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!

 

 

Wishing You All A Happy New Year And 2013 In Review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2013 annual report for this blog, and basically everyone is just here for the Zebra sex.

F left his crown in the car "on accident."

F left his crown in the car “on accident.”

 

2013 In Review (Holy Shit! I Survived!)

  • I had my Italian wedding in May and did it without a complete meltdown. We were married by a really nice hobbit in Cassino Italy. Dinner lasted for seven hours and my mum-in-law had to unzip my dress because I was fainting.
  • I went to Thailand for my honeymoon. It was amazing and everyone should go there at some point in their life. I saw so many hot lady-boys and the best fake boobs ever. But the elephant Trekking made me cry. That shit is sad. Go to an elephant sanctuary instead!
  • There were many epic in-law battles but in the end I think we learned to see eye-to-eye or at least I drank enough wine that it seemed more peaceful.
  • F got his Greencard! But only because the evil woman who probably hates kittens wasn’t there that day. I lost my ability referr to him as “my WOP” which was hard but I worked through it.
  • I went viral a few times! Well, my blog went viral, I don’t have any diseases that I know of. I had over 80,000 views in November, I gained a ton of new followers, made some new friends, and received a lot of great feedback that was awesome. Unfortunately some people were dickheads and I got some really “colorful” comments that were so ridiculous that I made a video about it.
  • Oliver was put on at least twenty different sex offender lists for his “LET ME LOVE YOUR LEG” bullying. We’re not proud. Well, both of us aren’t.
  • My most popular posts of 2013 were: 25 Things I’ve Learned About Italy18 Differences Between Living In Italy And The United StatesWhy Everyone Should Live In Italy At Least Once In Their Lives, The Big Cheat: The Truth About Italian Men, and 13 Things That Marrying An Italian Man Has Taught Me.
  • A lot of people came to my site by searching for: Midget Porn, Florence Italy Street Fashion, And Zebra Sex. I feel like Google finally gets me.

My New Years Resolutions are to: Do one thing every week to make the world a better place. Publish my book. And to bring back the running man. What’s yours?

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

Moving To Florence: Studying And Living

A lot of people who read this blog are either drunk or interested in moving to Italy, or both, which is why my community of readers are both fun and adventurous and basically better than everyone else. Since I love all of you so much I’d like to help import you to Italy by supplying whatever information I’ve learned to get you here and keep you here (mostly) legally. If you live in Italy or have lived in Italy feel free to comment and add to my suggestions!

Staying Longer Than Three Months And The Dreaded Visa

Let’s start with visa information. Compared to other countries, it’s fairly easy to get a visa for Italy if you’re from a developed country (if your country is considered third-world, they’ll still give it to you but you’ll have a few more hoops to jump through. I’d recommend just taking a boat and running for it.). There are a few different visa options and what you choose will probably come down to what you can afford. Anything up to three months doesn’t require a visa at all and that’s great if you want to come and do some tourism or a WWOOF program for the summer.

After three months you’ll need either a student visa or an extended tourist visa. Getting a work visa in any country is nearly impossible so I wouldn’t even bother. If you choose to do some kind of study program here you are allowed to work twenty hours per week which is nice although keep in mind that the average hourly pay here is like seven euros. The easiest way to come here is if you’re already attending an American Uni that has connections with a Uni here in Italy. However, I didn’t do that. I took out huge loans and attended the post-bachelorette program at SACI. Though, there are much cheaper schools here for literally everything you can imagine from cooking to wine-making, to sculpture and language and let’s not forget about apprenticeships. Getting a student visa is a pretty straight shot. The website lists everything you need to do and submit and once you do that you should be fine for whatever amount of time you’re studying. If you are an artist or a writer you can probably do a Self Employed Visa, the only downside of this is proving you have the financial means to coast through a year or so. You’ll find the information on the same website I linked above.

Money is for sure the biggest problem to tackle because getting a visa requires you to have 1,000 bucks in the bank for every month you ask to be in Italy. It can be a lot. I didn’t do that, instead I submitted bank statements showing that I get paid regularly a certain amount and then I had my mother do the same and write a letter saying she would help me financially if I needed it and that worked just fine. (You should try to have at least a couple grand saved before you move here just in case you don’t find a job right away.).

With that said, I do know a few people who never bothered with the visa, instead they just leave the country every three months to go on a mini-vacation outside of the Shengen area. Apparently, this works, although the risk is that if you get caught over-staying your visa you are banned from Italy forever and also it’s not easy to find work if you’re not legal. Probably better to get the visa.

After you get your visa, when you arrive in Italy you need to go to the Police station within eight days and apply for a Residence Permit or a Permesso Di Soggiorno. I’ll be honest and say that IT FUCKING SUCKS. You’ll be in line for hours, plan on having a shitty day, it’s part of immigrating here. The Permesso is nice to have because once your student visa runs out as long as your Permesso is up-to-date you can  still stay. My old room-mate originally came on a student visa, but then she found a job as a tour guide and stayed on her Permesso alone. Make sure you have it and keep it current. 

Schools

Going to an Italian school is a good deal cheaper than going to an American school. Well, basically going to school anywhere on earth is cheaper than an American school but Italy is really cheap. As far as grants and loans are concerned there are a number of cultural grants that one can apply for from most countries (I know Canada offers them for example). The downside is I haven’t found many in the United States because ya know Ammmmmerca doesn’t fund a lot of cultural exchange programs. However, Italy gives some money to humans who want to study in Italy. 

Finding the right school can make all the difference. If you study your ass off before you come to Italy you can go to an Italian school which is cheaper, but everything will be taught in Italian. If you are like me and you suck at languages (because you are shy and awkward), you can find schools that are affordable and cater to English-speaking humans. Make sure the school is reputable, and that the degrees, certifications, etc. transfer to your home-country. More than anything just make sure you cross compare schools to make sure that you’re not getting ripped off. And do not do housing through the school! They always jack up the prices on student apartments and many schools make a large profit on the apartments. I know from experience.

A Few School Recommendations For Florence:

http://www.artfuji.it/

http://www.lorenzodemedici.it/en/home

http://www.scuolacucinaitaliana.com/

Rent And Apartments

I think it’s similar throughout Italy but most of my experience is with Florence. In Florence you’ll pay around 300-400 euros per month to rent a bedroom in a shared apartment. I highly recommend doing this. Frankly, it’s better for  money, you’ll learn Italian faster, and you’ll be living like the locals. Italians don’t rent their own apartments usually. They live with their parents or they rent a room in a shared apartment. They’ll probably ask for a deposit and first months rent, you’ll most likely have to sign a contract which you can break anytime in Italy with a written notice. Most rent should include utilities. The best way to find a room for rent is to come to Italy and go to universities or cafe’s and look at bulletin boards. This is how most people find room-mates and places to live. Ideally take a friend or someone with you just to be safe. If you are in Florence and insist on an English speaking room-mate try to find someone from the rent wall at the European Institute.

Jobs: How To Make Money

Almost everyone I know either works as an English speaking tour guide (easier to qualify for the job than you might think), teaches English, or works in a pub of some sort. There is also the dog-sitter or nanny thing but those are jobs that take some time to establish. Most other jobs will require to to speak Italian fairly well.  A lot of the people who I know that teach English just tutor kids or whomever here or there. You can advertise in a number of ways from putting up an add online to posting things around the city. Remember, Italy is not very internet friendly. Most things are still done in physical form such as posting “English Teacher” ads on boards in coffee shops or at schools etc. around the city. It’s not easy landing a job before you arrive here. People conduct everything face-to-face (a cute habit which quickly becomes irritatingly inconvenient.). Another option is to do freelance work for American companies. That’s what I do and I love it. You can sign up to a number of freelance websites to write (textbroker.com or freelancer.com are examples), or do graphic design, or a number of other things. If you can do this steadily before moving to Italy it’s probably the easiest option in the beginning.

Romance

You’ll probably arrive here and fall madly in love with some Italian Stallion because a lot of them dress well and they are good at the sex. It’s not that difficult to land an Italian man these days since there are way more of them than there are Italian women. Most of them, because of the culture, are what anglo-saxons equate with “prince charming.” Although keep a few things in mind: His mother probably controls his life and irons his panties. He is probably still friends with every girl he has ever slept with and he comes from a country where having a little somethin’-somethin’ on the side is considered normal and is talked about openly among dudes. He also might be fascist like all “yay fascism”. If you find one who isn’t a cheater, who has stopped breast feeding from his poor mom’s dry and chaffed teets, who isn’t pro-mussolini, and who washes his own panties: marry him. Then you can stay forever and make super cute mixed babies. Tuscan rainbows.

What would you add? Did I miss something? Let me know in the comments below. 😉

Random Stuff I Found When I was Bored: Entertaining Things From Across The Globe

“Struggle is proof that you haven’t been conquered, that you refuse to surrender, that victory is still possible, and that you’re growing.” -Walden

Dolphin Dog: Adorable dog named Grizzly who swims with Dolphins on the reg. If you’re having a shitty day this will surely cheer you up.

Woman from Milan Who Offers Her Virgin Ass As A Reward For Someone Who Finds Her Lost Cat. “My grandma gave me that cat,” she says in the ad. I’m sure the ad is totally granny approved. If granny was a prostitute.

Amazing Photo of Nude Mother and Her Two Daughters. Say what you will, but I love it. My conservative husband (that’s right F, CONSERVATIVE!) shit himself and was all, “Oh MY GOD! Why are they all naked!?” But I think the photo is amazing and you will too if you don’t suck.

For Laughs: Great Pinterest Board Full Of Funny Stuff. I wish I would have made up some of this stuff.

I Shouldn’t Be Allowed Around People Or Google.

Every once in a while my in-laws come from Cassino to Florence to visit us and stay at our apartment for the weekend. This past weekend they came on Saturday and left on Sunday, a short visit, and I have to admit a pleasant visit (for those of you who read M.E. regularly, you’re totally shitting your pants right now. I know.). Usually when they visit I find myself crying hysterically in the bathroom or I spend hours thinking of interesting ways to murder my husband. This time I decided something that I should have decided a long time ago: I do not give a flying fuck. I made my husband clean and prepare the apartment for them, I refused to be bothered or stressed because Misty is tired. When they arrived I said hello and was  polite, but I did minimum hosting which means I only handed out water and made sure my dog didn’t bother anyone t0o much. Everyone was fine and it was mostly not weird until someone had to go and ruin it for everyone.

We were all gathered in the living-room, my in-laws, F and I, drinking coffee when the attention turned to Oliver who was being his usual-self, attacking and enthusiastically humping Mr. Oinky his new stuffed pig, in his bed. Then, as though he was trying to make me look bad, he stopped, panted, lifted his leg and PISSED  on Mr. Oinky. Right on his head like he was all, “take that bitch” after a disappointing exchange. After all my work with this dog I’d still managed  to raise a canine version of R Kelly. Everyone exchanged uncomfortable glances and I leapt up to express clean while I explained that he had never done that before (which is entirely true) but it was too late. Obviously, I had a raised a freak and there was no getting around it.

————————

Later that evening we were invited to dinner at a friend of the family’s house who also lives in Florence. I realized a few things. The first thing being that I love how people do table spreads here. I mean, the entire table is literally overflowing with food. The second thing is that now that I’m married everyone is really interested in my vagina and concerned with how much action she’s potentially getting.

My in-laws, my brother and sister-in-law and the hosting couple, almost at the same time, leaned in and started asking questions. When are you guys going to have a baby? When? WHEN!?? Someone demanded that we have more sex. Have sex every day! Everyone seemed so excited about us having sex that I was kind of waiting for it to be suggested that we make a baby on the dinner table. No really, do it now. NOW. NOW!

I said, “well make one when we can afford it unless you know of a way to make it live off of air. Also, babies pee inside of you. THEY PEE INSIDE OF YOU! Speaking of pee, I should not be a mother. Did I tell you all what Oliver did to his stuffed animal today? Really, you don’t want me to reproduce.” And I think they all agreed so maybe the thing with Oliver was a blessing in disguise. It’s not that I don’t want kids, it’s just that I don’t want kids now. Or soon.

(And  I might reconsider doing it ever after reading this article on fetal masturbation. Seriously? Why babies? Also, I would like to know what the church thinks of this. Kind of puts a damper on the no touchy-touchy argument, doesn’t it?)

The sex talk faded away and I was able to focus more on eating and wine. I had Oliver chained under my chair with his Kong so he couldn’t freak anyone else out. The more I drink the less I can speak Italian, or English, so at some point I was just staring at everyone. I don’t know about any of you guys but bored is bad for me. Usually my imagination kicks in and it’s all downhill from there.

Lara, our nine month old niece was sitting on my mother-in-laws lap, poking her with little bread sticks that are about the width of a pretzal but longer. Then she started feeding my mother-in-law the bread-pretzal. And I leaned over to F and was all, “I want to feed your mom a breadstick !” And F was all, “DO NOT DO THAT.” I tried to stop myself but she was sitting next to me so at some  point I was waving one in front of her face making an airplane noise and then trying to poke it into her mouth. She wouldn’t eat it. Unaware of how to repair the awkward thing I’d already done, I bonked her on the head with it instead and said, “dooopidooopidooo.” Francesco was horrified. She shot me a mean look and somehow I felt an odd sense of satisfaction that is really inexplainable.

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On Sunday everyone returned to Cassino. The weather was shit in Florence so F and I decided to stay home and  watch Underworld because, you know, werewolves and vampires!

F: What if I was a Lycan and you were a vampire?

ME: Clearly, we’d get married and have a half-breed baby. I don’t see the issue.

F: What would your Vampire name be?

ME: Something gothic and ridiculous like Seraphyn.

F: What would my name be?

ME: PUPPY!

F: My name would NOT BE PUPPY! It would be Rocko!

ME: No. Your name would be puppy. That’s a good name!

F: I hate you. [Gets up and adjusts sound]

ME: Good puppy! [pat, pat, pat].

F: UUUUGH!