We have been living in Italy as a family off and on since last September. I know many people spend a much longer time abroad as expats than we have, but that does not mean we haven’t truly learned some things during this experience. I think any travel, no matter where, no matter for how long, can be a great learning experience for everyone involved! Here are some of the things we have learned about life from living abroad in Italy. Some things are funny and some things are serious…much like life in a family.
You will not ever know what kind of meat you are eating, even with Google Translate and 5 dictionaries. It will just take time, patience, and making (delicious and sometimes horrible) mistakes.
You will wait in line everywhere until you learn when certain stores open and close. Because every TYPE of store has different closing days and every city is different.
Riposi (rest time). Get used to it.
A nightly Passiagata (walk). Enjoy it.
You will cry. Because you miss your family, because everything is so much harder to do when you have no idea how to speak your needs or understand the unwritten cultural rules. Because your jet lag is gone but your emotional baggage just keeps hanging on.
Be prepared to look into a giant mirror. For some reason being here put me in the position of a constant observer. And from that space I was able to observe the new culture around me as well as any old behavior patterns inherent in myself. The Italian culture held a mirror for me to look into and figure out a better way to express myself and my life. I think that no matter which culture you are submersed in, this is bound to happen when you are the odd ball.
Flexibility. Both the kids and my husband and I learned to be more flexible with one another. This includes personality differences as well as schedules, wants, and needs.
Appreciation of new cultures and languages. My children have started stringing together Italian words, just from hearing them around town. I myself have studied while here and spoken as much as possible. It is so fun, frustrating, and eye opening to step out of your comfort zone and try to communicate with another person different from yourself!
Acceptance and patience. While we have been here, we have had to just accept certain situations to be what they are and make the best of it. It also requires patience to deal with so many differences on a daily basis. Even doing something as simple as laundry or grocery shopping requires every ounce of patience you have! Both with yourself and with other people.
Learning to live without…well, without some of the American luxuries that much of the world actually lives without. A dryer, microwave, oven, two cars, one stop shopping, etc are all absent from our lives here, and in much of the rest of the world. I don’t consider this a bad thing, though. It has enriched our lives and taught is to be grateful for what we do have, including the health and happiness of our family. I think we will come away with a better understanding of what we actually need to survive vs what is just secondary.
We are all the same. Not on the outside, but in the inside. Every. Single. Person.
So there you have it, some reflections on expat living. What have been your own experiences? What would you add to this list?