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?!?
*** As of January 2014, this post is now obsolete. The government has eliminated the AHRN Network**
When I moved here, there was no website.
If you were looking for housing, you called housing for an appointment. Later, you went to housing to look at their files. Then they scheduled a time for you to see the house.
Then you met with the translator who took you to houses, no more than two at a time. You had a day to think about it.
Once the day was up, you accepted or declined the property.
Now there is Automated Housing Referral Network (AHRN).
Simply register and you will be able to see photos of many rental units without leaving the comfort of home, even if “home” now is the Ederle Inn.
This website will take some of the legwork out of finding a house. I wish it had been here when I was looking for housing.
Hope your house hunting goes well!
My husband moved to Italy a month before me. He found us a house and got some temporary furniture loaned from base.
Then I arrived with our children to a empty house. Our household goods were weeks away from arriving. Even the unaccompanied baggage was not coming anytime soon.
I knew we’d have to buy stuff and soon.
Thank goodness for the thrift store on post!
I was able to buy some nearly new pans and utensils for the kitchen. For the kids, I bought a few toys to keep them busy. We even found a chair for our computer desk, even though it wasn’t here yet.
The thrift store is not open all the time, but has recently expanded hours open. This is amazing, because no one gets paid to run the store. Three days a week, volunteers staff the store. Volunteers sort through immense stacks of boxes of donations. Volunteers stock shelves. Volunteers run the cash register.
The thrift store is a labor of love. Sometimes it is unorganized and chaotic, but realize that it is a great deal of work to run a retail establishment. Especially when people dump piles of donations on the door each week.
The VCC Thrift Store is located across the parking lot from the PX next to the banks. At the present time, it is open from 10 AM to 4 PM on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday.
Support the post thrift store and find some bargains in the process!
A year ago in July, I arrived in Italy. Luckily, my husband came ahead of me and had a house for us. The last half of July is a blur to me. Between paperwork, jet lag and beginning the process of settling my family; I don’t remember much.
In August, I finally felt like I could start exploring our community a bit.
Many of the stores were closed and sported a sign “Cuiso Per Ferie.” This translates, “Closed for Vacation.”
Most Italians take vacations during the month of August. If a business is family owned and operated, it just closes down during the month. Some businesses close for a month, some for a week or two.
The other part of Italian “vacation month” is that tourist attractions become extremely busy. Popular destinations, such as Venice or Florence, are packed even more than the normal tourist crowds.
Make your plans accordingly!
The upside of August and September is that almost every small community has a festival of some sort or another. More to come on that…