Here you are, ready for your new Italian adventure. Your dolce vita is ready to begin. You want to enjoy your time in Italy the best you can. How do you become a happy expat? Learn as much as you can about Italy but be aware of your feelings and emotions. These are the most useful tips:
1. Be open to your new expat life
In the beginning, you may feel lost, especially if you don’t speak Italian. Don’t be afraid to ask for help or advice. Some locals will ignore you but others won’t. People like helping others because it contributes to raising their self-esteem.
You can pay them back with English conversations or a meal from your country. That’s how meaningful relationships with locals start. Having someone who explains to you what a “marca da bollo” is or how to make a perfect tiramisù might be very useful.
2. Be curious
It’s advisable to do as much research about your new city as you can before the big step. By doing so you will face less unexpected scenarios on the spot. Learn the history of the country, watch the movies and the tv shows, listen to the music or to local radio stations.
It is a good idea to find someone from your home country who already lives there. You are more likely to have the same cultural codes and to care about the same lifestyle details. This doesn’t always work though. If you are at different stages of cultural integration, you might not have much to share.
Once you are in Italy, keep the curiosity alive. Don’t interrupt your Italian acquaintance while he’s telling you about that amazing “bra” cheese he ate in Piedmont last week. These topics may be useful in later conversations. They will also help you better understand the local mentality.
3. Don’t be judgmental
Try to be open-minded. Don’t judge your new country with parameters you had back home. It will only cause frustration and won’t help your integration. Some things do work better in your country but there’s no need to point the finger at this all the time.
Continuous criticism is irritating pretty much for everybody. Unlike some other nations, Italians know their weak spots well and share them. They don’t need your continuous reminders. This advice doesn’t involve physical contact though. If you are not comfortable with it, say it out loud.
4. Assimilation is not the way
Being a happy expat in Italy also means maintaining a connection to your home culture. Expats who keep it feel happier than those who assimilate completely. You are the lucky person who has two or more cultures to share, why would you inhibit one? Your background is an added value you should be grateful for. Many Italians are very curious about other cultures. They will listen to your stories, try the food from your country, and tell you more about their habits in the meantime. Warning, this doesn’t include saying you love pineapple pizza. There’s no clemency for someone who shares this information publicly in Italy.
5. Stay positive
You said the other “c” word when you wanted to say “cozze“? Someone around you laughed and you felt uncomfortable? That’s still an experience. On your lower days, when communication doesn’t work, remind yourself this is only a chapter, not the whole book. By making mistakes you are learning and it’s a process that requires time.
Feeling sad is a necessary part of the process. It usually comes after the “honeymoon” period when you realize that your new country isn’t perfect. It can hit you on a later stage too, around Christmas, or watching a happy family. It’s normal, embrace negative emotions. Without them, you wouldn’t be able to seize the moments of happiness.
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