Happy one year anniversary of living abroad to us (You can find our 6 month update here)! So here's the scoop: living in Italy has been the most wonderful and difficult thing at the same time. I swear it's not all gelato and pasta (though there is plenty of that). Moving from America to Italy has been nothing short of amazing but has pushed me so far out of my comfort zone that sometimes I just cry. The struggle can be so real. Diving head first into a new culture means that there will probably be some bumps and bruises along the way as you experience your new normal. And oh boy did this expat s-t-r-u-g-g-l-e.
So while there are a million things that I enjoy about living abroad (gorgeous views, food, and cheap travel), there are a few things that are just tough to adjust to. Here are a few of mine:
#LOL. No one enjoys going to a government office because they're awful everywhere, but I've never had someone A. make fun of me for crying because they were being a jerk, and yelling at me or B. literally say "That's not my problem" regarding requested paperwork that does not exist (aka the ever-moving target). I pretty much needed gelato, wine, and a good ole fashioned cry sesh after every trip. I know I've said this before, but come with as much patience as you can... and maybe invest in a punching bag. This was literally (and I'm not exaggerating when I say literally) the most exhausting test of my character to date. You can find more information on all the steps I took here.
No Universal Plug
This one I truly don't understand. For example, I bought a hairdryer just down the street from my apartment, but the plug didn't fit into any of the sockets in my apartment. Not. One. Obviously I was confused. I went back to the store and they directed me to the adapter aisle. So I had to buy the hairdryer and then buy an adapter to actually make it fit. Cool. From what I've experienced so far, there are 4 sizes: 2 thick prongs, 3 thick prongs, 2 skinny prongs or 3 skinny prongs. Just, why? Through our travels around Europe I've noticed every other country has sockets that adapt to allow the use of both the thick and the skinny prongs, but haven't had the same luck here.
I quickly learned that the Post Office is not just for mailing and receiving items - it's so much more. You can also pay bills here, pick up money, get your monthly social security check here at the beginning of each month (aka the worst time to go), find a packet for you permesso di soggiorno...you get the idea. Also, make sure you bring your own envelope. I didn't bring one the first time I mailed something, and they looked at me like I had 3 eyes. Definitely a learning curve there! This one isn't "bad." I was just initially so confused by what was happening. Oh, and I typically have to wait about an hour so maybe bring a book or something.
Things Just Take Longer Here
The laid back lifestyle here is great...until it's not. Getting our internet set up at the apartment took a month (ONE WHOLE MONTH!) and me going to the store at least 5 times. I have no idea why it took so long, and they couldn't tell me either. They were just not in a rush, but my cellular data plan sure was! I was told to just buy more data for my phone so thanks for that #customerservice.
Lack of Organization
So this comes a surprise to no one. But living in it every day versus a week-long vacation can most definitely get under your skin. I kid you not, when I go to pick up a friend's kid from school (it's like a 3 minute walk from my apartment), it's a non-stop flood of children pouring out from one door, and all I have to do is wave to have them walk out. It's hilarious and also insanely chaotic, especially when it's raining. Then there's the driving. I also almost cried the first time I drove here because in the center of the city there aren't designated lanes. Everyone just makes it up and goes with the flow. Sometimes there's 2 lanes, sometimes there's 3, everyone is honking and I just don't know what's happening. I've learned it's a bit like an amoeba. This also applies to lines in general. You don't want to leave any space between the person in front of you when standing in line for gelato or at the supermarket because someone will just cut in front of you. The bus schedule is more of a guideline than an actuality... things just don't operate like how they do in the USA and that's ok! It's all part of the learning curve, though it was a painful learning curve. That's what I tell myself at least.
Lack of Convenience
Spiralized carrots like from Trader Joes? Forget about it. Water already mixed into the paint for your house? Laughable. Pre-cut fruit and veggies? Okay, occasionally I can find these. Occasionally. So many things that I considered "normal" just aren't normal when living abroad. Every grocery store carries something different, so I often have to shop at 2-3 stores to get everything I want. Yea, you could say I miss Target. Also, a ton of things cannot be done online and must be done in person, line-drying clothes that can take all day or more to dry especially in the winter...you get it. Convenience is not an emphasis, and boy did I feel it when we initially arrived.
Honestly, sometimes all I need is a good laugh at how different things are from what I'm used to, so I joined a a few Facebook groups that really helped as I could relate to others living abroad in Italy. I also read blogs from other expats because they are just so dadgum relatable! These are my favorites: American In Rome and Helene In Between - definitely check these blogs out if you're looking to move to Europe or if you'd like some great travel ideas!