Many Americans are considering relocating to another country for a whole plethora of reasons. Some people want to move to find their ideal retirement spot while others are moving for work, to study or simply for the adventure of being an Expat in a new culture.
Italy is one of the most popular places for Americans to relocate to with the lovely weather, fascinating culture and exquisite food and drink that is part of everyday life! However, when you move to a new country there are some things that might take you by surprise! Being a little prepared for these culture shocks will help you to settle down comfortably and might avoid some socially awkward moments along the way.
Things that Americans Need to Be Aware of Before Relocating to Italy
There are many issues that Americans should be aware of. The following are the key ones:
The Length of Your Stay
When you relocate to Italy, or even if you’re just visiting, you should be aware of the rules and regulations in regards to the length of your stay. As an American you are entitled to stay in Italy for up to 90 days without needing to get a visa or any kind of residency papers.
If you want to stay for longer than 90 days then you will need to apply for a residency permit. This can be done at your local consulate in advance and the process should take no more than a few weeks.
Italy is a full member of the European Union and as a result anyone from the block can stay for as long as they want without needing too much extra paperwork.
Diversity and Discrimination
Italy is a relatively small country – especially by American standards – but it is extremely diverse, particularly in the Southern parts of the country. Many people move from Africa, Asia and other parts of the Mediterranean to begin new lives on the European continent and Italy is the natural choice for entry.
This increase in the levels of immigration and diversity in Italy have been quite a recent phenomena and as a result there are some parts of the population that can still be a little racist at times! Generally speaking, the younger generations are far more liberal and less discriminatory but some of the elder generations can be openly hostile to new immigrants to the country.
The vast majority of Italians are very welcoming and friendly to immigrants and Expats from all over the world and so even though there is some racism you shouldn’t allow it to ruin your impression of the country. Italians are very welcoming to Americans, with a lot of them having family members that live in the States; and consequently most of the racist attitudes are sadly directed towards the African immigrant communities, many of whom have already fled war zones and conflict.
Italy has a long history of conflict with nations on the African continent that date back to the Roman Empire, and sometimes these old rivalries rear their heads again. The good news is that these negative aspects of society are less of a problem than they used to be. When you arrive in Italy though you should understand that the country is still a bit behind nations like the USA and UK in terms of addressing prejudice and racial tensions.
Treatment of Women
When you arrive in Italy you might be surprised to discover that there is still quite a prevalent amount of sexism in the country! It’s many parts of the country it’s common for men to wolf whistle and harass women in the streets! These attitudes are more prevalent in the South of the country compared to the cities and the more metropolitan areas of the North. This kind of behavior is luckily becoming less routine as the society grows to be more liberal and tolerant.
Practice Of Religion
America is a country that consciously separates religion from politics however in Italy it’s not always so! Italy is a Catholic country that has an ancient history that was largely created by its main religion. The Vatican, which sits at the heart of Rome, is a beacon for Catholics all over the world and Italians are rightly very proud of its heritage and status.
Many families in Italy are still very religious and the church plays an important role in their lives, with nearly 80% of people identifying as Catholic. Of course there are Christians, and members of all faiths, in America but religion is not such a central aspect of society. When you visit Italy you’ll have to be sure that you are respectful and polite when it comes to Catholicism and the religious practises of the people around you.
The incredible churches, art and architecture that Italy is famous for are steeped in Catholic history. As a visitor to the country you’ll be stunned by the quality of the art and stained glass windows that make the churches in Italy among the world’s finest examples of classical architecture. It’s extremely interesting and rewarding to explore the nation’s religious heritage and as long as you are sensitive to the practises of Catholics in the country you’ll be welcomed into the community with open arms.
One of the most fascinating aspects of Catholicism in Italy is the way that pagan imagery, icons and artistic motifs have been incorporated into the art and practices of the religion. Ancient Rome was a pagan society and as Christianity became more dominant and was named as the official state religion by Constantin in the 4th Century BC many of the old pagan gods and practices were included! This helped the pagan society of ancient Rome to accept the new Christian religion. This paganism mixed with Christianity is something that I love. And I also believe that there are lots of similarities between the way Christianity is practiced in Italy to that of religious practices in India.
One thing that shocks many newcomers to Italy is the unusually casual attitude when it comes to customer service! In America the general sentiment is that the ‘customer is always right’ however in Italy it’s really not like that. Staff in shops will not approach you and offer to help, waiters will need to be called over and even when you’re dealing with the bank over the phone the service is pretty poor.
This may take some getting used to however there’s nothing you can do about it! You’ll have to be patient, understanding and calm when you’re faced with poor customer service because if you aren’t then you might have more problems in the future! The last thing you want is to get the reputation of being an angry foreigner who is telling the locals how they should be doing things!
When you move to Italy one of the first things that will strike you is the dangerous and often reckless driving that is completely routine across the country! People frequently swerve across lanes, cut you up and drive extremely close to your rear bumper. This will take a lot of getting used to and you might find it pretty daunting to take the wheel yourself.
Another thing you should be aware of once you’ve moved to Italy is that you’ll eventually have to retake your driving test again to get a local license to drive. For instance, if you’re coming from the United States your US driver’s license will be valid for one year after which you’ll have to apply to a local driving school. The driving school will supply you with a driver’s manual that you’ll have to study and pass a test on before you can drive in Italy. Your Italian driving license works all across the EU though, so if you want to travel and explore the continent you can easily do so by car.
Football is the Lifeblood of Italy!
There is a saying that football united Italy. When you get to Italy you’ll notice very quickly that football is a central part of life. Football is played by nearly all the children and many continue to follow their local teams throughout their lives. On a Sunday many towns and villages will literally shut down while everybody watches the football matches live and on TV!
The Italian International football team has a formidable reputation and during the World Cup the entire nation gets decorated in flags and banners celebrating their team. It’s fun to get involved with football in Italy – you can watch games every weekend and it’s a good way to meet new friends among the local community.
Breakfasts Tend to be Much Smaller Than in America
Compared to what most Americans are used to, the breakfasts in Italy tend to be very light and small. Most italians will eat a large, slow and leisurely meal in the evening but their breakfast is more like a quick snack! A typical breakfast for an Italian might be a coffee with a croissant and possibly an item of fruit.
You’ll find it hard to locate a proper cooked breakfast of ham and eggs in most of the local cafes however if you’re missing a real American breakfast you can actually eat in the hotels where they cater more for international guests than the local palettes.
Moving To Italy Will Be A Great Adventure
Before you make the decision to move to Italy you should always try to do as much research as you can about the country, its culture and the people. The more you know about Italy before you set off on the adventure of relocating the smoother and easier the transition will be.
There will always be some things that surprise or even shock you once you’ve moved to Italy but as long as you’re understanding and adaptable you should have no problems.
Before you can settle down in your new home you’ll have to adapt to a lot of new aspects of life, including the food, local customs and traditions as well as the way that Italians generally do things. However, the truth is that once you have got used to the Italian lifestyle you’ll be comfortable and happy with an excellent standard of living!