5 Things Not to Do After Moving your Family to Italy
We learned the hard way.
What we thought moving to Italy would be like: What’s not to love? It’s Italy, right? The food, the wine, the art, the culture…. just taking an afternoon walk will be like stepping foot in an open-air museum, rich in history. The kids will be fine. They’ll have a blast! We’ll learn Italian and live ‘la dolce vita’.
The real deal: Please don’t get me wrong. If I could go back, I’d still make the move again from the USA. It was probably the best decision we’ve ever made for our family. But it hasn’t been without a struggle or even close to what we expected.
Here are 5 things we learned:
1. Don’t be afraid to speak horrible Italian.
If you move to a larger city like Rome, Florence, or Venice, you might be able to escape the need to speak much Italian, especially if you find a community of English-speaking expats. Often, Italian workers in the shops of larger cities speak English due the necessity from tourists. We settled in a city that was smaller and less touristy, and I’m glad we did. However, it forced us to learn the language.
As difficult as it was, and still is sometimes, stumbling over my words with the world’s worst grammar is way better than giving up and forcing others to speak my language when I’m in Italy. For tourists, it’s fine. But I live here, I need to learn. Locals really see that I’m trying, respect it and are super helpful. The owner at our local bakery, who I see every week, has designated himself my Italian professor. And he’s great at it!
2. Don’t compare Italy with where you lived before in a negative way.
The grass is always greener on the other side. If you decided to move to Italy, there was a reason for it, right? Keep this in mind when things get frustrating because the red tape involved in getting even basic things done is beyond annoying. The list could go on and on about how other countries are more efficient, have better services, or have more technologically advanced ways of doing things. But, if you plan to stay in Italy, you have to realize this is part of your new life and part of the country you chose to move to. Thinking and speaking negatively about it is only going to make you want to move or just annoy people, especially Italians. Be prepared to hear the response, ‘well if you don’t like it here, why don’t you just go back to where you came from?’. And they are right. Once you move, embrace the new lifestyle, focus on the positives or you will hate living here.
3. Don’t wait to be helped, at a deli counter, a post office, a bank, a restaurant, a bar, ANYWHERE.
For some reason, customer service is next to non-existent in Italy. In the beginning I thought they were rude or just don’t want to bother themselves with helping me. But soon I realized, that it’s the Italian culture to live a slower paced life.
Here, there is no sense of urgency. There could be a line of 10 people behind me at the butcher, but when it’s my turn and I speak my cave-man Italian ‘me want chicken’, I’m treated like I’m the only one in the room. I’m not rushed like I’m living in a rat race. And that is exactly why I moved here, to slow down.
4. Don’t enroll your kids in international schools.
When we moved to Italy five years ago, our kids could not speak a full sentence in Italian. Still, we chose to put them directly into the public school system. It was the right decision, with no regrets. They were 7, 9, and 12 years old. The language fluency came easier, as expected, for our younger kids. The older one had a tougher time because, well, middle school just sucks in any country. Now, they’re completely fluent, with Italian friends, and thriving in school. The language was a necessity for them to live life here to the fullest. If we chose an international school conducting classes in English, they would still be part of that school’s bubble. It would have just prolonged their language learning and their inclusion in the community.
5. Don’t give up! The culture shock will pass.
Our move to Italy was both the biggest struggle and the most rewarding decision we have made for our family. Before moving, we decided to be ‘all in’. We sold our house and cars in the USA, stored must-keep items with family, and hopped on a plane with only a backpack each. Crazy, huh? We were all in. We traveled light until we found a good city and a place to settle. Once we did, there was no plan B. The first few months met us with excitement and the feeling of adventure. Then the culture shock set in. Though there were triumphs, the tears poured from all of us with a longing for home. If we had given ourselves a safety net to move back, we might have. But we were all in and it paid off.
Thanks for reading! If you want to read or hear more from me, please follow me @fiveinitaly. I post on Medium, Instagram and have videos on YouTube. Ciao!