rough when I’m away from home, feeling nostalgic, and some crazy lady is screaming at me in the street because MY DOG IS TOO SKINNY, and then twenty old men in the bar are rambling about their hero Berlusconi. It can be really, really, difficult. 

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Frequently Asked Questions: Studying, Moving, Working, Loving In Florence, Italy

FAQ

surviving in italy

Every day I get loads of questions ranging from “how do I study in Italy?” to “Is it true that Europeans aren’t circumcised?” I’ve decided to make it easier for all of you who have questions by putting all of the most commonly asked questions here. Please, if you  have a question put it in the comments. Did I miss something? Add it below! I’ll slowly be adding to this page daily. I’m hoping to have it all bulked up with every possible question asap.

Love And Relationships

1) What do your friends/family think about you being married to an Italian?

Most people think that I spend all day eating homemade pasta that little Italian grandmothers drop off in my kitchen every morning. Then I frolic through vineyards, after that my husband romances me with his sexy Italian and we make love in a wildflower field. “You’re so lucky, tell me what it’s like!” People are either really weirded out that I moved away, or are really fascinated with what they believe is my Tuscan romance life. I suppose that part of this is true. Sometimes we eat homemade pasta but we make it ourselves and it only turns out half of the time and then we have to clean up the 2 pounds of flour that litters my kitchen. I have walked through a vineyard once but it was with my father-in-law so that’s not super romantic. My husband and I have totally done “it” outside in a field in Tuscany but it was mostly like, “Oh my God! Hurry up! DO I HEAR HORSE HOOVES!? Can we get arrested for this!? Is it true that snakes fall out of trees here? Sonofabitch! Don’t let a snake near my vagina!” People at home are very attracted to the idea of living in Italy and marrying a “sexy” Italian guy. The reality of all of that is certainly a bit different than the fantasy. It becomes a little frustrating when you struggle (and expats do struggle) and your family and friends are like, “What? But you’re in ITALY!” as if shitty stuff can’t happen to you because ITALY! On the other hand, it’s kind of badass so I get it, and I totally used to be one of those people.

2) Any funny language barriers or stories with your husband’s family and communicating with them? 

There are so many issues with language and my family that I could write an entire blog just about that. If you move to Italy or date an Italian, language is everything. Learn the language way before you come over, learn it even if you both live in the US. Even after you learn it, when it’s your second language and not your mother-tongue there will be mistakes and people will sometimes be patient with you and sometimes not. Once I accidentally told my mother-in-law that I “fucked at my friends house over the weekend,” instead of “I escaped to my friends house.” That was fun. Seriously though, my biggest mistake was not learning Italian  BEFORE I moved to Italy.

3) Is it frowned upon to get married (sign the marriage license) in the US but still hold a wedding ceremony in Italy

It depends on the family. My husband and I had 3 “weddings.” First we got married in a town hall in Salt Lake City, Utah, USA, just to do the legal thing. Then a week later we had a ceremony in Park City, Utah. Six months later we had a ceremony in Cassino, Italy. The reason we did it that way is because it was a lot easier to do it in the US first. Doing a legal marriage in Italy first is kind of a pain in the ass. Were my in-laws happy about it? Nope. They were pretty annoyed actually. However, I don’t think that most parents would care. Many couples do this and most of the time the parents are understanding. Honestly though, having two full out weddings SUCKS so if I could do it again I would just elope and have one wedding that my closest friends and our parents could come to. I’m not religious but like 99% of Italians are catholic and a lot of parents will shit their pants if you don’t get married in a church. The good news is that the church can do a “mixed ceremony” for a catholic marrying someone of another faith or someone who is not religious.

4) Is it difficult to plan a wedding in Italy as an American? 

Planning a wedding in Italy is a lot easier than planning one in the US. Everything is kind of streamlined (at least it was where we got married in Cassino). The place where you buy wedding favors packages everything for you exactly as you want, they even print and attach tags.They also handle wedding invitations (although I made my own because I wanted something really original, and everyone loved them because they’d never seen anything like it before, wedding invites in Italy are kind of lame and very cookie-cutter). The restaurant prints the menu for you and completely decorates the space in your colors (receptions are most often held in a fancy restaurant). They also take care of the wedding cake. The church (99% of weddings are held in churches, priests are not allowed to marry outside of the church like they can in the US), will print the program for you and give it out to guests. The flower place goes and decorates the church for you, supplies it with rice for throwing, etc. Honestly, the only thing you have to do is decide what you want and visit the priest, the favor place, the floral shop, and the restaurant. They take care of everything.

5) Is it true that Europeans are not circumcised?

Yes. That’s true. The only people who do circumcision are: The United States, Jews, Muslims, and some African tribes. The rest of the world chooses to leave their kids’ willies alone. Is it weird? Not really. Dicks are not the hottest body part to begin with. An uncircumcised willy looks exactly like a circumcised one when it’s erect. When it’s not erect it just looks like it’s hiding, or like an elephant trunk. As long as your partner washes his wee-wee (like most normal guys do) you shouldn’t notice a difference. Except that it’s awesome. They have more feeling down there aaand it keeps their business more lubed up so you don’t get all dry and uncomfortable. True story. Why do Americans circumcise? Because they thought that it would stop boys from masturbating (true story). They later decided that it was “more hygienic” but since people shower ever day that doesn’t even make sense.

Getting Married In Italy

13 Things Being Married To An Italian Man Has Taught Me About The World

The Big Cheat : Do Italian Men Cheat?

How I Met My Husband

Greencards/Residency/Immigration For An American Married To An Italian

1) Hi! I Married An Italian In The US! How Do I Become An Italian Resident? 

I’ve written a pretty in-depth page on immigration issues. You can find all of your immigration answers for bringing your Italian partner to the US AND for immigrating to Italy from the US (on a spousal visa).

Everything You Will Want To Know About US And Italian Immigration

Our Immigration Story

2) I’m an American about to marry an Italian and we can’t figure out what would be the best choice–to marry in the US or marry in Italy.We’re together in the US. but I plan to move to Italy. Then in a few years we would like to move and settle down in the States. We’ve read that he can gain US citizenship faster if we marryoutside the US. But then we’ve read that getting married in Italy is a really long and tedious process. So we’re really torn as to what to do.

The best scenario for you guys is going to be to marry in the US. The reason is that it’s a million times easier to marry in the US, it’s faster, and you don’t want to live in Italy without having healthcare, a visa, or the ability to work or whatever. It’s very easy to get a spousal visa in Italy, much more difficult to get one for him for the US. So, if I were you, I’d do what me and my husband did: Get married in the US (it can even be in the city building just to have the paperwork, you can have a big, “real” wedding later like we did), apply to the Italian consulate for you to have a Carta Di Soggiorno/spousal visa. THEN, when you get to Italy, solidify your spousal visa. Then, when you guys are about 6-8 months away from moving back to the US, start the process of applying for his Greencard at the US embassy in Naples. Getting him a Greencard to the US is a royal pain in the ass and will take anywhere from 6 months to 8 months to get it. Then you’re given about 6-8 months to go to the US. WARNING: When you apply in Italy they will want some guarantee that you are still DOMICILED. I wrote about that so make sure you take special care in that area (KEEP your US bank account open, among other things).

Check out my Greencard/Visa Page for details. 

Money/Jobs

1. How do expats make money or get jobs in Italy?

  • Italy is awesome for living but shit for working. Honestly, very, VERY few expats that I know have conventional jobs in Italy for a number of reasons. You have to have the legal ability to work (either by obtaining residency, having a student visa, or a work visa, or citizenship). Italy doesn’t pay well and a normal wage is usually like six or seven euro per hour. Even engineers only make about 30k per year. If you want to be able to maintain something there the best thing to do is work for an American company remotely. That means that you work for an American company online from wherever in the world. That’s what I do and what a lot of my friends do. I work for a marketing firm as a social media strategist and copywriter and then I make money with the whole blog thing too. There are some companies like textbroker.com that can be really great for side money if you do take the “working part time in Italy” route. There are a surprising number of remote positions you can get in the US with some marketing/writing experience. The best option is to create a job: Sell stuff on Etsy, do graphic or web design or wedding photography, or baby photography or something else that is somewhat self-employed for American clients or whomever if your italian is amazing. If you’re a student the best job for you to get is probably at a pub or restaurant but keep in mind you will make around 7 euro per hour and you won’t really get tips. I have friends who make jewelry, who make art, who write or who do random projects on Fiverr.com. Don’t know Fiverr? Check it out.
 
  • A typical option is also to go the Au Pair/nanny route. I haven’t heard any “good” stories about this particular job because Italian kids are BRATS but it’s totally a possibility. You can find some more information on this here: http://www.lifeinitaly.com/how-land-au-pair-job-italy. Make sure you’re safe! You never know what kind of family you’re going to be working for. Make sure it’s legit and you don’t end up in some weird human traffic situation or with a crazy family.
 
  • Teaching English. A lot of my expat friends teach English. Most of them do not teach English at a school, however, most of them do private lessons. There are a few ways to get started: Leave an ad on Ebay (but don’t expect a ton of responses). Italians don’t really function on the interweb the way that we do in the other first world countries. They still stick to the good ole paper posts on billboards thing. One of my good friends made fliers with her phone number and email address and posted them all over the Italian universities, the children’s schools, coffee shops, laundry mats, etc. She’s been making a living off of it for years since. Another friend of mine edits English thesis papers for university students.  She started with a few students and then progressed to many with good referrals. It will take time to do this and you’ll have some competition. It’s probably a good idea to get a TEFL certificate if your goal is to teach English abroad. Keep in mind that these things will grow slowly.
 
  • Another friend of mine has a dog-sitting/dog-walking service. Actually, if you had a really great way of doing a doggy daycare or something this would probably be a good idea. There are literally like no boarding places in Florence. You’d need to have a lot of experience with animals, be reliable, and loving, and prepared that if something bad happened to someone’s dog that they might kill you. Florentines LOVE their dogs and they won’t take neglect or mishaps lightly. Again, you  have to post fliers all over the city, in groomers, vets, dog stores, and in the newspapers. There are plenty of English-speakers with dogs who need a reliable dog-sitter so the possibilities of making a solid business with this is good right now. Again, only do this if you actually LOVE dogs and are really knowledgable about dog training and dog behavior. 
In These Articles I’ve Talked About Working In Italy:
Moving To Italy By Internations
Here is a relevant posts from one of my favorite bloggers: What Not To Expect When Moving To Italy

 

Housing In Florence

There are a number of sites dedicated to finding housing in Florence. Many of them have jacked up prices because they are for students. My husband found all of our apartments on Kijiji.com. It’s helpful to speak Italian because most of the places will be listed in Italian, however, you can always use Google Translate. I also wrote a little about housing in Florence here: Moving To Florence, Studying And Living 

Italian Language

1. How did you learn Italian?

I took a class at the school I was attending and bought some books after I’d arrived. Super DUMB. I did it the stupid way so don’t do what I did. I just kind of tried to study on my own and pick up what I could by listening to other people. I didn’t even start learning Italian until I’d arrived in Italy, I only took one class, and I was often too shy to talk with people for a long time. Don’t do that. Start learning Italian NOW. Buy books, watch movies, listen to music, start now, way before you go to Italy.

2. Do you think I should learn Italian now or after I get there.

NOW. Start learning the moment you decide you might want to move to Italy. I have a list of recommended books as well. Definitely read them because you’ll arrive without looking like an idiot. Learning Italian is the most important thing in moving to Italy. If you’re still trying to figure out how to get to Italy, or how to stay there, I’d recommend going to a language school. This will not only fulfill your visa requirements so you can stay on a student visa but it will also make your life so much easier you won’t even believe it. Seriously, language school is the shit.

Italian Hand Gestures And Body Language 

Italian Music, Movies To Help With Language 

If You Want To Live In Italy You Need To Learn Italian

Crime

1. Is Italy dangerous?

Compared to the US? No. There are some areas that are more dangerous than others but for the most part Italy is very safe. As with any country if you’re a woman you should be more careful about rapists and perverts. Don’t go out drinking alone and don’t go anywhere with men alone. Bad idea anywhere in the world. If you go to look at an apartment for rent bring someone with you. Just don’t be alone with strangers.

2. I read a book called “The Reluctant Tuscan” by Phil Doran. From my understanding, it sounds like Italians like to try to hustle you for your money. Does that apply everywhere? I’m wondering because I’d like to visit next year and maybe stay for a month. If I found a place online and I’m given a rate, when I get there is it possible they’d try to charge a different rate?

I’ve personally never really experienced anything like this in my five years in Florence but I’ve certainly heard stories. I’ve heard mostly good things with Airbnb or some of the apartments in Florence available for long term rental though. I think it’s the same in Italy as it is with any large city, you just have to keep your eyes open. It’s also not a bad thing to learn some Italian just in case. Duolingo, Babbel, or Rosetta Stone are all great for learning before your trip. 🙂 Italians are less sneaky if they know that you can speak some of their language.
 
3. I’ve heard that Italians add money onto restaurant bills.
 
There is something called the “coperto” or “servizio” that they add on. It’s a service charge and it’s the reason you don’t have to tip in Italy.
 
 

 Being An Expat

1. How did you end up in Italy?

I arrived as a student for a year at SACI Florence and then continued on with a student visa for various schools such as FUJI Studios. Then I married an Italian guy a few years later and remained on a spousal visa (see above in the immigration section for immigration details).

Keep Calm And Move To Italy

How To Survive being An Expat 

Schools And Studying Abroad

1. What are some good schools for studying in Italy?

There are so many international schools in Florence that it’s really just about doing your research to find the right one. If you speak Italian you can go to the University of Florence (which is probably your cheapest choice) but all of your classes will be in Italian. If you want an English speaking or International school you’ll probably find what you’re looking for here on Studentville.it

2. I will be going to study Italian at Lorenzo de` Medici. I’m 18 years old and will be traveling alone from the Pisa airport to Florence. I am pretty nervous. I already have taken four years of Italian and know the language pretty well, but this is my first time abroad and I guess I’m just seeking a bit of reassurance from someone who knows Italy (especially Florence) extremely well.

Italy is a very safe country and surprisingly a lot of the population speaks at least some English. Especially in Florence. It’s a huge student hub and is full of schools and students studying there. You’ll meet a group of other students as soon as you arrive and you’ll feel fine. Honestly, just use the same caution you use at home. Be weary of the guys hitting on you constantly, just be rude and tell them, “No! Basta!” and they’ll go away. Use the same caution you would use at home. Don’t get drunk alone, don’t walk home alone at night and don’t go anywhere alone with men you’ve just met. You’ll be able to drink alcohol legally but it’s not the best time to experiment with getting shitfaced drunk because there are a lot of guys who will definitely take advantage of your situation (there are really shady guys who actually seek out drunk students so use good judgement and the buddy system). Also, you might need this: http://www.seat61.com/Italy-trains.htm#.U59Lso1dU7o to figure out the train system. It’s a quick trip and your school is actually very close to the Florence Santa Maria Novella train station where you’ll get off (careful, there are multiple Florence train stops. You want the SMN stop).
 
3. Are there any ways to get scholarships to study in Florence?
 
Yes, there are scholarship opportunities but they are usually academic so you’ll have to check with each individual school, or they are country-based. For example, I know that Canada has a program to help Canadians study abroad. It totally makes me wish I were Canadian. Check with your country, you might be pleasantly surprised.

 

 

 

Misogyny And This Asshole Giovanni From Italy Is Educating Women On Infidelity #yesallwomen

#yesallwomen

Blogging is pretty badass. For the most part I get to meet really cool people and I’m lucky enough to have really awesome fans who have interesting stories to share, a great sense of humor, and you guys leave me funny comments that make me laugh. However, once in a while someone leaves a comment so shockingly  asshole-ish (or crazy in a scary way) that I have to put it here because I don’t think that anyone would believe the sheer fucked-upery. Take for instance, this crazy asshole who recently wrote a comment in response to a news article I wrote for  on Italian infidelity statistics. My first guess is that he didn’t even read it because the entire article was all stats and interview and not really any of my personal opinion (boring because I have a lot to personally say about it). This guy is crazy and crazy pissed. And guess what he’s mad at? He’s really mad at vaginas. This comment was left just a week or so before Elliot Rodger killed a bunch of people in CA after leaving a terrifying video on Youtube. Haven’t seen it? Watch it here (warning, it’s so creepy it will give you nightmares). I wasn’t going to post this guys comment because he really doesn’t deserve the attention but given the headlines right now I think that people should see just how rampant this kind of crazy really is. It’s even happening here guys, on Surviving. WTF!?

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In response to: The Big Cheat

“ahahaha.. a femminazi talking about infidelity! so you wan’t to know the reason why we italian men cheats on our women?

Well, try to take a look at the whole scenarios from the tipical male perspective. Starting at age 11 or so we get uncontrollable, non-stop boners. We fantasize about fucking every woman around us. Its purely hormonal. Chicks on the other hand, don’t seem to have the same intense desire to get banged until much later in life (they hit their sexual peak in their 30s while us guys top out in our early 20s).

So here is the conflict: while most 20 something Italian dudes are on the prowl, 20 something italian chicks are living their last hurrah in terms of their looks. They know that soon they will be in their 30s and look worse (wrinkles, fatter, dull skin/eyes).

So they prance around in pretty dresses and make poor horny dudes insane with desire while playing hard to get. So guys have do what they have to do to get laid. And if that means they have to “bone up” on their game (pun intended) then so be it.

One the little ironies of life that I have truly enjoyed is that when women hit 30 they freak out if they haven’t married and had children (fairly common these days among the educated classes). They get fucking desperate. Meanwhile, their counter parts (guys in their 30’s) have been at the game long enough to have perfected their skills and built up their careers.

So then the rules of the game change completely. Desperate women, looks fading, ovaries shriveling will do almost anything to “land a good guy” to settle down with. At that point, the game of hitting new pussy becomes more like “shooting ducks in a barrel”.

A guy can get laid by meeting the bare minimum standards: have a decent career, seem like a nice guy, and perpetuate the myth that they are looking for a soul mate. After date three, sex is usually automatic. You fuck for weeks or months and then the chick wants to know “where this is heading”. That’s when you drop one of many easy bombs with delicious zest such as “I am just not ready to commit”, “I am not sure if we are truly compatible”, “I just don’t feel the connection”, “my financial house is not in order and that makes me question the whole commitment thing”, etc. Whuhahahaaaaaaah. F.uck you femminazi bitches!!!

That is pay back for all the cold lonely nights. Payback for the many failed attempts. Payback for the bitches who laughed in our faces, rolled their eyes at us, or just plain ignored us. Payback for all the free drinks you comped from us. Payback for all the times when we just wanted to do what was natural with your sexy young bodies and you just let us suffer! is NOT a matter of “mammone”, we just getting smarter more and more with entitled slut.ty pricesses like you!

But don’t worry, eventually you will find a guy who has tired of the game and is actually ready to settle down and knock your tired ass up. He may not be the perfect guy you were dreaming about when you were 23 and had the world at your finger tips, but hey at least he put a rock on your finger and is willing to put up with your bullshit day in and day out for a chance to stick in you once or twice a week.

So you are lucky, he might make you pancakes and even remember your birthday, but im sure you’ll be the one to start the divorce in the future.”

-Giovanni from Italy

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Dear Rapey McStabby,

Life must be very difficult for you. This morning you woke up in a cold, lonely bed with only captain Teddy and your golden penis to keep you company. You haven’t been near a vagina since your mom forced you out of hers fifteen years ago, and the only comfort you get from women is the little espresso cup your mamma leaves on the counter before sending you off to high school. This particular morning, however, your coffee must have been cold, hence your tantrum and misogynistic rant on my comment board. However, I’m glad that we all get to hear from you and your thoroughly original manifesto. Everything that you’re saying is really unique and not at all a product of a misogynistic culture that teaches little boys that they’re being denied their rights as a man if they don’t get whatever they want, whenever they want it. But don’t worry, I totally understand you.

I’m really appalled that you’ve been so mistreated. I mean, how could any woman turn you down? You’re exactly what every woman wants. Just look at your bright shining personality, your charisma, your intelligence. You know, you remind me of a famous lawyer in the United States. Maybe you’ve heard of him? Ted Bundy? He was also charismatic and passionate and totally sane, just like you. Seriously, I think you guys would have the best time ever. See, Ted Bundy was also slighted by women, and he, too, was frustrated with how ruthlessly they’d denied him his basic “rights” and dominion over the entire world.

When I think of all you’ve been through, my heart just aches for you. I mean, to think that women turned you down even after you went out of your way and bought them a drink (that’s like EIGHT DOLLARS! You are definitely entitled to someone’s body for EIGHT DOLLARS!). I just don’t get it. How could any woman drink your eight dollar gift of gold and not give you something directly in return? Why don’t women understand that their vaginas can be purchased with a vodka tonic? Someone should tell them that they are really over-priced and holding out because you’re penis deserves to be near them for no other reason than you’re you, and you are fucking special. 

It’s really difficult to be a white male, I know, everyone always denying you all of your rights and not giving you everything you want when you want it. Your life is extra difficult right now as I’m sure you’re in mourning over the loss of your best friend and mentor, the late Elliot Rodger. HIs life was equally as difficult as yours, so difficult in fact that he was forced to murder people to “teach them a lesson.” All of those evil women running around with self respect, not dropping their panties for eight dollars. I mean, nobody can understand why women didn’t like him! What wasn’t to like? He was bitter, resentful, entitled, and sexist, what a fucking catch! When I meet a guy that is all, “Look at my shitty attitude ‘femmnazi bitch,’ give me your vagina,” I think, I AM WINNING SO HARD TODAY! And then I tell all of my girlfriends how lucky we are to have vaginas that men can use however they want, whenever they want.

Teenage girls really are the worst, right?. They grow up being told by men that their sexuality isn’t their own, that if they have sex they’ll go to hell, and their parents would kill them if they knew about it. Their father’s spend their entire lives protecting their daughters chastity because purity was worth a few goats a while ago. It’s really annoying that girls grow up with these ideas instilled in them by the patriarch and they’re not willing to break their ingrained morality for you and your vodka tonic. Seriously, women really do suck! It’s true that our every action is a direct attack on men. When I was a teenager I basically sat around thinking of ways to sexually frustrate teenage guys. That was my entire teenage existence! How can I sexually frustrate men? Teenagers aren’t very smart, back then I had no idea that every guy who was interested in me was entitled to my body whenever they wanted. Have you tried telling the women who’ve rejected you that your mom and dad taught you that you’re special and you’re entitled to whatever you want? Maybe all of these cruel women didn’t get the memo stating that it’s their sole purpose in life is to serve you. Every woman is your own personal roller-coaster and it doesn’t matter what she wants at all because your needs are way more important than hers. #thesebitches! AmIRight? Thankfully, we have guys like you to educate us. Your parents must be very proud that they’ve raised such a great man. Especially your mother. Just think,  if you’d been around when she was growing up you could have also taught her that her entire existence was to get sexed by every guy in her city who bought her a soda. Unfortunately, since you weren’t born yet, she probably waited to be with your father. What a monster. #yourmomsafemmnazi

You know, it’s true, some guy did marry my “tired old ass” even though I was all old and saggy at 30. My face was practically falling off when he proposed but still he went ahead and did it anyway (probably because he was so tired of all that young sex he was getting). He bought me a Rum and Coke and and gave my dad a cow so basically we were good to go. OR maybe, I married him because he’s intelligent, respectful, and he’s a feminist who believes that I don’t owe him shit just because he was born with a penis. Maybe, I married him because he’s a decent person and isn’t a spoiled chimpanzee. Just maybe he married me because marriage is a partnership that is based on friendship and trust, not only sex. You creep.

I highly recommend that you see a therapist and I hope for the sake of the women in your village that none of them sleep with you, ever. You don’t deserve it.

For my readers, while this is a humor site, I take misogyny very seriously and we all should. It’s time to look at the culture we’re breeding where so many men feel like they have a “right” to whatever they want. It’s a worldwide issue, not only an American issue, or an Italian issue. Isolated incident? With the statistics on rape and the sheer number of men who kill their wives (every other day a woman in Italy is beat to death by her husband), I’d say it’s not a few isolated incidents by a few crazies.

Elliot Rodger: More Than A Madman (Great video on how misogyny kills).

 

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My Italian Family And Religion: To Be Or Not To Be, And Why Is Jesus Punching My Kids?

Corcovado jesus

Corcovado jesus (Photo credit: @Doug88888)

I woke up this morning with anxiety about babies. Wait. Let’s start again.

I’m a big fan of compromise. I like getting my way like everyone else but I’m also a guilt driven person and getting my way often makes me feel like shit later. Coming halfway, meeting in the middle, helps me feel like something has been resolved without making me feel like an asshole in the process. My friends and siblings are, for the most part, similar so I haven’t had to deal with too many “my way or the highway,” types. I avoid rigid people, or at least I did until I married F.

Our relationship has always been pretty fair. We both give and take and resolve our (many) arguments with compromise or with Rock, Paper, Scissors. It’s a pretty good system. We see eye to eye on almost most issues except for ones involving his parents. Now, most of you who have been reading for a while already know that my in-laws and I were in full on battle mode for the first few years my husband and I were together. There was a lot of pushing and pulling with zero compromise. According to them I was in Italy so I was no longer allowed to be what they view as “American.” Now, for those of you who aren’t expats you’re thinking right now, “It’s true. You’re in Italy so you should adapt to whatever they do.” Being respectful of someone’s culture is one thing, throwing your own culture and mannerisms out of the window and trying to be one of them is impossible. The truth is that culture impacts every single thing that you do from the way you say “hello” to the way you listen to someone who is speaking. For example, Americans usually watch someone quietly while the other person speaks. Italians kind of actively listen, they make matching facial expressions to accompany the story, or they nod the entire time as if they are urging the speaker to move forward. Simply “listening” to someone comes off as odd. Often while F’s parents are talking I’ll simply listen and then the mom will throw her hands up in the air and go, “She doesn’t understand anything I’m saying,” which is odd because I’d have been responding back to her  with words. I’ll look around and go, “The fuck!? Did I forget how to use words again!?” Then I’ll realize that I wasn’t making my listening face so I clearly didn’t get it. This is something I can’t change. It’s not possible. I’ve been listening like this since I was a child and at no point unless I force myself (in a really exaggerated and fake way) am I going to be a more visual listener. There are hundreds of these things that won’t change, so when you’re dealing with people who expect you to be exactly like them or else, life can get pretty shitty. They haven’t fully come to terms with the fact that I am “unfixable” because I’m from a different culture (a REALLY different one, not only am I American but my father is Iranian which brings another level of complication, too), but they’ve realized that they don’t have a choice really because MARRIAGE BITCHES! So we all deal with each other, for now.

So, if we deal with each other for now, what’s the fucking point of this post? Well, my husband and I have started talking about possibly having a baby at some point in the near future. Maybe next year, maybe the year after (my vagina is still afraid of babies, plus I’m worried that one day I’ll wake up in the middle of the night and my kid will be standing at my bedroom door but then it won’t be my kid it will be a zombie kid and the shitty zombie kid will eat my face off).  But I’m not only afraid of physical things like pregnancy-babies pee inside of you because they aren’t potty trained and have terrible manners-but also things that are relevant after the baby is born. The part where we have to be parents. I have the same concerns as most people, I’m sure, like what if Oliver eats my baby, or what if my baby doesn’t like The Last Unicorn, but lately I’ve also spent a lot of time thinking about culture, mine versus his, and how difficult it might be for us to raise well-rounded children between two totally different worlds. Also, I’m honestly really freaked out about how the fuck I’ll raise a baby around his very rigid, uncompromising Italian family without murdering anyone. When I think, “baby,” I immediately see screaming, arguing, crying, and some talk about my baby burning in hell, you know, the usual.

The religion thing will be an enormous form of contention for us, enough that I’m already dreading it. I’m not religious. However, my MIL is a BIBLE TEACHER. You see where this is going. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for other people being religious. Weeeee! Whatever makes you happy, guys (unless it involves Kool-Aid, or child-brides). Religion just isn’t for me and if my kids are going to be religious I’d prefer they wait until they can read books and make their own decisions. Every family has it’s own level of religiosity but my in-laws take it to a kind of a terrifying level for me. Our niece has obsessively drawn crosses on things since she was four (at one point I actually worried her head might start spinning as she dug her crayon into the art paper like a maniac, followed by a picture of my husband who she had crucified). A few year later I asked our niece what happened to her leg and she replied, “Jesus pushed me down and hurt me because I told a lie.” Because, you know, Jesus is an asshole and has nothing better to do than bully seven year olds (WTF?). My first thought was, I cannot have children. If my own child said that to me I’d flip my shit and I would be forced to call Jesus’ dad because that’s just bad parenting and maybe he needs to spend less time governing other peoples kids and more time hugging Jesus who is clearly lashing out. Then God would get defensive and smite me and everyone would be like, “Thanks a lot for the locusts, M.E., YOU ASSHOLE.” What a sad, scary, horrible thing to believe that a deity would hurt a child for lying.

My family is a bizarre mix of muslim, catholic, Mormon, agnostic and atheist, so I was raised pretty big on religious freedom and making your own personal choices. Some of my family members are super religious, others aren’t, and we all gat along just fine as we respect each other’s differences. Francesco’s family has been Catholic since the Romans abandoned paganism to come on board the Christian movement. They won’t understand any concept of religious difference or children making decisions at a later age. Catholics baptize at only a few months old and the child is referred to as “catholic” from that point on until maybe they are adults and start saying they are not (which is everyone we know). I don’t really want that. I don’t want my kid to have a religious or spiritual identity until it’s something they choose for themselves. How do I do that with people pressuring, freaking out, crying, and throwing an epic meltdown over it? It’s also a sure thing that the minute my MIL gets near my kids she’ll start on them about how if they do something wrong Jesus will bite off their ear or punch his/her mom (me) in the face.

This is only one of many, many possible fights that I see coming my way. I can be sure that spanking, food choices (I am not a fan of sugar for breakfast), air conditioning, and playing will also be the cause for many fights. After-all, what kind of mother would let her kid go out into a field and roll in mud. ME! That’s who! Being dirty is fun and mud is badass when you’re a kid (or when you’re thirty-two and you’re all MUD! And you’re husband is all NOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!). Except when you’re in Italy and the kids are dressed like they’re forty and ready for a fashion show and rolling in mud would be on par with throwing your kid from a balcony. Totally makes sense because dirty kids and thrown from balcony kids are both unloved.

This is not to say that my own parents won’t have their own shit to say. My father is muslim so he equates drinking in front of children with acute child abuse. A glass of wine at dinner? Your baby will be addicted to CRACK! Why don’t you just shoot your baby full of heroine!? This is why my sister and I fuel him by saying things over dinner like, “We need to buy some weed and vodka for when we take the kids to the beach this weekend.” The difference is that I have no problem telling my own parents to back off. My husband however was raised in that old southern tradition that your parents are always right and that questioning them is disrespectful. I mean, it’s awesome that he has so much respect for his parents, I love a man who respects his family, but once in a while I need some backup and a “no, mom, you can’t hang out with our baby Lasagne if you tell her that God will kill her parents if she doesn’t do her homework.” So…that’s where I’m at right now. If he lets his parents unpack and repack my luggage he’ll probably let them send my kids off to bible camp at three months old, too.

Advice? Xanax? Is anyone else worried about a zombie baby eating their face off?

 

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