Expats living in Italy – what to expect.
I guess if the truth be told I really don’t look at myself as an expat living in Italy. Often times when I look out of the window (on a really grey day) I feel like I’m still back in the UK or South Africa where I spent my formative years. Life carries on…! Clearly I’m a ‘straniero’ (a stranger or foreigner) and will always be viewed as such particularly if I get into an argument or make a mistake on the road; but I have felt Italian at heart from as long as I can remember and given my mentality of wanting to integrate and having friends and neighbours who are very accepting I often feel more comfortable here and less of a stranger than, let’s say, I did in the UK. Coming back to the UK in 2000 I found it quite difficult to make friends and to ‘break in’ and that wasn’t because I was Scottish living in England! Once you make an effort here Italians a very accommodating and inquisitive; they do want to know about you and where you are from and might head off tutting or shaking their heads but there is no malice intended.
Types of expat
Acceptance and how quickly you integrate is going to be down to you. I’ve often heard stories where families have been adopted by the locals, this isn’t uncommon. There are basically 2 types of expat – those that want to integrate and those that don’t. Those that seek out and hold onto their ‘Englishness’ and those that don’t. (The former being those that walk about with a Manchester United or Tottenham football top that are basically advertising the fact ‘can’t you see by my top that I’m British so please don’t for one minute expect to talk to me in anything other than English!’ ). There is no right or wrong way, the same exists in any other foreign country. You do what you feel comfortable with but for us we wanted to learn a new culture , experience new foods, new language, meet ‘foreigners’ (the Italian ones). We deliberate chose not to find ‘pub night, fish and chip or burger night’ in some far off Italian city with fellow Brits and Americans. Doing this would not have allowed us to achieve our goals; otherwise we might as well have stayed in the UK!
The finer things in life
I feel that the expat here is in a very fortunate position. They have experienced another life or culture to ‘back home’, a possibly more open outlook on life (Italians are not known for their open-mindedness). They have lived in an English-speaking world (which many Italians envy a little especially when it comes to getting the full experience of an American movie or an English song) and now get to experience some of the finer things in life, all that the Dolce Vita has to offer….fine Italian wine, wonderful food, good weather in beautiful settings (both picturesque and ancient) while surrounded by art and history and very attractive looking Italians!
The Italian viewpoint
For many of us expats we equally want to hear and understand first hand what Italy has to offer and to understand their viewpoints in their mother tongue, but equally we have friends who speak very little Italian and live life as well as we do (if not better). They may have a tendency to make more English-speaking friends than we do but regardless who you friends are and what language you speak daily I can guarantee that if you have an open-mind while here you will experience a more enriched life, an adventure and live the dream here in Italy.