Girl in Florence

A Tuscan Texan immersed in Florentine life

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 Florence. 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. However that being said, I am just as addicted to this city of art as everyone else and can’t imagine living anywhere else, at least not right now.

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. This 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 in Italy.

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 especially regarding topics that relate to 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, Texas, 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.

One key part of adapting (and just to keep yourself mentally sane) is 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 defensive when trying to adapt to a new country and make friends. That isn’t to say that you need to give up having an opinion. I just think it is important to remember that humans at times put their feet in their mouths (heck I know I have) and we have to sometimes forgive these mistakes.

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 have made all sorts of really embarrassing mistakes (and I still do be careful when you say the word “fig” in Italian) but I am fluent in Italian. Perfectly? Not always, but it is a forever process for some.

Yes, it truly 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.

I recommend checking out this post on the blog with tips from a local organizer of a fun multilingual Meetup. A great way to meet new people and practice your Italian (or French, or English).

Isolating themselves

I know how easy it is to connect to the internet, stream your favorite shows, and skype with your family rather 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 don’t make the very important effort to make new 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 and have people there who can introduce you to the town.

 Look for a new store opening, local book-club, open-mic night, language exchange groups (all of which you can find in my monthly event’s lists!), these are just a few ways to meet people.

Keep in mind too that Italians can be very shy and likely already have their own friends from as far back as nursery school. So, to help break the ice just invite them over for dinner at your house, out for un Caffe or host an international pot-luck. Everyone loves food and since it means people are bringing different dishes, it’s perfect for your pocketbook too.

Say yes to every invitation, at least in the beginning, and put yourself out there. It will be very worth it in the end. I always think personally that if you focus on why people don’t come to you, you’re thinking about it in the wrong way. Just consider that you will have to make more of an effort and make peace with that.


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 or foreign 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 joining a yoga class, running errands on your own (practicing the local language), and getting 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 was needed or wanted but plenty of laughs were had!


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 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 it’s just not worth the risk.

There are options if you want to keep costs low, for example, an online account which allows you a fixed number of visits at any local branch or an account at the Post office, in Italian called postpay, which is a great alternative.

Keep in mind that because of FACTA the local bank will have to report your account to the USA (if you are an American citizen) so it pays to be smart, file your taxes in the USA even if you don’t work or live there anymore, (you just have to prove that you are paying here).

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.

I do say that it is 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? Heck no, you need them and most of my closest friends weren’t born in Italy but just try to mix it up with people who are local as well. You might find that the friendship is different but that’s ok too.

Get to know people slowly – ask questions, don’t feel pressured to be friends just because they/or you don’t know anyone else. Toxic energy can be contagious and I know from personal experience that it is not worth spending time with people you feel you “need to” out of some sort of obligation. It doesn’t help you and it doesn’t help them. Don’t find yourself in a co-dependent cycle which is surprisingly easy to do.

Try and make a few local friends even if it seems impossible, attending local language exchange, a running group, and 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/Instagram doesn’t count. 

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.

No one is going to want to be friends with someone who complains 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 about the place in itself.

Keep in mind that 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. That’s something I reserve for the third “date”.

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. An expat to me implies you are someone who isn’t staying around for long, likely posted here on a two-year work contract or something similar.

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 the same reality as me in a small apartment working as a freelancer. If you have seen the inside of the Questura on an intimate level, then likely you too are an immigrant.

  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 the easiest place to make money or build a career from scratch.

With the economy being what it is, if you really want to make this country your home, you need to really think realistically about your financial situation and if you can take care of yourself. Do you have enough of a buffer? What if you can’t find a job?

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 at an average of about 1000-1500 euros per month. Factor in bills, taxes, 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 menus for workers that I often take advantage of when people are in town visiting while cooking a yummy dinner at home. Or fill up at aperitivo.
  • 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 in the colder months and turn off the radiators in rooms you aren’t using.
  • Be a smart shopper. Italy has big sales twice a year, normally after Christmas and in the summer/July. This is a great time to stock up on shoes, things for the house, and anything else that you need at a great discount.
  • 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, Italo 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 affordable and excellent so there is light at the end of the tunnel.

Having overly high-expectations from people back home

This can be especially hard to deal with since it really is a matter of coming to terms with the truth.

Everyone wants to believe that people will continue to initiate constant interaction with you and it’s easy when you’re 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 changed your status quo which means you’re going to be the one reaching out more often than not. Guess what, 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. They make it up to me in tacos, my favorite kind of friendship currently.

Finalmente, I would love to hear your thoughts on anything I missed, or your own personal experiences, doesn’t have to be Italy, I love hearing all of your various experiences!


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121 Responses

  1. Fantastic advice! I fell into number three for the first year here. I soon changed that behaviour and found a great local friend … now we hike, cook and laugh together!

    1. we all do, I made so many of these mistakes as well and hey how else would you learn? Also it helps with cultural misunderstandings 😉

  2. 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?

    1. 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.

  3. 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!

    1. 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 🙂

      1. Ah, knitting is one thing I can do! I will have to dig out my needles and set up a knitting group in the village! Thanks very much for the encouragement and advice 🙂

        1. keep me posted on how it goes! you can even have people participating each knit a square and make it a community project ( thats the DIY Texan girl in me speaking ) 😉

  4. 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. 🙂

    1. 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. 🙂

  5. 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!

  6. 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… 😉

  7. 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

    1. 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

  8. 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.

    1. 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..

  9. 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.

    1. 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! 😉

  10. Very good advise. No one can underestimate the frustration of not being able to express yourself in the same way as you do in your own language. However over time it gets easier.

    1. 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)

  11. 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!

    1. grazie Elisa :). Your English is impeccable! thank you for your kind words, it means a lot to me, and helps me stay positive 😀

    2. 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

  12. 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.

    1. 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.

  13. 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.

    1. 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.

  14. 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.

    1. 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)

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

  15. 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!

    1. 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?

  16. 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.

  17. Great post, I am a number 4. Learning Italian has been very difficult the grammar is so complicated, and my wife’s English is as good as her Italian..

    1. 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

      1. 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.

        1. 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!!!

  18. 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.

    1. 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!

      1. Hi GG, I love Pecorino cheese especially if it has pepper corns in it. French wine?? Nooooo Italian every time.

  19. 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!!!

    1. 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!

  20. 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!

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

    Cheers from Jonas Sweden

  22. 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.

    1. 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.

  23. 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.

      1. Grazie mille, girl in Florence, or as we would say back home “go raibh mile maith agat.”

  24. 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.

  25. Just a quick question: why one should leave a rich (or even normal) country and come to work and live here?

    1. 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.

    2. 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!!!

  26. 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.

    1. 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!

  27. 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? 🙁

    1. 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 🙂

  28. 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!

    1. Hello Charlotte, I have no doubt with that budget you could quite easily find a really nice apartment. I would even try since I consider that site very trustworthy and better than an agency! I wish you luck!

  29. 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?

    1. 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

  30. 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.

  31. 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

  32. 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!

    1. unfortunately wiring money is what we all do to pay loans, if there was another option, i would be happy to hear it!

      1. Not cheaper unless it’s for small amounts, but you can set up a PayPal account in both countries (if you have a bank account) and PayPal yourself. However, they give bad exchange rates.

  33. 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.

  34. 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.

  35. 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!

  36. Just a question, for no real reason. Did you give up your citizenship?

  37. Nicely put! Living vicariously through you and hope to put your tips to good use near future. I lived for a year in Florence and consider it a home away from home. Especially love, love love the advice on learning the language! 😉

    1. 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..

  38. 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.

    1. 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.

    2. 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!

  39. 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!

  40. 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?

    1. Ciao!!! I think a good post to start off with would be this one and for visa tips 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.

  41. 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!

    1. 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! 🙂

  42. 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.

    1. Ciao, Sansepolcro is such a lovely city, I was there last year and absolutely loved it! I wish you luck looking for the property of your dreams.

  43. 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
    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

  44. 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!

    1. 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 ;-).

  45. 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?

  46. 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.

    1. 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.

  47. 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!

  48. 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 🙂

  49. 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

    1. I wish you all the best of luck Winston, I know how scary and insane moving to another country is. If you need any advice or a shoulder to lean on, sono qui!

  50. I’m just seeing your article now, but I wanted to say great job! I can relate to a lot of your points. I’m from the US and have been living in Milan for almost 2 years. I spoke ok Italian before moving here but having to speak it at work is a whole other level, so for a while I’d go home and binge on Netflix and Skype to avoid hearing/speaking Italian. Now I only have a few native-English speaking friends and with the rest I always speak Italian. I still have difficulty at times but learning a new language as an adult takes time, so hopefully when I’m at the 3-4 year mark I’ll be even closer to fluency.

    Getting a patente is my next challenge. I bought a motorcycle last year but I can’t use my US license anymore so I’m dreading the whole patente process : /

    Anyway, it was nice to ignore my Italian colleagues and clients for a few minutes to read this article from a fellow immigrant : )

    1. Ciao Tom! Thank you for checking out my blog and this post and taking the time to comment. I know how hard it can be at an Italian office and adjusting to a new culture. I definitely have my moments where all I want to do is watch an English movie or tv show marathon, mostly to just not THINK. Good luck on your patente, that is something I have been meaning to do for some time and it’s also so expensive! I wish you all the best of luck!

  51. Having recently studied abroad a year ago in Rome, of course I returned to the States with the desire to somehow make my way back. I was wondering if you had any more advice for some one like myself, who just recently graduated and is wanting to work/live in Italy while still being able to pay off loans. I know the job situation isn’t great there, but I haven’t had much luck here either.

    1. Hello Zach, you caught the ‘Italy’ bug, I know the feeling ;-). Your situation is pretty hard but not impossible, I have a few friends who have decent jobs and send money back home every month for their loans. I should mention that I do as well though my loans are really low. My suggestion is to think outside of the box, what could you do, be an expert in that would make you money in Italy? For example, I do social media management along with copywriting. If you can bypass the legal hurdles of living in Italy and can keep afloat financially, you might have a chance. It’s just not to the kind of place you come to make real money if you know what I mean..

  52. Hello-

    I love Italy and your blog is wonderful. This information is helpful but it is also an opportunity to see other cultures and experience a little piece of Italy almost first hand. I encourage and support other blogs and I would love for you to view mine. This is a floral site with delivery in Italy. I look forward to your next post.

  53. Hey,

    I’m coming to italy in a week or so and I’m 23 (traveling alone). Maybe you could show me around? Would be awesome.

  54. Wonderful post! I am guilty of almost all of those points 😉 have one to add myself, and this is meant more in a funny than serious way (though it’s 100% true!) Don’t expect to not unlearn how to properly speak English! I am not a native English speaker but I do okay and have been communicating at work in only English (also here in Florence) for 11+ years. Since I got here and started to understand (and to a lesser extant also speak) Italian, I now say things like “we are in 4” when I enter a restaurant or “I will arrive in late” or 00:30 for me is now “midnight and (a) half” 🙂 I have lots more of those and hear other expats use them too 🙂

    1. You know when I wrote this, I realized that I was guilty of most of them as well, it was sort of a time for ‘self reflection’ as you might imagine. My English is definitely worse than it used to be, despite working in English, but it’s just because your level drops when you are used to simplifying things for non-native speakers. Gone are witty idioms are sarcastic humor ;-). Florence is also a very unique city because so many expats live here, it’s quite easy to not to have to speak Italian! In any case, it sounds like you are doing better, ‘midnight and a half’ is something I would 100% say lol)

Georgette Jupe

Welcome to my personal blog by a curious American girl living and working between Zug, Switzerland and Florence, Italy with my husband Nico, our newborn Annabelle and Ginger the beagle. This space is primarily to share about my love for Italy (currently on a 13 year romance) with a fair amount of real talk, practical advice, travel suggestions and adjusting to a new culture (Switzerland). Find me on IG @girlinflorence @girlinzug

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