Moving To Italy: 7 Things I’d Do Differently The Second Time Around

Sadly, I’m not a time traveler. I know that now you all think less of me, and that sucks, but I just wanted to be honest with everyone. But IF I COULD go back in time there are no less than 4,543 things I would do differently. How I went about moving to Italy would  probably be in my top 10 because I could have done it a lot better and my life would have been so much easier for years and year.

Vantage Points

1.I Would Have Learned More About The Culture: Without a solid grasp of the culture you won’t be able to understand your surroundings, to communicate, or to really understand the people you’ll meet, your partner (if they’re Italian) or their family. Americans, more than anyone, will not understand why this is number one or they’ll be like, “they like spaghetti, I get the culture.” The reason that Americans have a difficult time grasping how culture impacts communication is that American communication is really straightforward. Note: This has nothing to do with honesty. Americans can lie just like anyone. Again, it’s not about honesty, it’s about how we communicate. There aren’t a lot of hidden meanings in American communication, there’s no double-speak (unless you’re a politician), and you don’t really need to understand the culture to understand what people are saying necessarily. Sure, there might be miscommunication, like how F used to always tell me, “well, nobody just says what they mean, so I don’t really understand what you’re trying to say.” And I was like, WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU TALKING ABOUT!? Italy is not that way. Half of what people are saying is hidden below the surface and you have to understand the culture to get it. It’s not because everyone has some insidious intent, it’s just how the culture works. You can learn Italian, you can speak it fluently, but without a very solid grasp of the culture you will still be losing a huge amount of all communication. And, frankly, you’ll just be confused as shit all around. You’re thinking, “cool, I’ll just learn it from my husband or wife or nonna.” No, you won’t. Because they don’t often even know that what they’re doing is cultural or different from you. If you’re about to visit Italy, study in Italy, or move to Italy, you want to start reading, RIGHT NOW.

Resources For Learning About Italian Culture (From my Amazon Store)

2. I Would Have Learned Italian Months Before My Departure Date: Most likely you’re thinking like me and many of my friends who moved to Italy. “What better place to learn Italian than in Italy?” Trust me, no. You will learn Italian in Italy, for sure, and it is easier when you’re hearing it every day, but that first year that you’re there and unable to understand a goddamn thing is frustrating, isolating, and annoying as shit. Plus, people will expect you to speak the language even if you’ve been there for 20 minutes and the pressure certainly doesn’t help. Want to move to Italy? Great! But seriously, spend the money and buy Rosetta Stone, right now. No, you don’t have to buy it from my Amazon store, you can also buy it from Barnes And Noble. And, download Duolingo to your smart phone. The app is free, and even 15 minutes per day will be a lifesaver when you’re lost on an Italian street, unable to find your way home or your boyfriend’s mom is saying crazy shit to you and you need a classy response. You’re probably rolling your eyes at the Rosetta Stone, and so did I, until my roommate in Italy was able to speak Italian like a superstar 3 months into using it while I was barely able to name common household pets. It works. Use it.

Tips For Learning Italian While Still In The US

  • Rosetta Stone
  • Duolingo
  • Watch Italian films with English subtitles at least a few times per week (Sophia Loren films are a great place to start and work your way up to contemporary films).
  • Listen to Italian music, find the words in English, and it will help you memorize them by singing along.

3. I Would Not Have Spent Money On Dumb Shit. You’re moving to a new country and you’ll be tempted to buy 10,000 things before you go. Don’t. Italy has everything you could possibly need. And, their clothes are nicer and often cheaper than in the US. Save your money, get to Italy, and then buy all the shit you’ll need. The one exception might be makeup or skincare if you’re super particular. If you’re picky like me, then maybe you want to bring some of your favorite face stuff. Yes, Italy has great stuff but I like really specific stuff and the Sephora in Italy doesn’t carry any of the same shit that we have in ‘Merica.

4. I would have made it a point to do something new every day. I’m a habitual person. Really habitual. Like, when I wash my body in the shower I do it the same way every single day. When I find places I like, I tend to go there instead of trying new places. I travel a lot but I still tend to quickly find “my kind of places,” and go there. Last year when I was in Prague, I found a cookie shop that I liked and me and F would only buy cookies from THAT place. Mind you, it was the most adorable cookie shop in all the world. But still, I didn’t see any of the other cookies shops because of it. I did the same thing when I moved to Italy. While I definitely did a lot of stuff every year, I often found myself seeking the comfort of familiarity which prevented me from doing as much cool stuff as I could have. If you’re going to be spending a semester, year, or decade in Italy, I’d recommend forcing yourself to do something different at least every week, if not every day. Rent a car and drive around the country, try every cafe in the city, and every restaurant, too. Go tango dancing (I did, and it was SO FUN). The city has a lot to offer. If I could redo my student time there, that’s what I would have done differently. My friend and fellow blogger, Georgette, from Girl In Florence, is super awesome at getting out and doing EVERYTHING. She inspires me to be less boring.

5. Read the newspaper, follow current events, and pay attention. I got involved in this years after living in Florence and frankly it’s just embarrassing. If you live in any country for even a short amount of time it’s simply smart to know what the shit is going on in that country. TheLocal, is a great place to start to learn about what’s happening in Italy, in English. You’ll also look less dumb at dinner parties. For my first two years all that I knew was that Berlusconi was a douchebag. That’s where my knowledge ended and I really just reinforced the stereotype that Americans live in a bubble. You’d be surprised just how much you can learn about a culture, the people, and the history of the country by following politics and current events.

6. When dating, I would have set boundaries a lot sooner. My husband is a total badass but he’s also an enormous pain in the ass. And for a long time when I moved to Italy I forgave a lot based on “cultural differences.” Basically, I wrote off a lot of rude or stupid shit by justifying it in my head as “probably a cultural thing.”

No. Asshole behavior is the same in Italy as in the US. If someone is being an overbearing douche, you can say, “no thanks, asshat.”

Also, I spent years doing that American thing where I’m like, “well, I can’t very well be direct with his family because, geez, how rude. Tee-hee.” No. Italians, with all of their fashion and prettiness, are tough. They’re like bedazzled bombs. These are people who exist without air conditioning while wearing long sleeve button-ups and slacks. Don’t fuck with them. If you allow it, they’ll end you, and then the community widow will bake biscotti with your remains.

Also, Bella Figura. You know how high school girls are in movies where they’re like vicious monsters who are also perfect citizens and super polite in public and also sometimes to their enemies while they’re being horrible? A lot of that exists in Italy. Master that shit. Italians can insult you while smiling from ear to ear and being charming as fuck all the while. If you don’t understand the culture you won’t even know you’re being insulted. Also, if someone is opinionated, push back.  For example, my MIL will show up and be like, “yo, I’m decorating your house orange cause I don’t like how you did it!” And before I was like, “Oh, how kind,” while trying not to vomit. Now I’m like, “No, brown is ugly, no thanks.” And she’ll shrug and go, “ah, ok.” Stand up for yourself, family or friend, and lay down the law. Smile while you do it to add to the creepy factor. If you don’t have your own back, everyone will walk all over you, decorate your house hideously, dress you, and tell you that your dog is anorexic (the vet said he was the only dog of a healthy weight in all of Italy, the land of chubby poodles).

7. Spend more time asking question about others and less time observing them. I like to watch people. It’s a thing I do, often, in life. At parties I’ll usually be the person in the back, getting shitfaced while I uncomfortably stare at everyone. I did the same thing in Italy for a long time. I just watched people like a weirdo stalker instead of trying to get to know people and ask them about themselves, their culture, their family, etc. You can learn a lot about a place by paying attention, but you can learn a lot more by asking a lot of questions and getting to know people and getting their perceptions about their country. Find a language partner, or a cute barista, or bartender, and get to know them. Ask them endless questions about Italy. Maybe have sex with them if they’re into it (yay consent) and then ask them even more questions after the fact or during if you’re into that.

And there you have it! If you could move to Italy all over again, what would you do differently? I’d love to hear your stories in the comments below!

 

 

Italy Around The Web: Weekly Roundup

Italy’s Highest Court Explains Decision To Clear Amanda Knox: “ROME — Italy’s highest court said Monday that the case against the Seattle resident Amanda Knox and her former boyfriend — whose convictions in the 2007 murder of a British student were definitively overturned in March — was marked by “culpable omissions of investigative activity” and “contradictory evidence” that raised reasonable doubt of their guilt.”

I’ve followed the case for sometime and while the evidence doesn’t seem to prove her guilty beyond reasonable doubt, that woman has shark eyes. She might not be a murderer, but she’s still creepy as hell. And Italy? Don’t you have protocol for-oh, wait. No, no you don’t.

THE DEMOLITION MAN-New Yorker “Italians who admire Matteo Renzi call him “our best hope.” More skeptical Italians say, “Well, maybe our only hope.” The Western press hedges its bets with “brash” but “confident.” And his enemies use the term il rottamatore, the demolition man. Renzi agrees with his enemies. “I’m the scrapper,” he told me. “I’m cleaning up the swamp.””

I’m not for or against Renzi but I’m interested in him and his career. From an outside perspective, it seems like he’s got the right idea in some areas. If he’s able to do what he hopes to do (fix the economy) then maybe Italy can become a real country again instead of the mess that Trump, I mean, Berlusconi left it in.

The Queen, aka, Beyonce, Frolics in Italy With Her family: 7 Photos From Her Trip To Italy-ABC “It’s been a romantic few weeks for Beyonce and Jay Z, 42, who wrote on his wife’s website on her birthday that the song “”Yellow”” by Coldplay reminded him of her. “”This song reminds me of you and I on vacation,”” he shared. “‘Look at the stars; look how they shine for you.’ So many legendary nights. It represents vulnerability; it’s us in our own world, away from work and totally lost in love.””

Awe, a fan of their work or not, they’re a cute couple. So cute it kind of makes me want to barf, but with love.

World’s Saddest Dog Begs For Forgiveness “In a video uploaded to Facebook, an Italian man’s dog begs for forgiveness for whatever it’s done. Bowing its head and giving so many one-sided hugs, the shamed pooch knows that it’s in the wrong.”

I love dogs. Dogs are my favorite. This video is adorable and kind of sad. I’d like to add that animal behaviorists don’t actually buy into the “guilty,” dog thing. Researchers actually believe that dogs are amazing at reading body language so they’re actually responding to knowing that something “bad,” is going to happen to them when you display anger or body language that the dog understands as being upset. Also? Oliver doesn’t have a guilty face. When he does something bad he displays it proudly. “Look mom! I ate the garbage!” Sigh. Dogs.

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7 Really Great Resources That Will Prepare You For Italy

This isn’t a real post so I apologize. It’s more of a post answering emails. Sort of. I’m often asked for resources and recommendations on moving to Italy, so, alas, here is a roundup of my favorite resources from my little Amazon store. It also kinda supports my alcoholism wine habit. I hope you find some of the resources helpful. Am I missing something? Tell me! I’ll add it.

I suppose it’s common sense that knowledge and understanding can greatly enrich your travel experience, yet, I didn’t realize that nor did I prepare at all. When I decided to move to Italy I was more focused on preparing for the school I would be going to and not at all worried about preparing for living in another country. I figured I’d just learn once I arrived. I did learn, gradually, but more than that I spent a lot of time confused, while looking like a complete moron. The more you know about Italy the more you’ll be able to enjoy your time there right from the gate.

Italian culture is complex, the way things work, the way the people operate, can be impossible to appreciate or understand without some historical context or alcohol. It’s a rich country with thousands of years behind it. Thousands. Of. Years. So, there are so many dead bodies under the streets. That’s like the US times ten or fifteen or…What is it? I suck at math. Anyway, you’ll fit in better, you’ll see things deeper, and you’ll have a richer experience if you’ve taken the time to learn as much as possible. I know for a fact that my experience as a student would have been a lot better (and I would have looked a lot less stupid) if I’d taken the time to do some reading before jetting of to good ole Italy. So, if you’re planning a trip to Italy or you’ll be studying or moving there soon, these are my top picks from my little Amazon store of the best resources to get you in the know as fast as possible. Seriously, I have like 100 but you’ve got shit to do and who has time for more than 7 when you’re packing?

1. The Documentary Italy, Love It Or Leave It. 2014. This is a new, funny and moving documentary about two young Italian men as they try to understand why so many Italians are leaving their country. During their search for answer they cover an array of social problems from marriage equality to fascism. It’s touching, and it will quickly give you an understanding of what young Italians are struggling with. You’ll come away with a deep sense of the modern culture and history. It’s a must see.

Italy: Love it or Leave it

2. The Complete Idiot’s Guide To Learning Italian. No, I don’t think you’re all idiots but this is one of the best books I’ve read as far as breaking down grammar, etc. Textbooks really complicate the whole process of conjugating verbs, etc., but this book makes it easy as hell. I took lessons, have an Italian husband, but this book is where I actually learned HOW verbs work. Admittedly, I am much better at hear=repeat, than “break apart and put back together.” It’s because I hated puzzles as a child.

The Complete Idiot's Guide to Learning Italian, Fourth Edition (Idiot's Guides)

3. Language tools: Now, from my experience, the best language tool ever for learning Italian is Rosetta Stone. This shit worked amazingly well. Both myself and my roommates learned a huge amount of our conversational skill with the program. However, it’s expensive and might only be worth the money if you want to work on fluency. If you can’t shell out the money for it, sell one of your kids or try DuoLingo.com or Babbel.com. I’ve used both and I love them both for learning new languages. Duolingo is free, but Babbel is like 7 dollars per month or something. I have Duolingo on my phone (the app is awesome) for both spanish and french, and I use Babbel to keep building my Italian and improving. Really, really great tools. I highly recommend starting this asap. The more Italian you speak, the better your life will be in Italy. Take it from someone who avoided learning it for as long as possible (because I’m an idiot).

Learn Italian: Rosetta Stone Italian - Level 1-5 Set

4. Family Politics By Paul Ginsburg. Dr. Ginsburg is one of the most important historians in Europe. He teaches at the University of Florence and his books offer incredible insight into Italian culture, history, and society. You can’t understand Italy without understanding the family dynamics and how they came to take shape. My life in Italy completely changed once I married into an Italian family. The family dynamics are so complicated, interesting, strong, and incredibly annoying in many ways. All of his books were very helpful on my depressed days when I was wondering, “what the hell is wrong with these people?” Ah, answers! Plus, I’m friends with his son who is also a total badass.

Family Politics: Domestic Life, Devastation and Survival, 1900-1950

5. La Bella Figura. You need this book. That’s really all I’m going to say about it. It’s a great cultural guide and it also covers the infamous Bella Figura,  a concept that is so insanely Italian (and it’s one of the cultural things that frustrates me the most, especially in the south). Impress, Impress, IMPRESS. You can’t live in Italy without this book. You just can’t. It will be one of the best things you’ve read. Plus, it will probably save your Italian friends and family (or partner) some embarrassment and frustration.

La Bella Figura: A Field Guide to the Italian Mind

6. Italianissimo. This is a great coffee table book, it’s gorgeous, and it’s funny. You’ll learn a ton of useful things about culture, the history of words, Italian hand gestures, all with the help of badass photos. I have this on my coffee table. My friends find it highly amusing.

Italianissimo: The Quintessential Guide to What Italians Do Best

7. In Pursuit Of Italy: A History of A Land, It’s Regions, And Their People. Alright, so this book is really in-depth, a little heavier, but you’ll understand so much about Italy and the people who live there after you’ve finished it. Also, you’ll appear smart and educated at dinner parties.  In order to understand Italians it’s absolutely necessary to know the history and the complexity of the different regions. Italians often have the assumption that Americans are uneducated about the entire world outside of the US so prove them wrong by arming yourself with all this fancy knowledge. Really. Especially if you want to make roots in Italy, you’ll need to understand it so you can do better in battle. By battle I mean dinner parties.

The Pursuit of Italy: A History of a Land, Its Regions, and Their Peoples

BONUS: The film Marriage Italian Style with Sophia Loren. Italy’s cultural obsession with the madonna/whore complex is amazing/weird and this movie (among plenty others) highlights that dichotomy of the “Italian woman,” as depicted by the patriarchy better than most. Basically, just ignore my rambling and watch it. It’s a really good movie.

Gif: http://aliai-snow.tumblr.com/

What is your favorite resource? Have you read or used any of these? Were they helpful to you in any way? Please let everyone know what resources have helped to enrich your Italy experience, learn Italian, or fill in the cultural blanks for you!

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.

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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.

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.

 

 

 

Keep Calm And Move To Italy: 12 Steps To Move To Italy

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So, You Want To Move To Italy?

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A decade ago I dreamed of moving to Europe after college. I don’t know why, it just seemed like it would fix everything. I didn’t want to change myself, necessarily, I just wanted to be an even cooler version with my multiple languages, fancy clothes, and ultra-bitchy, bitch-face. I also wanted a posh British husband who looked Italian but spoke like Jude Law. I wanted the wit of a brit, along with the prudishness of one. I was never really interested in latin lovers because I always assumed that latin lovers came with latin diseases. Their diseases sounded prettier than ours but still ate your bits away. No thanks.

It’s not that surprising that everything that I wanted totally didn’t happen how I planned. However, I DID move to Italy and my bitch-face is way bitchier than it used to be, but I still look homeless and speak like a drunk toddler. Oh, and my husband isn’t British, he’s Italian, because life is funny like that. Did everything turn out exactly as planned? No. But I’m pretty damn happy with how things worked out because my husband is awesome. Italy, despite the many irritations (like with anywhere) is a place where everyone should live at least once in their lives. I’m certainly not what I thought I’d magically become but I did become a stronger, better person because of my experience abroad. Not only did I get to do all kinds of soul-searching, growing, and all of that fun stuff, but I also got to stuff my face with amazing food, cheap wine, and spent my days in the Tuscan sun with my cracked-out poodle. The golden sunlight alone makes it worth it. There is no experience quite like being an immigrant, nothing else is nearly as simultaneously traumatic and thrilling and I highly recommend it.

I get dozens of emails every week from people asking me the same question, “How did you do it?”  They desperately want to see the world, experience new things and a new culture but they’re not exactly sure how to get it all together. My advice more or less sucks because what I normally write back sounds more like a Nike commercial than genuine advice, “Just Do It.” But attitude is all that it takes. Everything else is just a “to do” list of various levels of difficulty. I tell them to go. JUST GO! They usually have similar, understandable concerns and respond with, “One day…” or they make a bunch of bullshit excuses of why it won’t work for them. But really, that’s all they are giving themselves: Bullshit excuses. There is nothing special about me. I’m not genetically superior. My DNA didn’t allow me to survive abroad where others would perish. Guys, it’s 2014, the other side of the world is a one day trip. That’s nothing when you think about the fact that going to Europe used to take weeks and weeks by boat, with rats, and a navigator with scurvy and mother fuckers STILL DID IT. If you want to move to Italy, if your dream is to move to Florence for one year or two years, or forever, the only thing you need is the guts to make it happen and Google. Google makes everything possible.

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A List Of Common Concerns And How You Can Overcome Them:

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1. I have kids. Sell them. Just kidding. Kids are portable. It’s totally not going to be EASY but it’s something that hundreds of people do every year. Homeschool them or put them in an Italian or find a school for foreign kids. Lots of people move their kids abroad and their kids are fine. So far none of them have turned into serial killers.

2. I have stuff. Yep, we all have stuff. You don’t need all of your stuff. You need clothes so you don’t get arrested, a computer, and that’s just about it. Most apartments are furnished in Florence until you buy so you don’t need anything.

3. It’s expensive. Sure, moving is expensive and plane tickets are super duper expensive but it’s nothing that some tight budgeting and selling some or your stuff can’t sort out. By “stuff” I mean like your T.V., not your penis or vagina. Prostitution isn’t a recommended way to get yourself to Italy.

4. I have pets. COOL! I do too and we travel with him all the time. Florence is especially dog friendly and there are numerous services that specialize in transporting animals safely. If your dog is small you should get checked out mentally to see if you’re insane like us and need an ESA, if you’re too sane to get an anxiety buddy, you can hire a service to transport Fido so that he’s safe and sound. One of my co-workers transported her GREAT DANE from Germany to Utah. You can do it.

5. I can’t be there legally. Sure you can! There are grants, fellowships, student visas, tourist visas, extended visas, and self employed visas, and marriage visas. All sorts of ways! You can be here for 3 months without any kind of visa at all if you’re from a first world country.

6. I don’t speak Italian. Use Duolingo and Babbel. There, solved, facile!

7. I have a house. Rent it out. Sell it.

8. What about my job? You probably hate your job anyways. Now is your chance to do something crazy and take a leap. You only LIVE ONCE. Change jobs (find something you can do online), ask for a 1 year sabbatical, or ask to work remotely for one year. Remote workers save the company tons of money. Tell your boss why you’ll be more productive and save him/her tons of money by working in your jammies from Italy. Worst case you can find a job in Italy or make your own. I know loads of expats who teach English, walk dogs, clean houses, work at bars or coffee shops, or run theaters and art programs. You can do anything.

9. Doing stuff is scary. Totally, but sometimes you just have to buck up and get it done.

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HOW TO MOVE TO FLORENCE (ITALY) IN ONE YEAR

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1. Make A Decision. Decide to go and JUST GO. Pick a date a year out, buy a ticket, and do a happy dance. 

2. Save $$$. Start saving as much money as possible and preparing for a career shift. You’ll need as much as you can for the move but I’d plan on at least having $4,000 in the bank before you go. Commit to putting as much money aside as possible. Sell stuff you don’t really need. Cash in CD’s or break open your piggy banks.

3. Chang Jobs. Look in to jobs you can do from your home country in Italy. Start looking into website design, content writing, blogging, copywriting, Etsy, and any other “work from home” type positions. Do whatever you can to build that up on the side a few hours weekly for the next year. Worst case you can get a job in Italy but it’s always easier to work from the homeland. If you do want to work in Italy make sure you work on your Italian, and your Italian history. It’s also helpful to get your TEFL certificate. You’ll probably have a “tourist” related job at a hotel, in a pub, as a tour guide, etc. A tour guide is a particularly good choice because they pay well. If you’re confident that you have amazing skills that will land you a job that will result in you being sponsored (a university professor, etc) then go for that. If there’s one thing I’ve learned it’s good to have a backup plan.

4. Language Lessons. Sign up for Babbel or start using Duolingo every single day for at least 10 minutes. Put it on your phone and do it on the subway, or listen to it in the car. 10-15 minutes per day can really make the experience a lot easier and better when you land in Italy.

5. Research Visa Options. There are loads of different kinds of visa options that will allow you to live in Italy legally. You don’t want to get deported because that would just be embarrassing. Luckily for you Italy is not all that strict in terms of staying long term. You get 3 months visa free, but then you’ve got to get on it. There is an extended tourist visa, student visa, or a artist or self employed visa. There are also work visas or marriage visas but obviously you need to marry an Italian or find a company to sponsor you, those options can be more difficult.

6. Get Your Passport. If you don’t already have a passport you might want to get one. Depending on your state it can take anywhere from 2 weeks to 8 weeks. However, putting this off to the last minute is a bad idea. You’ll have so much to do before you leave that this is something you’ll want to get out of the way as soon as possible.

7. Apply To Schools. If you’ve decided to get a student visa to attend some sort of school in Florence you should start researching schools in Florence now. There are a lot of schools that vary from cheap to insanely expensive. The more Italian you speak the more options you’ll have for a cheaper school. Obviously, many of the schools in Florence are art schools but you can find a program for pretty much everything. You’ll want to start applying for schools about 9 months before you want to leave.

8. Make Friends In Italy. Join a few expat groups on FB and get to know some of the locals. Expat blogs are also a great way to develop an understanding of what being an expat in Italy is like so you can prepare yourself for some of the bumps ahead. Living in Italy is awesome but it’s obviously not always wonderful being an immigrant. You will be an immigrant. 🙂

9. Break Your Lease And Arrange For Pets. Start making arrangements to break your lease, to bring your pets, or to leave them with a family member you trust. I emphasize trust because every time soldiers leave for war, of the thousands of dogs left with friends and family, a huge percentage end up euthanized at the pound or adopted out to strangers and weirdos (many dogs adopted out on Craigslist are abused and murdered). Remember, nobody will love your dog or cat as much as you do and bringing them is not that difficult. Seriously, Italians love dogs. You can bring them EVERYWHERE (we do!). They’ll be very happy in Italy (more happy than with your creepy uncle John, for sure).

10. Apply For Visas. Once you’ve applied to schools or decided which type of visa you want you want to start getting stuff together and applying. Visa applications can take up to 2 months so you’ll definitely want to do that early enough to give yourself some wiggle room.

11. Find An Apartment. Prices for apartments can range from $300 bucks for a rented room to $1,200 for a 3 bedroom apartment. It depends on what area you’re in with the city center being the most expensive and the Noveli area being one of the cheaper areas. My husband and I live in the Campo Di Marte area and it runs us around 800 euros for a one bedroom but it’s a really nice area and we love it. Some of the best places to find an apartment is on the European Institutes “flatmate wanted” wall, or through a website like Housing In Florence or Studentsville, or longterm rentals at Airbnb.

12. Kiss Your Family Goodbye And Prepare To Be An Expat In Italy!

If you have any other helpful resources or if I missed something let me know! Feel free to leave a comment below with your advice.

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