As Giuseppe Verdi once said: “You may have the universe if I may have Italy.” But what makes this country so special?! I´ve already been to Italy at least 7 times… and guess what? – I still want more. But how being an expat in Italy really feels?
An expat in Italy
My name is Jamie Lee, and I’m the travel blogger behind ABiteofCulture.com. I’m American born and raised, but have since become an expat in Italy. There’s something about Italy that just gets my blood pumping and my fantasies rolling; it’s the way of life, quite simply put!
Expat Story: Italy Through American Eyes
Italy Through American Eyes
When I was 18, I came to Italy for the first time as a study abroad student. I instantly fell in love with the culture that was so completely opposite mine, and it was from that point on that I was hooked. I was hooked on culture and the way people live their lives in a way I will never truly understand.
Reality vs. Expectations
Since that first semester abroad in Italy, a lot has changed. As an expat in Italy, I fell in love with a local, went through all the bureaucracy to move here, and now attend university studying languages and modern culture.
It is through my love of culture that I started my travel blog. I have a firm belief that if the world takes time and makes the effort to understand each other’s cultures, we’d have far fewer problems. It is through unity that we can create progressive, and we cannot do that without understanding and accepting our individual cultures.
I’d always had this idea in my head that Italy was like a Lizzie McGuire movie; that it was all peaches and cream for all the Americans that came here. And while that remains true for tourists, the actual perceptions of America and it’s culture have are far from positive for much of the population.
The Italian Challenges
I’ve found throughout my lectures that America is talked down upon, and the students always agree with the professors on this. This has been a hard obstacle for me to overcome, as pride comes with being a citizen of a young country. It’s something I’ve learned to accept, and as an individual, I try to show my fellow world citizens that America goes far beyond what the government and military do.
Before and After Italy
Italy vs. The States
Being an expat in Italy had its challenges, but it also had a huge range of benefits. Since I was 14, I’ve been working between 30-50 hours a week. On top of that, I was studying. On top of that, I was trying to be a kid and learning what it means to be a functioning member of society. The constant rush that is life in America had me sleeping an average of four or five hours a night.
It’s a fulling life, constantly accomplishing things and moving forward. But one thing I wasn’t going was actually living. I wasn’t enjoying the food in my plate as I stuffed it in my mouth before my next class, and I wasn’t stopping to look at the spring flowers as I ran from my car into work. I wasn’t taking in the things that were right in front of me, and that’s what life in Italy has taught me.
I now look forward to lunch not because I’m hungry necessarily, but because I can’t wait t enjoy every last bite. I sleep in sometimes now without feeling guilty, and good god does that feel good! I have breakfast at the bar with the Italians, and I listen to them talk about their life, not about their jobs.
The New Me
Above all else, I feel incredibly lucky to be an expat in Italy. I’ve been given the gift of seeing what I want my life to be like before it’s too late. I’ve changed as a person, and I love who I’ve become.
My expectations about life in Italy have been met and exceeded one hundred times over, and I can only hope to impart one little piece of advice to my fellow humans and wanderlusters. That one little piece of advice would be to go outside the tourist centers.
Go to the nearby town outside of Rome or Florence and witness real Italian life. Watch the elderly men walking arm and arm in the mid-afternoon, drink that espresso after lunch at the counter, and find that little pizza joint with the best pizza you’ve ever had. I can promise it’ll be the most rewarding travel experience of your life.