Mentally Preparing For Your Move to Italy

Photo by David Castillo Dominici

I get a lot of emails from people moving to Italy. Some emails are asking for information, others just say thanks for the information. The emails that really bother me are the ones from people, usually women with children, that are nervous or scared to move here.

Some fears are small…How will I ever learn to drive in Italy? Will I ever learn to speak Italian?

Some fears are huge…Why would I want to leave the safety of the U.S. for a country with gypsies who want to steal from me or possibly hurt my kids?!?

Here are some tips to ease your nerves as you prepare for your move!

Know things won’t go exactly as planned with your move.

You’ve carefully planned your move. You send your possessions off in a moving van to sail the Atlantic Ocean. You have the plane tickets, passports, visas and the huge portfolio of papers you must carry with you in your travels. You’ve used the worksheets on the Plan My Move website. You have done all you can do.

Know that your move is now out of your hands. Accept it. Say it out loud, “I have done my best to plan for this move. It’s out of my hands.” Even if you haven’t done much planning, the move is still out of your hands. It will be okay.

The movers will not pack things well and something will be broken when it arrives. Your car will take weeks longer to arrive than it says on the paperwork. Heck, I’ve known at least one person whose stuff did not even get shipped, it got stored in the U.S. instead. The U.S. military is a huge bureaucracy. Just know that the number of contractors, civilians and military personnel handling your move is vast. Someone will likely screw up. Again, it will be okay!

Roll with it. When things happen that you have relatively no control over, just change your attitude. I hate to use that horrible cliché that so many mom’s use, but I’m going to anyway. When life hands you lemons, make lemonade! You are moving to a country that most American’s only get to dream of visiting.

Prepare for culture shock.

When I arrived in Italy, I thought I had prepared myself for immersion in a different culture. I knew things would be different, but until you are here you can’t know how you will react. Everything is different from the obvious things, like language, to the invisible things, like the pace of life. The first time I went to the grocery store and saw the eggs sitting on a shelf (no refrigeration) and the chickens at the meat counter being sold with their head still on, I was ready to grab a flight back to the states.

Know that those feelings of tiredness, overwhelm and homesickness may get worse before they get better. Things are a bit novel at first, so it doesn’t seem so bad. After some time, you get really tired of dealing with all the differences. When you feel that way, try not to hide in your house or hotel room. Find others who are going through or have been through the same thing. Connecting with someone else will help you get through the rough patches of your adjustment.

Participate in the free programs the Army offers, like Benveunti or Italian as a Second Language. Hook up with some people you meet on Facebook Groups. Talk to your neighbors at the hotel. Just don’t suffer alone. We have all been there and understand how you are feeling.

Consider personal safety, but don’t obsess about it.

I have always felt safe in Italy. I live in a smaller town outside of Vicenza. I chose to do this, so I don’t have to deal with the same issues as someone living in downtown Vicenza. If you are used to living in a larger town or city, being careful is something you likely already do. Yes, there are gypsies in Italy. In the United States, we have street gangs that shoot each other over a dirty look or for pair of shoes. Crime is everywhere in the world.

Everywhere in the world there are good people and not-so-good people. If someone decides to steal something or abuse another human being, they will do it. Sometimes being American makes one more of a target for these type of people. That is where being careful comes into play. We all know to lock doors, keep valuable electronics and jewelry out of sight and be aware of our surroundings. Do this in Italy and you will be okay.

Still not convinced? I went on the internet and got some crime statistics from NationMaster.com. This is a reputable site that compiles data from the CIA Factbook, the UN and other international organizations.  You are 111% more likely to be a crime victim in the United States than in Italy. (Yes I know statistics can be manipulated, but I am trying to make a point.) Remember, people refuse to visit the United States because of the crime there, too!

Use the safety rules you already know. Get a big dog and an alarm system if you are nervous about crime. Then try to relax. Use common sense and be aware of your surroundings and you will be fine.

Keep your attitude positive. Roll with the changes. Don’t get angry at things you can’t control. Make new friends.  

Sounds simple, doesn’t it?!?

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12 Comments on “Mentally Preparing For Your Move to Italy”

  1. It always amazes me when I see posts where people’s spouses got orders abroad and they didn’t want to move. Most people I know (myself included) would struggle to get up the cash to take one trip to Germany and we are getting to move there (and the Army is paying for it). What an opportunity! We both have a lot of places we want to visit (and mine gets longer the more blogs I come across by people living abroad). It would have taken years to save up for and plan doing any of that and now it’s all going to be within a day trip or a short flight.
    As to the move, most of ours hasn’t gone as planned so if other things don’t, it’s just one more thing. Everything’s an adventure; some parts are just more fun than others.

    • Peg Crippen says:

      I feel much the same. It is the best opportunity I will have to see Europe. I just think some people’s fear meter is different than mine. I have had enough things happen in my life that I accept some things are out of my control and I refuse to live in fear of what might happen. I hope you take the opportunity to do and see all you are able to do! I know I am!

      • For sure. That could be. Fear can be good in small doses; it keeps you alert. But it can be crippling if you let it control you. That’s a good way to be, and that’s pretty much how it is. You do what you can to be careful but if you’re in the wrong place the wrong time that’s just how it is and you’ll do the best you can if it happens. Oh we plan to. I have an ever-expanding list of things I want to check out in Germany as well as some of the surrounding countries. I don’t know if three years is even going to be enough time.

  2. Interesting post. It’s so true that people often worry about their security–I’ve had people react similarly about the traveling that we do as a family as well.

  3. Barbara says:

    Great post, Peggy. As CJ pointed out, it’s wonderful advice for anyone moving to a new country. I would also recommend reading books written by expats living in your adopted country. When I moved to France, Polly Platt’s books on life in France kept me sane!

    • Peg Crippen says:

      Love this idea Barbara! I did this, but never really thought about it being a strategy for coping. Must remember to make a post on good books from expats in Italy.

  4. CJ says:

    This is great advice and it applies to anyone moving to a new country.

    I love your description of alarm at seeing chickens with the heads still on! That’s not something we see in the sanitized US. However, I believe that in Italy you can also buy fresh milk from a vending machine. Now that sounds useful.

    You are absolutely right about resisting the urge to hibernate when the culture shock sets in. In my opinion, that’s when the real work of relocation really kicks in.

    • Peg Crippen says:

      They do have fresh milk in vending machines. I have heard it is wonderful, but I still haven’t tried it. Maybe I need to step out of my comfort zone again!

  5. Jessica Lynn says:

    Great, great post. We just (as in last week) moved to Italy (Aviano), and I blogged about how I felt like a fish out of water for those first few days. Things are much, much better now, just a mere few days later, but moving to Italy is definitely a challenge! Here’s the post if anyone is interested: http://jessicalynnwrites.blogspot.com/2011/10/ciao.html

    • Peg Crippen says:

      Thanks for sharing! I think it is really hard to imagine how it feels to move to a foreign country until you are actually there. It is definitely an adjustment, though most everyone I know moves past those feelings and learns to appreciate the differences. I agree the first few days and weeks are tough, though.

  6. edith says:

    Very well said, Peg.


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