Italy is an incredible country and you’ll probably find that the longer you live there the more it will change you. There are many aspects of Italian life that are pretty unique and if you allow yourself to get involved with the local community and traditional customs you’ll discover new ways of doing things and expressing yourself in daily life. The following are some of the impacts that Italy has had on me:
Patience Is A Virtue
After living in Italy for any period of time you’ll notice that the country has a very onerous bureaucratic system which can be extremely tiresome and frustrating. There are layers upon layers of bureaucracy with every local municipality having strict rules and regulations of its own – and that’s on top of the national and European Union regulations!
To compound this issue you’ll often be confronted with very poor customer service, long lines to wait in everywhere and so many forms to fill out you’ll soon lose count of them.
However, as frustrating as all this may sound you’ll soon find yourself becoming far more patient and relaxed. People in Italy are famous for their slow pace of life and as a foreign Expat you’ll need to adjust your expectations somewhat. It really can take an awfully long time to get things done, particularly if you’re dealing with the state authorities. This all means that you’ll need to work on your patience in order to enjoy your time abroad.
You Will Learn To Live With Less
Something that might surprise you in Italy is that the general levels of disposable income are relatively low compared to other Western nations such as the US and UK, particularly in rural parts of the country.
In many Western nations there are malls, shops and bars on every corner and it’s a regular part of people’s routines to drop in and spend some money! However, in Italy, most people don’t have the spare income and there are also less opportunities to spend money in the first place.
People in Italy enjoy very high standards of living but this doesn’t include so much shopping and spending money. Italians have learned, over the years, to live well with less money.
Italians like to spend time with their family and friends and visit each other’s homes for meals and celebrations more than many people in other Western nations. While in America it would be more common to celebrate a birthday at a bar or club, in Italy people are more likely to gather in their own homes. When you first arrive in Italy this might take some getting used to but as you adjust to the culture you’ll discover that sometimes the best things in life really are free!
Appreciation of the Arts and History
America has a fascinating modern history that truly began with the War of Independence when the nation was born. Since then the history of the USA has been extremely eventful and has played a critical role in the development of the entire world.
That said, American history is a fairly brief story when compared to the ancient country of Italy! The Catholic church dates back nearly 2000 years but even before that Rome was a mighty city that dominated the ancient world.
Italians are very proud of their long history that is steeped into every aspect of life. It’s incredible to study the art and culture of Italy. You can often walk into a tiny church and stumble across famous paintings from the Renaissance era or see medieval towns in rural areas that have stood there for thousands of years. The immense timescale of Italy’s history is impressive enough but when you consider that it still has art collections and architecture that dates back to every major period in human history it’s even more impressive.
If you’re a culture vulture you’ll be in seventh heaven in Italy and if you’re not yet, you soon will be! Living in Italy will really help you to appreciate art and culture and if you take the time to explore the museums, galleries and churches you’ll be amazed by what you find.
Don’t Expect Cookie Cutter Suburbs!
In the USA and other Western nations the suburbs of the towns and cities are pretty bland with hundreds of cookie cutter houses – each looking the same with a small front lawn, garage and white picket fence! However, when you’re in Italy, don’t expect to find this, in fact, you’ll find the exact opposite.
The suburbs of Italian towns and cities are made of a hugely diverse selection of houses and flats, many of which are hundreds of years old. When you discover the quaintly traditional beauty of the Italian suburbs you might need to change some of your preconceptions about what it means to live in the suburbs.
It’s cheaper to live in the suburbs than the center of the cities and so you can really pick up a great deal on an old house which can then be renovated. You’ll discover a tranquil and relaxed little haven in the Italian suburbs which is very different to what you’d expect to find back home in the States.
Long, Late and Leisurely Dinners.
Italians really take their food seriously and the most important meal of the day is dinner. This is when friends and families get together to share a long slow dinner that might include many courses and wine.
Back home in America many people will just have a quick dinner in front of the TV however in Italy the dinners can be massive and take hours on end. In America life is so fast paced that most people simply don’t have time to spend hours eating dinner, especially during the working week. In the West most people have dinner pretty early in the evening whereas in Italy it’s not rare to start dinner as late as 10pm!
Dinner time in Italy plays a central role in the culture and so once you’ve moved there you’ll be able to experience this too. The dinner in Italy is not only consumed to fill up on food but it’s about having fun and relaxing together. This is a very slow way of life compared to most of the Western world but it’s one of the major charms of Italian society which you just can’t afford to miss out on!
You can easily make new friends over a long dinner while telling stories, listening to music and sampling some of the finest food in the world. You will need to change your eating habits but it’s well worth it!
You Will Become a Far Better Driver!
Driving in America is far easier than in Italy with excellent wide roads and highways. As well as this most cars in the US have automatic transmissions which make changing gears very easy.
When you get to Italy be prepared for a bit of a culture shock on the roads! In Italy the driving can seem pretty dangerous with other motorists regularly cutting each other off, driving way above the speed limits and swerving across lanes right in front of each other.
It’s not only the driving in Italy which will take some getting used to because most vehicles have a manual shift that changes up and down the gears for you. This can also be a little tricky to get the hang of at first.
The roads in Italy are often very narrow, particularly in the older towns and cities. This means that when you come to park you’ll have to maneuver into very tight spots without much room for making a mistake. There are also much fewer garages and parking lots in Italy so you’ll need to keep on your toes to find a parking space in the towns.
After a few months of driving in Italy you’ll suddenly realize that your driving skills are significantly improved. You’ll also become more confident behind the wheel as you take on the challenges of driving in Italy.
You’ll have more Spontaneous Meetings.
One of the nicest things about living in Italy, especially in rural parts, is that you’ll often find yourself having a spontaneous conversation with strangers and random people that you come across during the day. This is very different to life in some of the major American cities, such as New York, where it’s very unusual to meet and talk to strangers on the streets!
It might take a bit of getting used to but once you get into the swing of it you’ll find that you’re making friends and acquaintances all the time. You can strike up conversations in bars, cafes and even the supermarkets! This is partly because of the slower and more relaxed pace of life but it’s also an old tradition in Italian culture.
Summary: Living in Italy is a Life Changing Experience.
When you relocate to Italy you’ll find a whole new world of challenges, adventures, new customs and traditions to discover. Italian culture is ancient and although the average disposable income may not be as high as in other Western nations they’ve figured out how to live a happy, slow paced life; enjoying good food with friends and family along the way.
One of the best things you can do while you are in Italy is to learn to speak Italian! This will radically change your life in the country as you become confident in another language. It’s really fun to learn a new language and as it opens up new doors and possibilities for you you’re bound to grow as a person.
For you to have the best possible time in Italy it’s generally good advice to try to be as adaptable and open minded as possible. You might have to skip on your large American breakfast but you can spend a few hours having a huge dinner instead! It’s also good to learn from the locals and, where possible, take up the lifestyle, habits and customs of your new community.