Adjusting to Expat Life in Italy: Tips and Strategies

* This is the final post in a four-part series on adjusting to expat life in Italy and is written on behalf of Click here to read Adjusting to Expat Life in Italy Part I: Missing Home, Adjusting to Expat Life in Italy Part II: Which Home is Home? and Adjusting to Expat Life in Italy Part III: Riding Out the Culture Curve.

Long moonlit walks along the Mediterranean, candy-colored ice cream scoops with unpronounceable names and century after century after century of world history … just waiting outside your door step. Sounds nice, doesn’t it?

Well, it is.

Italy is remarkable in more ways than I can count (at least in post) and I consider myself lucky to live among her residents. But it wasn’t isn’t always easy.

In yesterday’s post we discussed the four stages of culture shock, and as promised, I’m back today to help you with Phase II.

JJ-chan and Fuji-sanphoto credit: Atom Ess

Here are five things you can do to help you cope with culture shock.

1. Know What to Expect

I feel fortunate I took that culture class back at LU and was prepared for the ups and downs of relocating. I knew I’d enjoy the honeymoon, hit rock bottom, laugh it off and end up on my feet.

Knowing you will go through these stages-and come out of them alive!-will help you through the tough times.

2. Get a (Common-Culture) Friend

… preferably one that has been there longer than you and knows what you are going through. My life took a dramatic upward turn when I met Michelle of Bleeding Espresso. Even though we only meet face-to-face a few times a year, our regular chats and daily emails have helped me through some challenging times.

3. Make a (Local) Friend

I know it is easier said than done, but once I started making friends-my own local friends, not my husband’s friends-life got easier. I gradually began to feel as if I belonged here and I felt a stronger connection to the area. Good places to meet locals in Italy include the gym, piazzas or local bar. I know it can be intimidating, but push yourself to get out. You’ll be glad you did.

4. Strengthen Your Support System

I have been blessed both in Italy and the US (and France, come to think of it) with some of the most supportive, caring and understanding friends in the world-and my family is not too bad, either. Over the last three years, they have laughed through my ups, cried through my downs, taken late-night calls, early-morning chats and, most importantly of all, kept me from being too negative.

Although you will need people you can vent to during your transition to a new country, nothing can stunt your progress like negativity. You’ll be able to spot negative people a mile away. Avoid them.

5. Laugh if Off

Especially if you live in a country with a new majority language, you will have embarrassing moments, lingual mishaps and cultural faux pas. The sooner you learn not to take yourself too seriously, the sooner you’ll begin to enjoy your new country and all of the wonderful mysteries that await you there.

What other tips do you have to help new expats get through the tough times?

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