Why Italy Isn’t Special

Let me help you freak out really quick because I know that’s what a lot of you are going to do right now. You’re thinking, “What the fuck did you just say? Italy isn’t special?! How dare you! How dare you. If it’s not special than leave!” Yes, I’m an asshole, yes, I swear, and yes, sometimes I write critically about my second home: Italy. Now, that we’ve totally lost it, let’s get to the post.

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Does This Video Change The Way You See Italy?

Similarly to a turtle that’s stuck on it’s back, Italy is desperately flailing to get to it’s feet and recover from it’s economic, political, and social setbacks. Their solution? This video, titled, “Italy, The Extraordinary Commonplace.” I actually don’t even know what that means. Does anyone know what that means? The video is in English, and aims to clean the soiled reputation of a once great nation.

Italy is trying to rebrand itself.

The video has gotten mixed reviews but a lot of them are good. ABC recently wrote a story titled, “Italy Promo Gets Thumbs Up For Turning Stereotypes Around.”

The video was created by The Ministry Of Economic Development. So far the YouTube video has been viewed over 390,000 times. It’s nice to see that Italy has finally found a way to market itself differently and is trying to change it’s image in hopes of increasing interest from foreign investors. At the very least I can say that it’s great that Italy has possibly found a way to market itself to the world. You know what they say? It’s all about marketing. Once they figure that out, they might be able to fix the country.

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Making Mixed Babies: Ranting About The Obvious Difficulties Of Raising Multicultural Children

I don’t have children. If you would have asked me if I wanted them in my twenties I would hissed at you, covered my vagina, and ran screaming in the other direction. I would have basically done the exact same thing regarding marriage. I always like the idea of someone wanting to marry me but I never intended on actually sealing the deal. It was just nice to know that if I did want to actually get married someone would have done it, I guess. That’s what being twenty-something, somewhat insecure, and an asshole will do to a person. Anyhow, all of that changed when I met Francesco.

I knew in a very real way that we would be getting married. Sure, that waivered a little here and there with some of his bullshit but I worked through the problems with him instead of shooting him in his sleep which was huge for me. Not shooting your boyfriend is love. In a lot of ways Francesco has changed the way that I think about a lot of things. He’s changed the way I view the importance of family, how I approach and solve problems (I care to actually solve problems without hurting him or his feelings…so that’s new), and I actually want to have children. Well, let me rephrase that to be honest, I would like children in our lives who are of our genetic makeup. I don’t want to actually have babies. Being pregnant, sick, tired, and giving up wine sounds shitty. Then, squeezing some giant thing about of my vagina which is a lot smaller than a baby sounds like torture and something out of an Alien movie. I’d totally adopt but that’s too expensive and nobody would probably give me a baby. The point is that he’s made me want to have a family because I want us to be surrounded by loved ones and family for our entire lives. I want to be seventy and painting with my grandchildren. I’ve never believed that the point to living is breeding, or that women’s job on the planet is to have kids, so I’ve never been that inclined to have a family before. I’ve always seen child-rearing as a massive job of huge importance, of huge responsibility, and not something that people should “just do.” Having children to me is one of the biggest decisions of a person’s life and is therefore kind of terrifying. If you add the potential for cross-cultural, international problems to the mix.

Image: AnAmericanInRome.com (check out the blog, it's great).

Horse Baby Food In Italy. Image: AnAmericanInRome.com (check out the blog, it’s great).

And that’s what we’re fighting about right now. We’re trying to decide on which country we plan on raising our kids in. It doesn’t sound that pressing since we don’t have kids but it kind of is because we’ve been talking about starting a family this year or next year. So, where do we want to be? Which country would we like to be living? Where is the best place to raise children? I’ve talked with a bunch of other expats about this but the topic gets a little insane. People get surprisingly defensive and rabid about Italy when discussing children (certain psychos totally lose their shit. I hope you get an incurable yeast infection). I get it, nobody wants to think that the decision they’ve made was a bad decision and so people don’t want you questioning that decision by asking stupid questions about it. I get it. However, I need to ask and talk about it because it’s a big deal to me. As the child of mixed parents, I know what it’s like growing up with parents from two different planets. This weighs on me. My father immigrated to the US 35 years ago and yet my siblings, my father and I, have problems seeing eye-to-eye over a lot of things. The way we communicate is different, the meanings behind the things we say to each other is often misread or misinterpreted. My father feels like he lacks identity with us and therefore instead of having American kids he encourages us to hate that side of us. “You’re Persian, you don’t have the genetics of an American.” When we do things that he likes, we are Persian, when we make mistakes it’s because our mothers are American. He desperately seeks to have some kind of cultural connection with his children, it bothers him that he can’t understand many of the ways that we think or see the world. He doesn’t understand why I can’t Facetime him every day, or why I’m less than thrilled to Facetime my family in Iran for six hours on Sundays. I love them, they are my family, but I can’t speak on the phone for longer than one hour. What is there to say? “WHAT IS THERE TO SAY!? Just be in the conversation of love! Just laugh and love!” My father cannot understand how his daughter has become so “American,” in her priorities regarding family. My father listens to Iranian music on full blast on his Iphone, he encourages my sisters and I to dance to it while he laughs and claps enthusiastically. Last time I was home he videotaped it and then watched it over and over again. Seems creepy to Americans, but dancing for family is about as Persian as Persian can get, even at 33 years old. It’s not uncommon for expat parents to struggle to relate to their children culturally or for the kids to feel a slight disconnect as well. I’ve grown up with it for my entire life so telling me it doesn’t exist…well…it isn’t true.

And that scares me.

I feel like no matter where we raise our kids there will be a disconnect for either me or Francesco. It’s really about picking the place that is best for the kids but also the place where maybe the cultural impact will be less difficult for us as parents. Both countries have their good points, both have their bad. A lot of expats struggle with this aspect because they see Italy with rose-colored lenses but I simply can’t. I’ve read too many damn articles, too many studies. I have an education in Sociology, I study society, even when I’m not trying to. Nowhere is perfect. Which place will allow us to raise children that are diverse, open-minded, and will allow equal appreciation of Italian, American, and Persian culture? As a person, I’m most concerned with balance, mindfulness and an acceptance towards religion, an equality of the sexes, and the ability to live life without being swallowed by expectations. People say, “Your kids will be how you make them,” but I feel like they’re underestimating the power of social norms. Society shapes you even when you don’t realize you’re being shaped. It shapes how people interact, think, feel, even how they commit suicide. Nothing goes untouched.

Image: Wikipedia

Image: Wikipedia

When I announced that I’d fallen in love with an Italian man, my father said, “You don’t know what you’re doing. Cross-cultural relationships are more difficult than you can imagine.”

For once I have to say that my dad couldn’t have been more right. BAAAAAAAAH! I’m going to stab myself with a fork. Maybe you guys can help me with a pros and cons list?

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.

 

 

 

How To Survive Being An Expat

mistybloggy2

1. Appreciate Your Life

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

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

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

3. Be Considerate

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

4. Learn All The Stuff!

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

5. Whine Less, Take Action More.

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

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

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

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

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

8. Laugh At Yourself And Everyone Around You

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

9. Forgive

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

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

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

11. Invest in Real Relationships

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

12. Be Honest With Yourself And Others

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

13. Work Out, Do Yoga, Or Meditate

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

14. Who Gives A Shit About What Others Are Doing

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

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

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

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

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

17. Tenacity!

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

18. Get Er Done!

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

19. Be The Best You That You Can Be

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

20. Self Confidence

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

21. Take Responsibility

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

How Being An Expat Is Exactly Like Sex

1. You meet during a family vacation, in a movie, or online. You like what you see. You dream about being inside of it, absorbing it, letting all that culture and complexity inside of you. A week, a month, isn’t long enough. You need to bind yourself to it forever. You decide to go for it. 

2. You arrive. You’re nervous and you can’t believe it’s really happening. You’re really doing it. Your senses are heightened, you’re excited and scared all at the same time. 

3. You feel amazing. You’re not there yet but you’re close. Everything seems possible, your entire life was leading up to this moment. 

4. Yes, YES, YEEEESSS! I DID IT! I DID IT! HOLY SHIT I’VE DONE IT! I’M AN IMMIGRANT! I’VE DONE IT! I’VE ACCOMPLISHED MY DREAMS AND IT FEELS AMAZING. THIS FEELS SO GOOD I CAN’T STAND IT. HOLY SHIT! 

5. You feel overly sensitive. Tired. There is a wave of mild regret. How did I get here?

6. You need a cigarette, possibly a shot of whisky, and to escape. Thanks for the hospitality! It’s been fun! It’s not you it’s me, I’ll call you sometime. 

And you sneak away with nothing more than bragging rights, high-fives from envious friends, an emptiness, and occasional pang of longing in your loins that you try to ignore, lest it happen again. 

Cruising In My Hood: Campo Di Marte

Dramatic Newspaper

Dramatic Newspaper

Chianti. Winning!

Chianti. Winning!

Espresso Cup With The Symbol Of Florence

Espresso Cup With The Symbol Of Florence

The Church Tower By My Apartment. Ding-Dong, You're Going To Hell (the bell is judgy).

The Church Tower By My Apartment. Ding-Dong, You’re Going To Hell (the bell is judgy).

Mini-Aperitivo

Mini-Aperitivo

My Local Bar. They Keep Treats Behind The Bar And Give Them Out Generously To Oliver

My Local Bar. They Keep Treats Behind The Bar And Give Them Out Generously To Oliver