Hey guys! This is Georgette here: the

07/08/2014 - 13:11

Hey guys! This is Georgette here: the community manager of Italy Magazine smiley, We are compiling a post providing advice for those looking to move to Italy on 'How to Be a Happy Expat'. We are looking for some advice from some of you seasoned locals on what YOU do to make your life here as best as possible. Since we are planning on featuring this, the best responses will get a mention in the article we write and a huge thank you from us! All we ask is that you comment here with your answer and provide a name, and location where you are living in Italy {anyway it's free to join our community} Thanks in advance from Italy Magazine! We are excited to hear what you think makes a happy expat in Italy!!!! 



Don't Buy a CarUnless you live in a very rural area, you'll be a much happier expat if you don't own a car.  I used to say, "don't even drive a car," but I've changed my mind about that.  The truth is, owning a car while living in a city like Rome or Florence is quite expensive, AND inconvenient.  There's nowhere to park, and many more areas are now being closed to vehicular traffic (and rightly so).Instead, use public transportation to get around town.  While not perfect, it works most of the time, and it's much cheaper in Italy than in other European countries.  Furthermore, if you really need a car for the day, many cities have introduced car sharing programs which are very easy to use and fairly inexpensive.  And when you’re ready to get out of town for a long weekend, just rent a car and hit the highway.  The cities are congested with cars, buses, and motorini, but the highway system (marked by green road signs) is generally excellent with much less traffic than you’ll find on the local roads (marked by blue road signs).Seriously, owning a car is a headache and expense that most expats just don’t need.  Use a smart combination of other options to make your life as stress-free and relaxing as you dreamed it would be.

What a great point Rick, you know I've never even thought of that?! My boyfriend has a car here in Florence and I am happy to be carless since parking in Firenze is a nightmare as is getting parking permission in the historical center. And you're right, already car-sharing is starting here and you can always rent a car for the day.. 

Thanks Georgette...just my opinion, of course.  I dislike having a car in general, even when I'm in the US where it's totally necessary.  Life without a vehicle is one of the things I like most about being an expat.  And I should have mentioned that I actually walk as much as possible, which is my preferred method of transportation. smiley

I would do some research where you can buy a few foods from home as sometimes its nice to have a few creature comforts that you miss. To me this is part of living in Italy, yes the food here is amazing but a bit of back home food is always nice on a rainy day.Alot of Expats have already blogged about places to buy International foods like specialist shops and some of the much bigger supermarkets, Panorama, Lidl, Castroni (just in Rome for starters). Also in alot of the bigger cities International foods are becoming more popular like bagel places etc which are now popping up. So with a little bit of computer time you should easily be able to find soups, tea and some favorite foods you miss.If not or your living not to close to a big city you have options like The British corner shop website which cater to Expats all over the world. They have a selection of foods which can be ordered and sent to your door!Some of these aren't really cheap but its the price we pay for wanting something you can't normally buy here.I think this is very important because it helps when you have a little bit of homesickness when you can eat something you used to have alot and all expats experience this from time to time its part of the Expat life:)

How long are you staying in Italy? How you adapt depends on how long you think you're staying. Those who come for a short time have it easy, because everything is something to discover...and then they return home with lots of great stories. Those ex-pats who stay for a longer amount of time and make Italy a life-long home should probably focus on making Italian friends, picking up some of the Italian habits and learning the language really well. Try to appreciate the experience even though there will be ups and downs. This is a fascinating country with wonderful people and great food; at the end of the day it's one of the best places to live!!

How to be a "happy expat"... Accept that things are not the same as in your native country. Embrace the difference. Learn the language and immerse yourself in the culture, but treat yourself to the occasional burger at the Hard Rock or whatever it is that you miss from your other culture! Integrate: for me, my happiness as an "expat" was fulfilled when I joined my local tennis club. Sharing a genuine passion for something overcomes all cultural barriers.

Best 3 bits of advice I received 13 years ago when I arrived... 1. Never, ever forget that up is down and down is up... 2. If you don't like the answer you are getting from an Italian official just wait, come back tomorrow, then the next day, continue until you get the answer you want. 3. The lines on the roads and in the parking lots are there for absolutely no reason.

Say Yes. To every invitation for at least the first three months. Go to all the expat events you hear about. You might think you would never join a woman's organization or a expat social club, but you never know there might be a kindred spirit feeling just the same as you. 

LA DOLCE VITA.... WELL MOST OF THE TIME!I have been in Rome for just over 2 years, from Arizona originally.  I made the choice to completely change my life after my husband died at a young age.  It was a good decision.Life is not as easy as everyone thinks, being an expat, BUT IT IS COMPLETELY WORTH IT!  There are many things to learn, besides the language which is a big part.  I was accustomed to luxury in the USA.  Here are a few things that I have learned and have learned to love about life in Rome:1.  You can buy a monthly pass for the bus or a yearly one for a lot less money than the daily pass.2. There is a bar on the bottom of the big trashcans that you can step on to lift the lid, so you don't have to touch it!  I didn't know this for a while, and saw this beautifully dressed woman in high heels step on the bar and nicely put her trash in without getting dirty!3.  I am living in a 500 square foot studio apartment not my 3500 square foot home. No yard, no swimming pool, no garage, no car, no materialistic possessions.4. The washing machines are very small, they hold about 3 bath towels at a time and you hang your clothes to dry, no dryers here!  In the summer it is fine, but in the winter it can take up to 5 days for a pair of jeans to dry.5. The refrigerator is small in comparison to the American type (I had 3 full size refrigerators with freezers and a stand-alone full size freezer in the USA).  Hoarding of food is not done here at all. Eating fresh is what it is all about.  You eat the fruit and vegetables that are in season.  You will go to the market nearly every day, walking 3 blocks or more, and get fresh fruit, vegetables, meat and other things you will need for that day's meals and maybe the next day.  You only buy what you can carry home with your own 2 hands. No Costco here!  You must buy a little cart with wheels to cart your water and heavy items home.  It holds about the equivalent of 2 paper grocery sacks in the USA.  Markets are very small in general.  You will not have 100 types of cereal, shampoo, laundry detergent to choose from.  Why do we need so many choices anyway?????6. Electricity is different here.  For example, usually you can't run the oven, water heater, hair dryer, microwave, toaster oven, and air conditioning at the same time.  Otherwise it will pop the circuit breaker and you will have to wait 15 minutes for it to come back on.7.  Air conditioning is optional in most apartments.  You will learn to use an oscillating fan, and open all the windows.8.  Heating in the winter comes from metal heaters on the wall, usually in each room, but not always.  If you are lucky you are able to control your own heat.  But many apartments are controlled by the complex and are only on for a few hours a day.9. There is no storage in your apartment.  The closet or armadio is the size of most American spare bedroom closets, no walk in closets here.  You learn to live with very little space.  If you are lucky you will also have a dresser and some other cabinets to store your suitcase in.  They only have the clothes in season in the closet.  You store the rest of them, as I do in my suitcase.10.  Most places do not have a dishwasher, you hand wash your dishes.  Microwaves are also not very common.  Your American appliances will not last long here with the electricity, so don’t bother trying to bring anything.11.  Basic television does not have anything on in English.  You can get s subscription to SKY so you can get English if you want to.12.  No contracts for your cell phone.  You get your phone and SIM card and then you go to the Tabacci store and recharge it when the minutes are finished.  I have a monthly plan and pay only 10 euro a month including internet.  So much cheaper here than in the USA.13.  Women: There are NO toilet seats or toilet paper in the restrooms out in public. You must learn to squat to pee, and always have tissue with you.  You will learn which restrooms in public are nice and which of those aren’t.  In every home there is a Bidet - need I say more.14.  Rome is noisy.  Most apartments are near busy streets, you will hear ambulances going by with sirens all hours of the day. If you are lucky you might find a quiet area.  I have lived in 4 different areas in the past 2 years and have finally found a nice quiet area that I love.15.  Lift or no lift.  I would strongly suggest a lift (elevator).  Trying to carry your groceries, suitcases and anything else up several flights of stairs, is not worth it.  Many places do not have a lift, so check beforehand.16.  Public transit system.  Bus, tram, underground subway and trains.  So far I have found the system to be good, but the Italians complain about it.  They have obviously never lived anywhere that doesn't have a system (such as Arizona).  Yes, there are strikes often, but you can live through it.  You will learn to walk a lot!  I have often thought I wanted a car, just to have some freedom, but the parking is terrible, and the drivers are worse!  There is a car sharing system now, haven’t tried it but have heard good things about it.  You learn to plan ahead when taking public transportation.  There is no spur of the moment meeting a friend in the center in 10 minutes here!17.  Yes, you can drink the water coming from the small fountains you see on the street.  I am told that they pump underground spring water out of them so it is safe to drink.  I have been drinking it and I am OK so far, it also tastes good and is cold!18.  Beautiful fashions.  I am jealous that these Italian women can dress so elegantly, with 6 inch heels, walk on the cobblestone streets without tripping, and then get on a scooter.  Amazing to me.  I wish I could do that.  They wear beautiful scarves year round.  You cannot be seen in public wearing sweats, pajama pants, slippers, short shorts or anything else that labels you as an American.  Dress to impress.19. Wonderful wine, lots and lots of it.  Drink wine instead of water, lol.20. Awesome food.  Italians really know how to eat.  A typical meal takes about 2-3 hours.  Begin with an antipasto (appetizer) and some bread. Then 1st course is pasta or risotto of some sort, 2nd course is meat with a side (spinach, potatoes, vegie, etc... which is not on the same plate).  Then salad if you want.  Of course end with dolce (dessert).  All the time drinking plenty of wine.  End with Limon cello and espresso.  Hours and hours of eating slowly, enjoying the sights and the company of good friends and family.  No rush to get out of the restaurant.  They do not bring your check to you until you ask for it and sometimes you have to ask several times.  What a concept...  I love it.  All of the food isn't on the plate at the same time, and no need to rush.21. Wonderful Italian music played in the Piazza's in the evening and sometimes during the day.  Artists with their paintings in the Piazza's.22.  Night clubs and restaurants on the Tiber River during the summer.  Open all night long.23.  The beach is 30 minutes away by bus.24. The old buildings, monuments, museums, churches, art, old doors, fountains, lots to see every day, without seeing the same thing over and over.  Such a beautiful city, I love it more and more each day.25.  Everything is slow in Italy.  If you want to accomplish mailing a package at the post office, plan on all day.  Many places are closed for a few hours in the middle of the day, banks, markets, stores etc.  You must plan accordingly.  Also many stores are closed on Sunday.  You can’t just go to one office to get any legal paperwork done and they may not be very helpful at all.  Yes, this is very frustrating but keep going back.  Don’t let them get the best of you.  Sooner or later you will get it all accomplished.26.  THE BEST PART:People are friendly and truly live like today is the last day.  Laid back lifestyle.  They talk about food, A LOT!  Food is very important and eating a meal with friends and family is expected.  The meal can take 3 hours to eat.  Very slow, talking and enjoying each other's company.  If eating in a restaurant, the bill never comes to the table.  You must ask for the bill and many times more than once.  Not because they are ignoring you, but there is no hurry to eat and no hurry to get you out of there.  Enjoy life, enjoy the food and enjoy the company you are with. Dinner is usually not until after 8pm. I always hated it when the waiter brings the bill along with your food.  How does he know that I don't want dessert or coffee after my meal?  After dinner many people go for a walk and look at the amazing sights of the city.  Leisurely stroll with family and friends.  No need to hurry home, many people are out walking past midnight.  Even people with small children sleeping in a stroller or buggy.  Who cares where the child is sleeping?  They are getting fresh air!!!    Many Italians work 6 days a week, with only one day off, depending upon the job.  When they leave work, they leave work.  They don't discuss work outside of the "office".  Also when you meet an Italian, the first question they ask you is not "what do you do for a living".  They really don't care what you do (unlike the Americans who judge you by what kind of job you do and how much money you make).  They want to know what you like to do, eat and talk about life in general.  Not about work.  They want to get to know the real person, not the job. So all in all I would say that I equate living in Rome  to 1950's living.  Definitely back to basics, not materialistic.  I can live here very inexpensively, very comfortably on less than $2000 a month.  That is $24,000 a year.  Put that into perspective.   I was making 180K in the USA and it was never enough.  I could live here for what seven years on that kind of money?  It just amazes me every day...  Some of my American friends and family would look at the way I am living now and think I am living in poverty (which by American standards, I probably am) but all in all, what really counts is that I am happy.  I love this country, the people, the history, everything…..!   I made the right choice and I think I have adapted very well for only being here 2 years.If you really want a change in your life, then just do it.  You must really want it in order to succeed.  The first year is the most difficult, but you can do it.  Stay connected with your friends and family through Skype, it makes it easier to see them.  Splurge on a hamburger and French fries occasionally.  Have someone send you a small care package.  All of this helps.There are so many places to see, small little villages that have festivals year round, mountains, and the sea.  I am always is awe of every place I have gone.  I have many other places to explore, and I can’t wait to see what comes next!Good luck to you! 

Wow this is amazing, but really? you opened my eyes to things that I didn't even think about (the bar on the trash can, I also only recently discovered this a few years ago lol, now they even change trash can types in Florence). Thank you Thank you, we definitely will be including your valuable advice!!

 Hi: the sweet life, long live Italy...I have been to Italy three times and just love it! My ex fiance was born in a little twon outside of Napoli. Ariano Irpino, I just love it..I also read this because you said you came from Arizona, the last 4 years I have lived in scottsdale. I am a New Yorker and Scottsdale is no New York! I admire you for your ambision to move there. Ialso my first timewanted to move there and never come back to the states but thought my kids would get mad at me. I miss my friends and family I made over there thank god for facebook to keep intouch with them.I am so glad that you explained Italy living to everyone. You were right on the money. I also was in Rome and the conversation about the cars is so true! My Ex fience's sister lived in the city as her family lived 30 mins or so outside and they would pick her up and take her to their house for dinner and stuff. She still to this day does not have a car and does use  the public bus. To me, I always wanted aVespa there, they are so cool.I currently haven't been back to Italy and his cousins ask me when am I coming to Italy? Who knows but I know one thing I miss the people, the Piazza's, Cafe's and the food. Coming from New York my friends where Italian and had the pizza shps and restorante's but they were American Italin not Italy Italian Huge differance. My altime favorite place is Tuscany, I love nadrea Bocelli and have a love for Italian music. Molto bene!!     Nice to meet you and I just wanted to share my love for Italy with you! You described it belle.Grazie Kathy           

I would love to do just as you have and move to Roma.  I visited Italy about a year ago and Roma was without a doubt my favorite place.  Words almost cannot describe how beautiful it is.  What kind of job opportunities would you say are available for American expatriates?  I would love to look into any opportunities! 

Ciao! Yes, living in Rome is great, and I highly recommend the experience. But DEFINITELY don't come here looking for job opportuities. Either, 1) come with a job already lined up, or 2) create your own job (this might be "slightly" illegal), or 3) don't work at all, and just stay as long as the money holds out!Really, there are no job opportunities, even for Italians. Every once in a while someone gets lucky and "wins the lottery," but it's unreasonable to expect to find a job in Italy as a foreigner who doesn't speak the language. The exception? Teaching English. They love native speakers. But the money you can make just barely pays the rent.Still...I'm with you, the experience is worth the financial/career trade off. Do it if you have the chance! Foolish, yes, but oh-so wonderful...Rick

GREAT Info!!  My husband and I are currently living in Phoenix, AZ (last 27 years - originally from NY) and we are planning to move to Italy March/April next year.We are in the stages of downsizing and getting ready to sell the house. You have such great information and I am conserned about what to bring and what to leave. Your point of very little storage concerns me about brining too much. Do you have any particular advice on kitchen items (I know we will rent a furnished apt but...) and on clothes, personal items, etc.  If we decide to stay, what will I adventually want to have had from the US that I shouldn't give away.We are currently obtaining our dual citizenship so we don't have to hassle with checking in with police, etc. We are also planning on a year to decide (we have 7 grandchildren that I'm afraid I might miss too much to stay) Our plan is to rent 4 months in the north, central and south and then determine if we stay- and if staying - where to live.  If your answer is too much to post here, could you reply to:  ouritalianjourney@gmail.com.  Thank you so very much. An insider's assistance and knowledge is so valuable!!

When I got here in 1999, I was a very type A, very precise person. I've found that life in Italy improves a lot when you learn to let go a bit. Oh, I'm still overly precise, micromanaging, like to be on time, like things to get done kinda person. But I've learned to be more flexible. Never assume things are going to get done, never assume the customer is always right - basically, lower your standards - and it'll be a pleasant surprise when it does get done or you do get service. This applies to the working world as well. Try to get your colleagues, staff and clients to comply with your plans, and if there's a fixed end date or goal, make it clear that it has to happen for then. You can always use your status as a foreigner to excuse your ridiculous demands. But then sit back and relax, somehow it'll work itself out. There's no point in getting a stomach ache about it.Now excuse me, I'm late for a work appointment.

Keep your expectations reasonable and go with the flow. Try to be involved with as many native Italians as possible--they are a wealth of interesting information and in the main a lot of fun to boot (plus they ALWAYS know where to eat best!)

The best way that we've found to be happy ExPats is as the song suggests, "Be Italian!" That means, live each day with gusto! Go with the flow. Embrace and immerse! Create fun routines. We have about 3-4 coffee bars that we visit. We go to the cinema often. Being a "regular" is definitely has it perks. It seems that every Italian has a face full of sunshine and we seek opportunities to bask. It's all about perspective. Be the experience that you want to have! After 15 years, we still find Italy to be one of the most beautiful, mysterious, and intriguing countries on the planet. After a short visit to my beloved USA, I returned to Italy and was cheerfully greeted and welcomed back. Ah, Italia!

Thanks, so much, Georgette for posing this question. These viewpoints, thoughts, and suggestions are very valuable and timely for my wife Vicki and I. In a little less than two months we are arriving in Italy to take up residence in Florence. We hope to be "happy expats" and the comments to your question helps us keep the idea of living in Italy in perspective. We've spent a month in Italy almost every year since 2002, but experiencing the country as a tourist is obviously very different than being a resident. I think we have reasonable expectations and realize there will certainly be bumps in the road, but we are excited about "embracing" and "immersing" ourselves (As Cherzl says) in this wonderful country and its language. We look forward to your article, Georgette!

Another "rule of three"Surviving the Italian adventureFollow the three Ls’; Look, Listen, and LEARN THE LANGUAGE!Look at what the locals do whenever in public areas; how they dress, interact with one another, what courtesies, if any, are extended to one another, etc.Listen to their speech to learn pronunciations, common expressions, meaning of hand gestures, etc.Learn from your observations how to conduct oneself in public, interact and speak.As most know, when queuing up at the bank, PO, doctor’s office, etc. upon arrival you ask who is last in line and follow that person in line. Next person in will ask and you raise your hand as the “tail” of the line.As for learning the language, make it a daily thing. There are several on-line sites that offer free language lessons on a daily basis. Try http://onlineitalianclub.com/ for a word of the day, free tests, etc.Meet your neighbors as they are one of the best sources for finding local tradespeople, learning  local customs, and language practice. If your village sponsors a festa, sagra, whatever, be sure to attend and even offer to help with preparation, serving, cleanup, parking, etc. You ingratiate yourself with your fellow villagers and most often eat free!If you have local commercial facilities, habituate a bar or two, same with restaurants, shop locally, if only to buy a couple of items on your way to a supermarket. If you are in a small village that is serviced by vendors in trucks, etc. again buy a little something from them periodically as the village needs to support these vendors to keep them coming as many small village residents do not have their own transportation to a supermarket. It is also beneficial to your language progress to chat with the other customers and deal with the vendors.As for transportation, a small, reliable car is more realistic and economical than a big SUV and makes for a little less stressful driving on the narrow roads.Take advantage of expat organizations, events, forums, etc. Another of the best sources for finding all sorts of things from tradespeople, restaurants, etc.If you live in the countryside and have neighbors who farm, be careful about making little private deals about allowing use of your property for grazing, timbering, easements, etc.without legal counsel as you might end up losing control over part of your own  property. If asked, you can always say you have a financial partner in the property and would have to check with them before agreeing to anything. Then look around for an attorney to protect your rights before agreeing to anything.Try to avoid comparing Italy with your home country. When we extoll the virtues of our “homeland” the Italian response, at least internally if not expressed, is “well bubba, if it is so great where you came from, what in hell are you doing here?”

This post is truly chock full of great advice! (Couldn't have said it better myself in other words). The most important thing is to integrate and kind of low-key the fact that you are the "foreigner". There are millions of little courtesies and customs here that are sometimes hard to pick up on--like addressing total strangers in places you probably never would back home: waiting rooms are classic, so a buon giorno is always a good idea. If you live in an apartment building, say something to your neighbours in passing even if you don't really know them; if you recognise them in other contexts, ditto. Also in small shops, always greet the person at the counter, even if you're not sure you want anything at all--that person is probably the owner, and would like you to acknowledge his/her presence. If you get invited to someone's home for Sunday lunch (a real social coup that!) be sure to bring a little something for your hostess--stopping off at a pasticceria to pick up a tray of cookies or small sweets is a winner.Remember: YOU wanted to live here. No one here begged for your presence, so keep that in mind as you move through your experience. Blending in takes time and patience but in the end is worth it. Everyone I know here refers to me as l'americana--they always will and I don't care--but they don't see me as "other" either: they've accepted me as one of them basically, probably because I have learned all those little things that make me one of them, despite not having been born here. Plus I speak like a native now--that helps!

In Rome, life is never boring. Even small chores have a way of turning into unpredictable adventures. Originally, a plan oriented, stress bug by nature I have adapted. I would not want this city any other way. Love Italy for its faults not in spite of them. Learn to see the humor in the dysfunctional. Laugh instead of getting stressed when something goes “wrong”, as it inevitably will. When you are trying so hard to accomplish tasks and at every turn there is a new unexpected obstacle, don’t get upset, go enjoy a coffee in the sun, while you look around a characteristic piazza, watch the old men outside playing chess, and smell the bread from il forno. 

Surviving the Italian adventure (part 2)It is said; “memory goes first, or second as the case may be.”Forgot to list probably the most important tip for  “surviving the Italian adventure.”Locate your nearest ambulance service and become a member. Annual membership is quite low (our’s is E35) although we make a somewhat larger donation as continued thanks for the service they provided us a couple of years ago when the wife suffered anaphylactic shock from several hornet stings and the prompt response from our service was most likely the difference of survival or not.Not only do you help support a vital public service, they know who and where you are so in the event of a need for emergency service, the response time saved might just be the difference.This is also another opportunity to participate in local facility and you can help out with events sponsored by the service.Hope none of you ever need the service, however if you do, you will be in good hands of trained personnel who know you.

I have been waiting for the permanent residents to give their opinions on this topic and I think that by now most of those who wanted to participate have already done it, so it's time for me....We do not live permanently in Italy, we spend some 4 months in the year at our home in Bagni di Lucca and the rest of the year in other places in Europe, except for a couple of months in San Francisco to visit our children. We have lived in quite a few countries around the world and I think that this has given us a broad perspective regarding living conditions.First of all, I must object to the expressions "to lower your standards" or "back to the 50·s" applied to living in Italy. You can have the highest standards of living anywhere in the world if you can pay for that and Italy is no exception. Modern appliances, design kitchens, whatever you want are available and you only have to have a look at this list of the most notable Italian companies (including manufacturers of home appliances) which shows clearly that standards are very high indeed http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_companies_of_ItalyCertainly, if you want to run all those appliances at the same time, you cannot be on the lower 3w contract, but you can upgrade it as much as you want. It would cost you quite a bit of money, though, as utilities are not cheap in Italy. Dryers? Plenty to choose from for as low as 500€ upwards and perhaps you need to have enough space in your apartment to fit one.If you want to have a look, I found this "cost of living in Rome" page, which may not be perfect, but it gives you a fairly accurate idea of how much you may be spending. You may find other cities as well and costs will be fairly different in country areas http://www.numbeo.com/cost-of-living/city_result.jsp?country=Italy&city=RomeSo it could all be a matter of  which "standards" you refer to or what you expect from life. Large supermarkets and commercial centres (some of them of the highest standards) can be found in Italy, but not next to the Pantheon or the Ponte Vecchio... they are generally located in the peripheria because it is not easy to find a suitable space for them in downtown areas. And personally, I do not miss Costco at all...The advice given by Casa del Campanile is perfect. I join others in saying that learning Italian is a must and integration will make a big difference in your lives. Learn to love Italy and Italy will love you.In the old Italymag Forum I always used as part of my signature this ancient verse from the Roman poet Marcus Pacuvius (quoted by Cicero) "Ubi bene ibi patria" , which means "wherever I feel good, there is my country". It does work and, should you feel unhappy anywhere in the world, my advice would be to pack up and go wherever you feel bettersmiley. Life is short! Enjoy it!

Milano, Milano, piano, piano Dear Georgette,My fiancé and I moved to Milan in Easter 2013 for his job, and at first we found it difficult as we had no Italian what so ever and the bureaucracy was a nightmare! I agree with others on here that you really have to take the rough with the smooth, some days you feel like you are getting nowhere, then others you hop on a train to Cinque Terre and you know it was all worth it for this.Here's my two pence worth:- People will stare: Stare back!! At first I hated people looking me up and down on the metro in Italy. I have brown eyes and olive skin so I was really shocked at how interested people were of me as I naively thought I blended in. I now know it's a social thing and people here are not buried in their paper as they are in London. I've learnt to stare back and at the end of the day that's why people stare. They themselves want attention and they also want eye contact. - Fashion is strange: I am a 27 year old Liverpudlian so I like to dress for myself, I do not want to wear a black puffa jacket from October to March every year. However I appreciate that people dress more conservatively here. No sandals in the city. Always take a cardigan out at night. Never wear anything too short.- Petty crime is higher here: In three months we have had three bikes stolen from inside our complex, they were chained up I might add. This is common place in Italy, especially Milan and these bikes are sold on the black market. We have to take it on the chin, at least Milan has their own Boris Bike Scheme which we’ll now make use of.- Gyms: women are extremely body confident here and will happily drop their towels to dry their hair after a gym class. I’ve even seen women wear sunglasses in my gym. Which is windowless. Everyone arrives late for their gym class. No apologies.- Never leave the house in the evening without mosquito repellent. You will be eaten alive from June to September.- Never leave the house without cash. Not even the post office accepts your Bancomat.- Office formalities: no one leaves before the big boss. Everyone is addressed by their surname. Lunches last up to 2 hours, and no one leaves before 7pm.The positives:-          Aperitivo. A big cocktail and a finger buffet better than Boxing Day.-          You will appreciate the difference between a 5EUR bottle of olive oil and a 15EUR bottle of olive oil quicker than you think.-          Travel between the big cities by train when booked ahead is very cheap and also very fast.-          There are many public holidays and ‘ponte’ so you can hop on a train and make the most of the long weekends.-          You will be able to stroll around a city you never dreamed you’d live in, without a map, iPhone firmly stored away and feel, totally and utterly at home with a gelato in your hand. Grazie mille! Julia Taylor, Milano 

A happy expat is someone who accepts and loves Italy for everything it is.warts and all! My strongest advice is that everyone should learn the language, it changes life in Italy, and helps avoid all sorts of sometimes costly misunderstandings..especially when restoring a property...use the professionals available, who speak your language aswell as Italian, it will save ou nightmares, and make you a happy expat!:)

 Hello, Ted Atkins, I am new here but think I may become a regular. I saw the piece, tell us your story, how to make a success of Italy. Success is how you feel. Nothing simpler; live in France first; then Italy is pure joy. I was taking a taxi to the airport in UK when I was returning to France. The driver asked me where I was going. I said France. 'Going on holiday' he asked. No, I live there, I replied. 'What's it like living in France then'? I wanted a quick analogy so I asked, well you know that you can go to a great pub with bad company and you will never have a good time; you can go to a bad pub with good company and be sure to have a good time; Yes he replied. Well France is the good pub. He nodded sagely.Which brings me back to Italy. The pub is great and the company is exceptional. We are living in Masare near Alleghe in the Dolomites. We are in a hire apartment while we wait for the paperwork for our amazing new house to clear legal. You will may have been warned of the beaurocracy and difficulty of living here. First you need a code fiscal. After France we were dreading this. We went to the office, easy. Inside someone asked if they could help us and directed is in English to the correct desk where we filled in the form. This was taken from us with an apology that the computer was down. 'Go take a coffee' we were instructed. We did, we went back and were given our codes and a smile. Now we are at the end of our first week and we cannot believe what we have done. We have our residents permit and this afternoon get our residents bank account which is so much cheaper than the non-resident account. It is not what has been done but how it has been done that is the best, with a smile always by people who clearly wanted to help us. People who were so apologetic if things took a few minutes and who would laugh with us at our efforts to speak their beautiful language. I have more, so much more, too much for now.PS We went from getting our resident permit to the bank. We left with a bank account and bank cards ready to use. We know that we will encounter difficulty at some stage but this is such a good start. We love it here.

Hello Ted, thank you so much for sharing your story. I think it' important for us to share our stories so that people get a true, realistic account of what life is really like in Italy. The fact that you were able to get everything done so quickly is remarkable, in Florence, they definitely aren't that efficient but there is also a lot more people. Kepp us posted with your adventures and anytime you have an Italy question, you can ask us here :) 

Welcome to Italy.  You think you know it, maybe as a tourist, living here is like the scene painted under the huge Duomo in Florence ... an adventure in paradise and for some hell; the food, sights, sounds, smells ... quaint towns and beutiful people talking in a strange language you don't understand, but it captivates you. You want to know it, speak it like them.   And then, something or someone changes all of that and you are now living here as "the stranger" or un Americano, no longer the casual visitor on holiday with money to spend carelessly.  And that is when you realize you know nothing and yet you want to know everything. It hurts to be in this place of not knowing. The words, "piano, piano" redundantly resonate in this land, in the classroom, the shops, the bars, in the homes of people you have just met, for he who rushes this process of understanding is destined for disapointment and frustration.  There is no way out.  You must take baby steps, inching out to find your way around the corner, or around an irredgular verb. Repeating everything is the only way I have found that works.  Over and over and over the simpliest of phrases, walking around the block to see where you are, making eye-contact with the locals, a little buongiorno goes a long way, trying to understand. To connect.  You may become aware of being alone or at times even concerned that this decision of yours was wrong. Patience.  And you begin again, to experience that one little gem, that little kernal of pleasure in a day that unfolded before you to learn.  Unlike where you have been, this is Italia Expect something you have never understood about yourself for this is when you will understand why you are really here. Italy is not just another country, it is your heart collding with destiny.  P.S.  I live in Assisi, main piazza, but it could be anywhere in Italy.  I chose a small, quaint town where there is love and lore ... and from here I venture out, coming back to a place that is indeed peaceful.  Oh, one more thing: if you want to learn the language forget about learning from a hyped language school marketing to tourists with fancy websites.  You will not remember what you were "taught" in a week or two.  I have tried several and understand now that there are no shortcuts here, as well.  Immersion and grammar PLUS hard work outisde of the classroom is essential.  You must devote yourself to this or most everything you learn will dissolve after that third glass of vino.  Ha!  Life in Italy is fantastic but you must perservere.  And let it flow naturally for you, not according to what someone else thinks you should be doing.   ~ Addison 

Happiness in Italy is as natural as ice cream! The main thing is to slow down. Take time to talk to people, eat slowly, enjoy the sunshine, visit the beaches, mountains and villages. Newcomers can easily get to know Italians by offering free language exchanges.Once you have decided that you are in love with Italy, if you are lucky you will fall in love with an Italian. Then you may never leave! You will probably gain a whole new family, and grow old as Italians do, sipping your wine or slurping your ice cream in the sunset. And to fully enjoy that experience, you need to practice the virtues of tolerance, patience and understanding.