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?!?


Tips to Help Find Safe Housing

One of the posts I have had the most response to on this blog is about gypsy markings in neighborhoods. Many people worry about their safety and the safety of their children while in Italy. I firmly believe that Italy is probably safer than many areas in the U.S. The vast majority of people living in this community have no problem with safety or crime. I don’t want to freak out anyone. Moving to a new country is scary, but Italy is not a scary place. These tips are meant to help keep everyone safe not scare them into sleeplessness.

To help you find a house that is safe and secure, I have compiled a house hunting tip list.

Here are some things to look for in no particular order:

In the town or village:

  • Are there gypsy encampments around the outskirts of town?
  • Are local police visible in the community?
  • Do a lot Americans live in the community?

As you drive into a town, you may see a group of RV’s, vans and tents in an abandoned lot.  Most likely this is a gypsy camp. Gypsies tend to just set up their camps where they can. I have seen several on the outskirts of Vicenza. Some of these camps are more or less permanent. Some camps come and go depending on the time of year and activities in town.

When you look at a house, you probably won’t be there long enough to see the local police. If you want information on local police, ask the interpreter where the local police station is. In my town, I see a police car out and about almost every day.

Living in a community with large numbers of Americans in it is a mixed bag. Having Americans nearby can make life easier, because you will have more support and someone who shares your language and background. Unfortunately, criminals who think Americans are all rich may target communities with larger populations of Americans.

In the neighborhood:

  • Does the neighborhood seem well cared for? Are the hedges trimmed back?
  • Is there graffiti on the walls of buildings or fences?
  • Are there sidewalks?
  • Can you see people outside working in their yards?
  • Are there street lights nearby?

Common sense goes a long way when looking at houses. If there are empty houses and overgrown yards in the area, you may want to keep looking even if the house is beautiful. Notice any graffiti nearby. Check and see if there are street lights outside the rental. Are the neighbors outside? Bright lights and lots of people around tend to discourage criminals who want it to be easy to steal.

At the rental house:

  • Do the doors and windows have secure locks?
  • Are there scrapes or pry marks around the windows or doors?
  • Does the yard have a secure fence and locking gate?
  • Are there lights at each entry, including doors and the garage?
  • Is it okay to install an alarm if one is not already present?

Check the doors and windows. Scrape marks or pry marks around windows or doors may be evidence of a past break-in at a house, just be aware of this fact. If the locks don’t work well or seem flimsy and you love the rest of the house, ask to have them replaced before signing a lease. Same thing goes for the gate. Lights are a good thing at the entries to a house. Bright lights are good things for safety. If there is not light near a door, it would be worth your time to see if the landlord will put one in for you.  I know people with and without alarms here. If  you could not sleep without an alarm, then ask if you can install one.

These tips came from talking with other people here in the Vicenza area. I am sure I have missed some obvious points, so please add your tips in the comment section! I love comments! : )


Gypsy Symbols Related to Crime

I hesitated to post this information, because I don’t want to freak anyone out.  In our neighborhood, I have always felt safe. There are many older people living near me who are nearly always out working in their yards. This probably keeps those who might be inclined to steal to keep their distance.

Crimes against people are not common. Robberies on the other hand are not at all uncommon. One female friend was robbed when she was at home alone.  She was not terribly injured, but was extremely shaken. In the robbery, she lost a good deal of cash and property. The biggest thing she lost was her sense of safety and a good deal of sleep.

This post just serves as a warning to raise awareness.

Because in Europe, crime is often associated with Gypsies, I was given this list of Gypsy Symbols used to mark houses for theft. Criminals might use spray paint to mark houses, but are just as likely to use charcoal or mud. If you see any of these markings, make sure you call the M.P.s and they will notify local authorities.

Though the quality is not great, here is the list.

I am guessing most people will never need this, but now you know what the symbols mean and why you need to tell police if you see an odd symbol on your fence or wall.