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10 mistakes that Expats in Italy make

Since living in Italy since 2007 –I have definitely gone through my own personal ups and downs adjusting to life in beautiful Firenze. Because it happens to be a city full of American students , expats, and foreigners, a common misconception is that if you fall under one of those categories, life will flow easily since you are so close to your counterparts. Sometimes I think us english-speakers would have a more meaningful time, and speak more Italian if we were in a smaller town surrounded by only Italian speakers etc. Though, I am addicted to this city of art and can’t imagine life anywhere else.

For me at least, this is sometimes true and but more often not. Life long-term in another country can come with all sorts of unexpected challenges and what matters more is how you deal with it. Which is why instead of titling this blog post  “10 tips” I decided to focus on some common mistakes people make (ie: me ) when they decide to stay to Italy.

1. Being overly defensive.  I think it’s quite easy when talking to someone from another culture to become stereotyped/and or stereotype others while being overly sensitive about where you’re from. Perhaps because it can sometimes feel as if you’re being “observed” and you may often find yourself as the “go-to” person anytime an Italian friend/acquaintance has a question about America, Canada, Australia..etc etc. I have seen friends become a little defensive when an Italian challenges any viewpoint they have grown up to believe was 100% true even if the comments have been made in jest or even out of pure curiosity.

I know from personal experience, especially being that I happen to be from a place that everyone has an opinion about, Texas, on how hard it is not to take things to heart when people make strong assumptions about where you’re from without ever having been there. You just have to be able to take what people say with a grain of salt and remember that a successful discourse involves getting your point across without making an enemy. You don’t want to be labeled as over-sensitive and nationalistic when trying to adapt to a new country and make friends.

2. Refusing to properly learn the language. I want to point out that learning Italian is not going to solve all of your problems but it would be nice to understand what your problems actually are — linguistically speaking. In touristy cities like Florence, Rome, Venice, and Amalfi,  it is more than possible to “get-by” without actually being fluent in Italian. But my question is, why would you want to? I myself suck at languages and made all sorts of really embarrassing mistakes (and I still do, be careful when you say the word “fig” in Italian) but I learned. Perfectly? Not always but it is a forever process for some.

Yes it changed my life in the sense I was able to crack jokes, be understood, and have real discussions beyond “where are you from” thus feeling much more connected to my local community. If you’re scared to talk to people how can you ever expect to improve your language skills? I also wouldn’t underestimate the power of language while having to deal with telecom’s famous customer service, your cell-phone company or any situation that could essentially be frustrating like  a ‘fun’ trip to the questura.

3. Isolating themselves. I know that it’s easier to get wifi internet, stream your favorite shows, and skype with your family than leaving your house. I have days when that’s all I feel like doing after work or a week filled with several uber-fun trips to the Questura. But it can be a downward spiral if you get into the habit of isolating yourself from people and not trying to make friends. Obviously it is going to take time, and courageto put yourself out there but no-one is going to come to you unless your lucky.
Looking for a new store opening, local book-club, knit-caffe, language exchange groups, is just a few ways to meet people. Italians can be very shy, and already have their own friends from as far back as nursery school,  so just invite them over for dinner at your house, un caffe or host an international pot-luck, everyone loves food and since it means people are bringing different dishes to you, it’s perfect for your pocketbook.

4. Too-dependent on their native-born partner. Another common assumption is that if you have an Italian boyfriend or girlfriend that you’re instantly able to get around easily, find a job, make friends and 100% integrate. If only that was the case, instead you can expect some cultural misunderstandings and can often resent your Italian partner because of an overwhelming feeling of dependence; when most likely you have been a very independent person in your home country.

The answer is to make your own activities like find a yoga class, running errands on your own, get a hobby.  Establish a one day a week outing with a friend or two, volunteer ( here is a great article in The Florentine on this in Florence), learn how to drive and trust me, it makes such a huge difference. I  recently went on a long weekend with friends to the Island of Elba a few weeks ago and we drove ourselves. Needless to say it felt very liberating. 5 girls, one car, a ferry ride later, and we were on top of the world. No help needed

5. Being scared to open a bank account. This I just don’t really understand since it was a lot easier than I imagined it to be and you can even get special accounts where you don’t pay a lot and can take care of everything online (like paying bills or traffic fines). I can’t imagine just pulling money out of an ATM machine for the rest of my life or even more than a year , or wiring money to pay my student loans if I make money here.

Just open a bank account somewhere you trust and get a bancomat card. It’s easier and when you get a job you want to have your salary direct-deposited. The last thing you should do is keep large sums of money in your house, violent crime is rare in Italy but petty crime is not and its just not worth the risk.

6. Making only expat friends. I believe in life you must have balance, and that pretty much applies to everything and everyone. While it’s super-easy to make friends with others in a similar situation (obviously I have) you have to be careful or else you may find yourself burned in the future. It’s easy to get quickly close with people in a way that you probably wouldn’t back home and it’s worth remembering that just because you share a common language doesn’t mean you were meant to be “besties”. Does that mean don’t have expat friends? Heckno, you need them but just try to mix it up.

Get to know people slowly - ask questions, don’t feel pressured to be friends just because they/or you don’t know anyone else. Don’t get into a co-dependent cycle. Try and make a few local friends even if its seems impossible, attending local language exchanged or volunteering helps! The re-occurring cycle of making close friendships with people who eventually leave can be really heartbreaking after a few times so knowing you can depend on a few core people who are making Italy their permanent home or are from there, will certainly be helpful to your day-to-day sanity. 1,000+ friendships on facebook doesn’t count ;)

7. Constantly comparing. We all heard that the “grass is always greener on the other side”, but guess what?  Yours would be green too if you only watered it enough. Italy has problems no doubt, but don’t be tactless, especially if you’re talking to Italians or people who have chosen to happily live their life here. It’s not going to make you any friends if all you do is complain the second someone asks “How are you?”.The only thing that is going to work is if you yourself commit 100% to adapting to your new home and hold realistic expectations. Venting is fine, we all participate in it but keep it to a minimum and don’t let that be the first impression you give someone.

8. Referring to yourself solely as an expat and not remembering that you are also an immigrant. The word expat actually kind of annoys me because for some reason I have thought it to sound a bit elitist compared to the word “immigrant”. I will admit, It’s easier to write “expat” in blog posts as an identifier and I myself do it, (see title) but the truth is , I always have considered myself an immigrant first because I emigrated to another country. Sometimes when I think of the idea of what is actually an expat I imagine a group of English ladies sipping tea in the shade of their huge Tuscan villa, not exactly the same reality as me in a small apartment working a few jobs. If you have seen the inside of the Questura on an intimate level, than likely you too are also an immigrant.

9.  Underestimating the cost of living. This is a big mistake that I think is something I am surprised I don’t read more about. Italy is expensive, and it really isn’t easiest place to make money or build a career. With the economy being what it is, if you really want to make this the country your home, you need to really think realistically about your financial situation and if you can take care of yourself.

Many people move here thinking they will instantly find a job, an apartment, a visa and soon find out how hard that really is. Rent is really expensive in big cities and local salaries range in the average of about 1000 euros per month. Factor in bills, food, transportation and travel and you can see what I mean about having a few jobs as being normal. Most Italians have family help well into their later life and the nonni economy  is a prevailing truth that even I have struggled to accept. Some great tips for saving money

  • Instead of having dinner out, have lunch instead. Many restaurants have special lunch menu’s for workers that I often take advantage of when people are in town visiting while cooking a yummy dinner at home.
  • Utilities are expensive so take your grandmother’s advice and don’t leave a bunch of lights on at your house- also when it’s winter, gas can make your bills sky-high so wear a sweater in the house.
  • Be a smart shopper, Italy has big sales twice a year, normally after Christmas and in July. This is a great time to stock up on shoes, things for the house, and anything else that you need.
  • Look for transportation deals, Trenitalia, Italy’s national train company, has deals if you book in advance on their website, and the info is in english. Also Trenitalia now has some competition, NTV is a new company and they are offering some great deals on high-speed trains between the larger cities in Italy. Also ATAF bus company in Florence has a nifty “carte agile” a bus pass that comes in 10, 20 or 30 rides that never expires and gets you at least one or two free trips.

Work wise, The ideal scenario is getting hired by a foreign company that has a base in Italy and getting your work details figured out before you come that way you can properly save. Working for yourself from the computer is also a good alternative, taxes are high but health care is free/cheap so there is light at the end of the tunnel.

10. Having overly high-expectations from people back home:  This can be especially hard to deal with since it really is a matter of coming in terms with the truth. Everyone wants to believe that people will continue to initiate constant  interaction with you and its easy when your feeling homesick to want to feel connected to the people you left behind. The truth is that you left, and they didn’t,  and just as you are embarking on your new life and adventures, they have to move on with their day-to-day lives too.  Don’t expect them to call you every week or visit you every year, you are the one that left which means you’re going to be the one reaching out more often than not, and that’s ok. I have close family members who have yet to visit me and I have lived in Italy for 6 years – it is what it is.

Finalmente, I would love to hear your thoughts on anything I missed, or your own personal experiences (doesn’t have to be Italy)

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  1. Renee Wright

    Thank you for that – I can relate to every point. I also feel that it is up to ourselves to adapt ourselves to our adopted country, and not expect them to do this more this way and that way. We have chosen to be here, and I have just decided to freely make a fool of myself with language, ask people to explain to me what something is called, and how to ask for it properly. Folks are really empathetic when they see that you are trying. Another thing that I feel that ‘stranieri’ could at least attempt, is to NOT speak Italian so heavily accented, and at least try and pronounce the words like a native does. We will likely never sound Italian, but an effort will go a long way. No sure if others agree?

    • ggnitaly84

      I completely agree. I consider myself as fairly fluent (and should be after 5 years ) but people instantly know I’m American, even though I try my hardest to hide my accent. Most Italians are really helpful and like the accent to be honest. I think what happens is after a few traumatizing language snafu’s people work themselves into a real fear of speaking to Italians. I always say “piano piano” , try going to the same places like a market nearby, cell phone store, caffe so you can practice comfortably and maybe even make a few friends.

  2. eleanormarriott

    Yep, some sound advice there! I’m guilty of several things on your list – including not speaking the language enough and of being too reliant on both my partner and my expat friends, oh and of not driving either. But we’ve just moved from Milan to Tuscany and suddenly all our friends want to speak in Italian all the time (which makes it a bit boring for me if I can’t contribute) and if I don’t drive I am utterly dependent upon my partner – which is a bit rubbish seeing as though I’m a photographer and want to get up early to take pictures. So, this afternoon I’m having a refresher ‘driving lesson’, having not driven for years, and I’m also going to put a notice up in the local cafe for language exchange sessions so that I don’t become guilty of isolating myself. Thanks for giving me the extra nudge with all those things I really need to start addressing!

    • ggnitaly84

      Don’t feel bad, ya know most of the items on the list are from me having lived in Italy since 2007 and committing these mistakes. It probably took me a year or two to comfortably drive ( and now I have to take the test ) and several friendships later, I realized I needed to invest more of the “emotional” me in people that were going to actually stick around. Otherwise it can be very lonely. I like the language exchange idea because the people who contact you will already be interested in an international connection, and normally be more patient with your language skills. I also see a lot of “knit-caffe’s” in Italy which I think is a great idea since a lot of Italian women also enjoy knitting and a cup of tea! good luck with everything :)

  3. Liz

    I found #10 to be especially true and difficult to accept! I thought the floodgates would open and all my friends would come visit. A few have, but it’s a costly, time-consuming undertaking from the US. So, I’ve gotten over (mostly) being offended that my friends aren’t available on Skype as often as I am, or that sometimes we only “communicate” via Facebook. You’re absolutely, right; we’re the ones who left, after all. :)

    • ggnitaly84

      number 10 was a fairly recent revelation on my part as well. It’s so easy to get really hurt by feeling like people back home don’t take the time to contact you as much as you’d like, including family! But I think the thing is, likely they themselves felt the need to fill the void that your presence left and even if you connect a lot less, what matters more is that when you do speak or see each other, you pick up where you left off. Also it wouldn’t be the end of the world to reevaluate some of the relationships in your life that way you can focus on the ones that will be life-long instead of “I just knew them for a long time so we’re friends”. I find that after moving abroad, I am a lot more able to meet people who I have a lot in common with. :)

  4. Too Tall To Be Tuscan

    Ciao! This is my first time visiting your blog, and I just wanted to let you know that I thoroughly enjoyed this post! The driving point really hit home, as I spent months in Italy with no way to properly get around. I was used to being so independent back home in Canada, so it took some time adjusting! Excellent points. I’m looking to reading more soon. Complimenti!

  5. Chelsea Ward

    Great tips! I was living/working in Italy for 2 years up until last December and I was guilty of a few of these. I think it took me about 6 months to get fully comfortable speaking Italian and putting myself out there but after that there was no going back :)
    I was pretty guilty of number 10, from the standpoint that I refused to live in 2 places at once. It was too hard to try and skype regularly and email all the time while trying to live my life in Italy. I accepted this fact pretty quickly but my family didn’t much care for it (yet also failed to come visit at all during the 2 year span…che palle… ;)

  6. Lisa | Renovating Italy

    Hi just saw you over at Italian Reflections and love your post! I can relate to most of these and am glad I’m not the only one. Having my husband speak Italian was a bonus and a drawback as I just relied on him to do all the talking (almost killed me as I love to talk). Great to meet you, ciao lisa

    • ggnitaly84

      thanks Lisa for the kind words :). I think people really underestimate how hard moving countries can be. I had some friends who were scared to go to the grocery store because they had to interact in Italian. I definitely sympathize since my first 6 months here were most definitely not easy! I didn’t even have internet :O

  7. Edie Pierson

    Great post! Curious as to the rent cost in Florence……. what type of jobs are available there? More info on living costs would be much appreciated! Thnx.

    • ggnitaly84

      the rent is pretty expensive, studios can range from around 700 to over a 1,000 euros a month. And that’s for one room. It really depends on location and amenities. Google Firenze kijiji ( italian classifieds) to get an idea. Of course if you live outside the center, it drops.. so it just depends on the person. Job wise, if you don’t speak Italian options are very limited. Think English teacher, nanny. Even if you speak Italian its hard to get a job to be honest, a lot has to do with how long you’ll be here and who you know, though I have been pretty lucky finding consistent work (but that’s in the past year) and I’ve been here since 2007..

  8. Lisa at Wanderlust Women

    I can relate to some and did not experience others. Yes, at first it was very lonely and efforts to make friends with the locals takes a long time. Italians are non-commital on so many levels, including party invites. LOL You cannot force relationships no matter where you are….just think how long it took to develop some relationships in your homeland. Acquaintances happen overnight but friendships take time.
    As to being defensive….I never experienced that. Once an Italian learns you are American, they generally just want to hear your view of life. I never heard one person say anything, either way about the US….the only misinfo was that “All Americans are rich” yeah, from their lips to God’s ears.

    • ggnitaly84

      I certainly agree that you cannot force relationships and I have often felt frustration on feeling like I was the one putting forth most of the effort in my attempts to forge friendships with Italian girls. Florence is a particular city and I think people are a little gun-shy since so many people come and go. For me, if an Italian friend is late or cancels, I don’t get upset, rather just chalk it up to life :). It’s also a lot easier to meet like-minded people at specific group events such as photography clubs, couch-surfing meetup’s and knit-caffe’s. People also tell me when you have kids it gets easier. As for the defensiveness, I have felt defensive myself when people ( not just Italians ) have openly told me what they have thought about Texas, or the USA in way that seemed they were 100% sure. And I have seen others get a little riled up too when at a group dinner or the like, sensitive topics are brought up but nowadays this is a rare occurrence. That being said, many Italians are very open-minded and open to hearing what you have to say, which is really nice. I remember how pissed I would get when my boyfriend’s mom would say things like “ah, your getting a little fat” and then make some comment about how all food in America was horrible. Now it’s all taken with a grain of salt, and I tease just as much ;) … BTW I also wish I was one of the “rich” Americans, rich in life I suppose! ;)

    • ggnitaly84

      thank you Celia. Some of my most traumatizing memories is when my Italian bf would invite me out to some group event with his friends and I would silently sit there after the initial greetings, not being able to participate because my language skills were just not there yet.. Luckily that was just motivation to learn ( especially the fun “slang” to impress people haha)

  9. Elisa Picchiotti

    Very nice post! I’m not an expat, I’m italian and live in Todi, Umbria. But last I’m reading some fun blogs written by english spoken expats in Italy and I find them very interesting! You expats are so open minded and positive! It’s a pleasure reading about you and about Italy seen by you! Congrats! Brava!

    • Roberta DiBiase

      How nice of you to say that. I hope to retire in 2-3 years and spend half the year in Italy and half in the USA, traveling in both. My husband and I have family in the Maremma, Turin, Puglia and Abruzzo. In our several trips to Italy we have found the people to be lovely, and when I speak my halting Italian – mio Dio – how they love it!! Every country has people who are not so wonderful – that is a reflection on humanity, not nationality. These plans actually make me look forward to getting older! Ciao – Roberta

  10. Sarah May

    I would add that people really should get a GP here. The medical system is great and it really backs up the system when people go to the ER for things like a cold. Getting a medical card was easy as pie for me and the system has been wonderful. I totally agree with everyting you said. It was difficult at first when I moved here and I would be friends with Americans who just leave. Now it is a balance. Also I like to remind people back home that I am NOT on vacation. Another annoying things some expats do is constantly brag about what they are doing here. I have to work, pay bills, use public transport, etc. Life is life anywhere you go. I am NOT on vacation, I just live in a beautiful place.

    • ggnitaly84

      I completely agree. I can’t believe I didn’t add health care. Perhaps that’s a blog post deserving of its own dedication. I have been very pleased with the system as well and with my family GP. The “vacation” part is too true! Um nope, I have several jobs, a bike and a bus pass. And I love people visiting but I have to pre-warn them that unlike what you may see in movies, I actually can’t take off at a moments notice.

  11. Sarah May

    Also, this is something I see in Rome a lot, esp with American who are here illegally. Don’t complain about how awful the laws are here when you are breaking the law and not paying taxes. They are here illegally and complain.

    • ggnitaly84

      Spot on Sarah, its such hypocrisy but I have seen the same thing quite often in Florence. These are the same people who wouldn’t dream of doing the same in the states. It took me a long time to get a work permit and it was a fight every step of the way but in the end, especially with the knowledge of my father being an immigration officer, I know that if I was an immigrant there I could expect and equal if not tougher battle.

  12. Nita

    Thanks for your post! My family and I have an opportunity to go to Italy and although I am excited, I’m also anxious with the language barrier. I also suck at languages, but I know I CAN DO IT :)) ..because I have no choice.. Teehee!. so I’ve been scouring blog posts of how expats overcome this problem so I could learn a trick or too. I’m really glad I saw this.

    • ggnitaly84

      you can do it! just start slow. memorizing some phrases and try and when you arrive in Italy try and pick a local bar for breakfast every morning so that you can chat with the barmen. It will help you gain confidence. BBC has some helpful language programs online as well ( I am currently doing one in french)

      • Nita

        Thanks for the tip. I was also thinking of memorizing songs so I’d be familiar.. Any suggested singers/bands/songs?

  13. Sara White

    Great advice and insight! I’m moving to Rome at the beginning of September and I know I’m in for a pretty big adjustment process and a lot of challenges to go along with all the good moments – I’m going to make sure I keep these mistakes in mind so I (hopefully) avoid making them myself!

    I’m glad I discovered your blog, and I’m looking forward to reading more!

    • ggnitaly84

      Thanks for visiting and you have any questions, don’t hesitate to ask! Two of my colleagues at http://www.insidersabroad.con live in Rome so if you have any Rome-related questions you can message on the forums there. And honestly as long as you come with an open mind, you should be fine. It will be a life-changing adventure and start practicing italian now that way you have some basic phrases and grammar down before you arrive. Are you studying? Or come to just live?

  14. Rocky

    Great article! I recently moved here to Sicily from New York, because my family is originally from Italy and they wanted to return. I am finding it difficult to find work here and there aren’t any Italian Classes near me. I am going to try enlisting the the Italian Army because I want to become a Police Officer here. I have an Associates degree in Justice from American but I don’t know what it counts as here. I just got my Italian citizenship after 5 months of an uphill battle at the consulate. It is also a bummer that they wouldn’t let me convert my American Drivers license here. They told me I have to go to school for 6 months and pay 600 euro. All in all I am loving Italy and all the culture. I just need to really learn the language and meet people. So far, I am guilty of number 3 of your post.

    • ggnitaly84

      It isn’t easy, I agree. It took me a really long time to learn. Working with Italians has helped a lot. How long have you been here for? Have you tried language exchanges? I found that I had to be forced to learned..aka be around only Italian speakers

      • acetogrey

        I have lived here 5 years, my wife and I use English when we are at home. She is a school teacher and by the time we have both finished work neither of us have the time or energy for an Italian lesson. Unfortunately I also use English on a day to day basis when I am at work. Lots of excuses

        I know. I spent 2 years at the local night school, and it was very useful but (always a but) the teacher explained everything in Italian and at that time my Italian was very very poor so I understood little. I think now is the time to re-enrol. I like the idea of getting a hobby to help improve my italian.

        • ggnitaly84

          I think that’s a sound plan. What about your mutual friends? Are they more Italian or English speakers. I find that I am so much more motivated to speak in a social situation with a glass of wine in my hand :). good luck!!!

  15. acetogrey

    Our mutual friends are Italian. If they are talking slowly and one on one I can normally keep up, but if there are 3 or more I lose the plot. It is also incredibly tiring trying to keep up. I get little hints from my wife such as, we are now talking about her sister or she is talking about the school. boh!

    Wine, I love the stuff, we are surrounded by vineyards that produce some of the finest wine in Italy. Defiantly my hobby.

    • ggnitaly84

      Yeah I used to feel really lost in the beginning. Like when I would understand what they were saying they had long moved on to another topic. Wine is one of the best parts of living in Italy, I am a huge fan of Chianti della Rufina, prosecco, pecorino, even though at the moment we are on a French wine kick after visiting in August.. yum!

  16. Laura Sankovich (@LauraSankovich)

    Hey Georgette – awesome tips here….I liked your mention of language exchange groups…had no idea what this was so googled it of course! What a great way to meet others & practice the lingo….been using Rosetta Stone religiously but once thrown in with both feet, I know I’ll need more….thanks for the great read & tips!!!
    Cheers!
    -Laura

    • ggnitaly84

      thanks Laura! the alnguage exchanges are pretty helpful, I used to do them my first year here and would meet locals for coffee or tea and we would stumble over each other’s respective languages. :). Then once you become sorta friends you can do aperitivos!

  17. Larry Bramblett

    Laura you are spot on with your analysis! I am also from Texas and just finishing up my first year in Italy. I can definitely confirm that mistake #2 will only increase the probability of worsening mistakes #3 and #6. Excellent advice!

  18. Jonas

    Hi great tips and advices, im planing on study Italien in florence and found your post very intresting.

    Cheers from Jonas Sweden

  19. michele

    I have spent more than a year in Rome, like Florence a tourist hotspot and only 300 km south. In Rome, I was doing research in a lab and studying at university (in 2 courses I was the only foreign student). I have not met a single Italian.

    Observing the friends I had made I noticed that, in Italy, the only foreigners that meet natives are female. Any foreign male who has been in Italy will agree: Italian males lock out foreign males and Italian females ignore us.

    Again, I am only familiar with Rome and the South of Italy. I am not sure about the North.

    • dawn

      Hi, I found this blog and am more grateful than you can believe. Wanted to just maybe help a bit with you here. My husband is Italian; we met through a penpal exchange. The first thing he said was that it was difficult for Italian men to be open to other men for friendships. We lived in Rome but now live outside of Rome and there is a difference. While you have to speak some of the language, people are generally more tolerant and patient in the area with stranieri while in the busier Rome area they were a lot more stressed and not so open to new people after the first meeting. Even my husband had problems meeting any other Italian men (he is from a small town away from Rome; it changed for him when we were there). On the plus side for Rome there are meetings for students and people your age through friends in Rome. They have meetups in Rome twice a week for language exchange at a local place. We have gone but are in our late thirties and the others are more the age group I am guessing you to be. I wanted to really answer you to tell you I understand the feeling that I think everyone has felt to some degree here and to urge you to check out Friends in Rome. I am still struggling with many of these feelings and go from day to day but can say from experience to not give up if it is a day that you seem more isolated and locked out then others. Everything that is listed here is spot on; you have to adjust to a completely different thought process and open up to a whole new way of life. It takes some time.

  20. ed

    Hi,
    Good advice. I have just moved to Mauritius and have noticed myself fall into a few traps. Need to make more of an effort. However, I have been thinking of going to Florence next year and that will be more of a challenge. Any good long term rental websites? or where is a good place to be based in Florence? Thanks, and good website.
    ed

  21. dawn

    Oh wanted to add one more thing for anyone trying to save money for rent, etc. We live now in the Rieti area in the mountains. There are are rentals that are very, very inexpensive. Homes are less then half the prices and the beauty of the mountains is literally breathtaking (half way between Roma and Firenze). You have to have a car; I have a little cheap one I bought for around 700 euro, and the train station is a 10 minute drive. Train to most of Roma is half hour to 45 minutes. The day is a little longer but it’s for certain worth it; the people are just wonderful here as well. We found this as a very good solution. Not sure at all about the Firenze area but it takes us less then two hours to get there by car; less by train.

    • Howard

      Because its Tuscano not Napoli or Palermo or for that matter even Milan the latter may be rich but so horrible in so many ways. Then again the USA is ten times the size and on a percentage basis has the same few ideals places versus lousy places to live.

    • Debra

      Bruno, I don’t live in Italy but have been fortunatly visited your beautiful country twice. I fell in love with it. It is so different than our home in the states. I think that, as have only spent a total of 2 weeks there, it would indeed be difficult not to expect the “legal rights”, consciences, language differences and all that. In a word “culture shock” of living there all the time. Having said that, if I were able I do think I would attempt it if we’re possible for myself. In my case, I can’t but I can dream. I loved the Tuscany area and Firenze the most. The food, oh my gosh the food, the wine, even the smells were wonderful. We stayed at two farmhouses, I took cooking lessons, and the people were amazing. I know they do that as an income but we also ate and partied until 1:00am every night at the first place in AnSelmo just south of Firenze. I’m sorry if I’ve missed spelled it, not done in disrespect. You can’t do that with someone and not see that they really are nice and open. In Rome, it was a bit different. My personal expirence was that the people were not as open and friendly to strangers especially Americans. I don’t really understand buy it is what it is. I do have to say here that having travel across numerous countries and that my cousin, who lives in Paris has explained to me, is that Americans are seen as brash and demanding. I’m afraid that is most likely the truth. I, too, have witnessed it. I just hate that all are looked upon as the same. Many of us are very grateful for the opportunity to visit and are grateful. After this long dissertation. The short answer is because its Italy!!!! No other place like it!!!

  22. Geri Schiavino

    My daughter and I just moved to Florence July 2, 2013. We want to become residents but I got the permission di siggiorno packet and it is all in Italian. We cannot read it and we want to do the right things to legally stay here. I am on an elective visa and she is on a study visa but we plan on living here more than a year. Our apartment manager got us a codice fiscale and said that is all we need but I am confused. Do you know how we can decipher this packet or do we really need it. If we don’t our visa expires in a year and will we need to go back to U.S. and then come back again? Love your blog.

    • ggnitaly84

      Hello Geri, if I were you I would go to the sportello immigrazione by the post office on via pietrapiana and have them help you with the packet. In order to stay here, you must have a permesso di soggiorno (which with the visa you will get) and then can apply for residency. In order to get a codice fiscale, they might want to see that you are a resident and/or have a permesso di soggiorno. It might be worth having a bi-lingual lawyer help you or hire someone to help you through this process. good luck and thank you for stopping by!

  23. Lisa Ruck

    Ciao Girl in Florence!
    I’m trying desperately to get out of the english speaking student bubble here in Florence. I find it SO hard to meet Florentines!!
    I’ve been here for 2 years and I only know 2! Plus I’m supper shy at speaking Italian but I’m trying to get better!
    Any suggestions on local groups to join? I’m literally sick of meeting students because I’m over 30! How do I “transcend” into local life? :(

    • ggnitaly84

      Hello Lisa! I would take a look at groups like Internations, Yelp Firenze, YAWN, and A Friend in Florence, all of which a pretty good mix-aged and mixed-nationality crowd :-)

  24. Charlotte Rossler

    I thoroughly enjoyed reading the above information about staying in Florence.
    I’m wondering if you could recommend a small furnished studio apartment located very centrally in Florence for me and my small ten-pound dog. I am 60 years old and would like to spend a month in Florence in April 2014. My budget would be around 1500 euros for the studio rental. Any suggestions?
    Thank you!

  25. Nicole

    Thanks for the advice! I do have a question for you though. I’m moving to Italy just for the year (for grad school), and I’m wondering if I should open a bank account just for that short of time. Any thoughts?

    • ggnitaly84

      I wouldn’t bother to be honest, just keep your bank at home and take money out of the atm or pay with your card when you need it. I lived here for three years before I opened one

  26. Ellen

    Ref: Mistake Number 10.
    I left England nearly 10 years ago for Spain, and its true to say I was devestated when after the first18 months my nearest and dearest just stopped communicating with me, the ones I would of bet my life on, keeping in contact. It took me ages to work out that I had just moved out of their circle.

    Having suffered at the hands of the spanish, my husband and I, have spent just over a year living in Germany not the warmest of people in the world, we’re now planning on heading to Italy.

    We eager to learn and intrigate, fingers crossed this time we’re on the right track.

  27. Susan Weckbaugh

    I am a 65-year-old Italian-American who has finally, after 5 years, received my Italian citizenship. I plan to live in Florence while I go to the Italian Language School, as my Italian is iffy. Then coming back for 3-4 months every year. I have been living in Mexico part-time as a permanent resident when the snows of Colorado become too much, so everything you said in your blog was right on. And very well written. What a wonderfully mature and adventuresome young woman you are! I have a fabulous unmarried son……You don’t mention anything about what part the government plays in its people’s lives. There is corruption everywhere but the 99% in the US seem doomed. Thoughts? susan

  28. Marianne

    I’m curious how you pay your student loans! I recently moved to Florence, have a job here and an Italian bank account, but it seems like wiring money is the only option for making loan payments back in the US. Have you found a less expensive option? This issue is driving me crazy. Thanks!

  29. miriamhurley

    One of my challenges is dealing with whiny other expats who feel forced to live here (usually by partner). I remember meeting one such American woman whose opening line to me was, “You live here too? So you understand. Want to hear my top-ten list of things I hate about Italians?” Um, no thanks. I’m here happily and voluntarily.

  30. muirgeilt

    Thank you for the list. I found your blog with a web-search, as I am moving to Italy in 16 days myself. My brother lives there and has off and on for about 20-ish years; he’s Air Force and retiring very soon. He speaks Italian and helped me get my elective residence visa. I’ve been working on learning Italian online, because there’s no one locally to actually speak with at the moment.

    I’m going to have to cope with not driving for medical reasons (no choice there), but other than that, a lot of these are things I’ve already been thinking about. Living here in the US, I have tended to be a creature of regular habits and haunts, and finding a bar/cafe where I can meet local people, and where it’s okay to sit and write is a high priority or me. I love hiking and backpacking and hope to find a club so I’ll have people to do that with, as well as working on getting enough Italian to get into the local literary/poetry and music scenes both as a listener and (with poetry at least) as a participant.

    Aside from staying with my brother until I get my own place, I haven’t decided where I’ll end up yet. His place is tiny, so getting an apartment of my own in a coastal city is the number one thing on my list after all my necessary paperwork is done.

    And now I’m off to check out the rest of your blog.

  31. Marco

    Hey great article, you have a great (and right) attitude. I am actually a Florentine that lives in the US since 2005 and longing to come back for good!

    • ggnitaly84

      thank you! I feel like being an expat is such a similar experience no matter where in the world you are (with a few exceptions). I think of these more of life lessons as the years go on..

  32. M.E. Evans

    Number 11, assuming that you will be understood all the time and then being shocked when you’re not. I had a really difficult time with my sense of humor in Italy. It’s kind of dark and sardonic which just doesn’t translate well with the locals who are more used to slapstick humor. I tried really hard to change my humor which just made me seem even weirder. Finally I just accepted it and cracked jokes and ignored the shrugs and uncomfortable glances. After a few years my closer friends FINALLY figured out when I was joking. LOL.

    • Howard

      Italians in general have that very backwards unevolved slapstick humour. Empathetic irony is seriously lost on them. This comes from a lack of self critique.
      So the joke has to been on someone else not themselves.

    • ggnitaly84

      I know how you feel, I am very sarcastic myself and heave learned to adjust it in a way that I would be understood by Italians. I don’t know about you but I feel like I have a totally different sense of humor in Italian then English and honestly, at this point, I am ok with that :). C’est la vie!

  33. ItaSpanian

    Hi, i’m Italian and I agree with most of the points you listed, especially with number 2. In my opinion, learning the local language is the first step in order to be really part of the community. I’m currently livining in Italy, but planning to move away someday, i think i will keep this post in mind! Thank you!

  34. jmsalmond14

    Hello Girl in Italy! You had a wonderful post. I studied abroad in Milan last year and I fell in love with the country… and with an Italian boy, of course! We are trying to find a way either for him to move here or me to come to Italy– which I have no complaints about! I’m not totally crazy, I have thought it through and it’s the real deal. He just happens to be Italian. I speak very basic Italian that I taught myself and what I picked up while I lived there. I am continuing my study and practicing with him because in Missouri it’s pretty hard to find an Italian!
    I’m most curious about getting a job. Right now with my language level I can’t really do much more than au pair type jobs. I could also be a flight attendant for Ryanair because they don’t require any language but English.
    What was your first job? How did you get the work visa? I’ve been doing my research but it sounds like most places want you to already have one, and the government won’t give you one unless you’ve secured a job.
    Ideally, I would like to be a photographer either for a newspaper, PR firm or even a tourism department. It’s something I could do without needing 3-5 years of fluency and could build up to being a journalist (my degree). Are there many jobs like that?

    • ggnitaly84

      Ciao!!! I think a good post to start off with would be this one http://girlinflorence.com/2014/01/13/living-in-italy-what-is-it-really-like/ and for visa tips http://girlinflorence.com/2014/03/05/how-to-survive-your-next-permesso-di-soggiorno-renewal-in-florence/. I know how overwhelming it can be when all you want to do is come here, be with the one you love and have a steady income. Of course living and working in Italy can be really tough. Especially if you want to find a (good) job that mimic the kind you would try for back home, whereever home is. The kind of job that you are looking for (newspaper, pr etc) are really hard to come by and usually require that you speak Italian fluently. My first job was as a nanny and english teacher (like so many others) which eventually migrated to another opportunities that i would have not gotten without speaking Italian and having a good understanding of the culture here. If you can find something that allows you to work from Italy – even better! Work visa can be really to get if you aren’t converting it from another type of visa (like student which in any case is still tough). I would come here on a student visa for one year, enroll in an english course and see if you can get side work, like teaching english. etc. check the classifieds in milan to see what opportunities there are (for example in Florence, we have an english newspaper called The Florentine with great classifieds for those looking for work). In any case I really do wish you luck and I’m here if you have any other questions.

  35. Tiziana

    Hi Georgette! I am Italian (live in MIlan) and think that your blog is very nice and interesting …Complimenti! :) I have to say, as Italian, that the big mistake of many of you (expats? :) ) is that you don’t try to speak our language.
    Many people I’ve met in my city, from America or GB, told me that they didn’t care about Italian language because English has known all over the world.
    I was very disappointend at first. I mean…a te piacerebbe se una persona venisse a “casa” tua e non volesse parlare la tua lingua perchè la trova inutile?! It isn’t a good think. But then I realized that most of you are shy…please, trust in me: Italians really appreciate if you try to speak Italian! It’s a way to respect our culture and us.
    It doesn’t matter if you make mistake…who cares! :) Everybody makes mistake (me too of course!).
    There is a very famous proverb: making mistake, you learn! :)
    Un grande abbraccio Georgette and good luck to all of you!
    Tiziana

    • GirlinFlorence

      I agree completely, Why would you ever want to live in a country and refuse to learn the language? It makes no sense at all and its quite rude if you ask me. Plus, you don’t really KNOW a place until you can properly communicate it’s native language {my opinion of course} but worth saying nonetheless. Thank YOU so much for commenting and taking the time to check out my blog! :)

  36. trojangirl2

    Hi Girl in Florence – great advice. I’ve got an apartment in Sansepolcro, but don’t manage to get there a lot. I would like to live in Italy when I retire – I’m not there yet. I’m hoping the property market will pick up so I can buy an apartment with a little garden.

  37. Elaine Bertolotti

    Hi ..After reading your article I realize that things haven’t changed that much over the years, since I lived in Firenze in the ’70′s! Even then one had to deal with some difficulties , especially that of trying to learn the language, but that was a part of the excitement of living in such a fantastic city. I just published a book you might enjoy, entitled FLORENCE AND ME. It recounts my experiences , many comical, as I tried to become a true “fiorentina”. My life there (for 5 years) was complete , teaching English and painting to my heart’s content in my little studio. Here is the link to my Kindle ebook
    http://www.amazon.com/Florence-Me-befriended-American-Brooklyn-ebook/dp/B00K871C3Y/ref=sr_1_sc_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1399872788&sr=1-1-spell&keywords=Florencer+and+Me
    You can read the complete book description and view my author profile there.
    I’d love it you could write a review for me too, as well as passing the word. You’ll discover that basically life as an American (I’m from Brooklyn!) in Florence way back then , could be very much the same as it is now!!
    Ciao, Elaine PS, you can find me on FB, Elaine Bertolotti- Author

  38. Samuel Goa

    Ciao, just read your blog, and was thoroughly impressed & entertained!
    I am a New Zealander (Kiwi), residing between the provinces of Bologna & Modena, Emilia Romagna.
    I moved to Italy in 2006.
    I too found it difficile in my first 2 years! However, I persevered, and more importantly….as the saying goes “When in Rome…”
    I love Italy!
    Look forward to further blogs…prossimamente!
    Ciao e grazie!
    Sam.

    • GirlinFlorence

      Ciao Sam, beautiful area to be in, the food in Emilia Romagna is incredible. The first few years are tough to say the least, so many things are different and its very easy to ‘compare’ your old life to your new one. But yes, your approach of ‘when in rome’ is healthy one to have, stay positive and just roll with the flow, at least you will have some great pasta and cheap wine to show for it ;-).

  39. Catie May

    Thank you for taking the time to think of us as we ponder the thought of making the plunge. “Expat” sounds so romantic, yet, you are correct to state that we would be immigrants should we go. I want to do this so badly I can taste it, but, fear of leaving my adult children and fear of find a livable wage while there at my age scares me. I’m a 55 year old women, great health, great shape, appear to be 10 or 15 years younger but the reality is that I am not. I would know where to begin with securing a job. Thoughts? Also, do you come back to the states frequently?

  40. Joyce

    I really enjoyed reading your blog.

    I am taking an Italian course now and will start an intensive language course in September-6 weeks in Florence and 6 in Rome. I will live with host families. Then plan to go to the south of Italy for 4 months–if I get the visa. I hope to have moderate speaking ability by then. I am a retired attorney, Italian heritage on father’s side, love Italy.

    After reading your blog I am reconsidering where I should live. I was thinking of spending a month in 3 or 4 places but maybe I would be more likely to actually get to know a few people and learn about a community if I stayed in one place. Any recommendations? I want to go to the south as I have traveled to the major cities in the north and my family is southern Italian.

    I don’t expect Italians to fall in love with me but I am really surprised that someone could live there for 2 years and only have 2 friends. Maybe I am being unduly optimistic about what it will be like. Nevertheless, it is a lifelong dream about to come true to live in Italy for a while and I think it will be wonderful.

    • Susan Weckbaugh

      suggestion to Joyce: have you considered getting your Italian citizenship if your ancestor on your father’s side was not naturalized before he was born? I just got my Italian passport after doing the same thing and will never have to deal with waiting in line for a visa. Plus, you have the right to work and live anywhere in the EU, as any citizen would.

  41. The Britalian Job (@JoCavagnis)

    I have only been here 9 months but am guilty of just about all of these! Learning the language is hard, the good thing for me is that his family don’t speak a word of English so I have no choice but to try! The worst mistake I made was underestimating just how badly homesickness can affect you. I expected to get a bit sad but NOTHING prepared me for the emotional roller coaster I experienced 3 months in. It was only through reading another expat blog that I realised i wasn’t going mad and countless expats before me had experienced the same! I only wish I had done my research a bit better beforehand!

  42. Michael Cyrus

    I’m a few years late but this is a great article. I’m now in the process of making the move to Italy here in the near future. So thank you :)

  43. Winston Waterton

    Thanks for a great and informative article! Just what I needed to help make the transition to living in Italy for a year or two. I will be taking your advice and guidance.

    Many Thanks.

    Peace and Blessings
    WW


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