This is the second of our blog “Pauses”, where we take a break in our Lazio fun lessons (cities, things to do, history, culture shocks, etc.) in order to help our followers sort out their thoughts about a possible move “across the pond”. These ideas are meant to be general as opposed to specific. Those of us who bring you this site have plenty of experience with this since we are all expats, and have lived to tell the tale!
If you are reading this blog now and/or scrolling through our website, it is probably fair to say that you have had at least a glimmer idea of checking out Italian real estate. Maybe you haven’t even parsed out the why or the what of it, but……anyway it has attracted your interest. We are here to present some ideas for you to consider, not to sell you a house (well, not quite true – we would LOVE to sell you a house). What we really want to do however is to open some thought channels down which perhaps you haven’t gone.
Have you given any thought to what type of person you are? This defines all of the choices you make in this move. For example, city vs country. Most people make decisions based on previous experience, that is if you are a city person, chances are you won’t be very happy living out in the boonies, especially in Italy, since the secondary roads are not numerous and the idea of large shopping centers outside city limits —well, generally forget it. Been longing to breathe clean air and looking for a quiet environment? The countryside is for you. Another example of choice based on personal experience is how to get around. Living in any type of situation other than absolute center city in Italy requires a car. A car brings forth all types of “interesting” problems for an expat, but it can be done. Last on the list of your personal characteristics is whether your proposed move will take the form of a total break from your comfort zone or a foot in both camps – you will need to make a decision as to what you can happily live with, how risk averse you are, and whether you just want a change of scenery, planning to bring your old life with you as much as possible, or to make a new world for yourself.
Next question is why are you doing this? Remember this is a significant, perhaps a long term move, not a tourist jaunt! There are those who have always dreamed of a life in Italy – some want to be young when they do it, some want to be older. Another group are those who are making the move for work purposes – whether in the private or the public sector. This requires facing the Italian bureaucracy juggernaut, but as with a lot of stuff in Italy, a little bit of “help from a friend” goes a long way. Read that, lawyers and consultants abound here to smooth the way; you’ll pay but it will save your sanity. The last group are those who are looking to a exotic second career, while living in Italy. These are usually those who have ideas of a B & B or an agrituristic place, whether located in the country, small town or city. This route requires nerves of steel as you negotiate medieval business rules on top of the usual taxing requirements. Fore-warned is fore-armed (as they say).
Moving on to the “what’s” , let’s now tackle living location – country, city, village, you pick it. Now here is where this category meshes with your reasons for coming – obviously if you plan to work, commuting has to be a priority; if you plan one of those country inns, cities are not the ticket; looking for cheaper digs, go further out from the cities. My own case might give an example: I am a teacher, and my family came with me, so……it wasn’t rocket science to figure out the job choice as well as schools for non-Italian speaking children would be best in the BIG ONE – yes, that is right – Rome. Added to this fact is that I am definitely a city person, and at first anyway I did not have a car, so the selection was obvious.
As far as type of housing, that is entirely up to you. Italy has all kinds, old, modern, refurbished farmhouses (a la Frances Mays, Under the Tuscan Sun) unique apartments and 5th floor walk-ups – you name it, you can find it here. A friend of mine had her mind made up on an absolutely new building where nobody had ever lived; another wanted one of those fixer-uppers in the country (you need a strong heart for this). Your housing of course will determine your transportation. As I said before, a car is almost an absolute necessity unless you live in Rome. Lazio has a pretty good local public transport in and out of either Viterbo (stay tuned for that city profile) or Rome, basically light rail, connecting to and from Rome’s subway. Most people work or go to school in Rome so this system works well. For those of us who come from a country where public transport is mostly non-existent, actually by comparison it works fantastically well here and it is cheap! BUT…remember, there are no school buses here so all levels of students use public transport; nothing like getting wacked by bookbags in a crowded bus or subway car.
Moving on to the last point – Culture Shock Management 101 – it all depends on how positive and open you are about your new environment. No argument about it, the change of cultural environment is a huge one, especially when accompanied by a change of language. You however are in the process of deciding to move to Italy, so you are undoubtedly aware of this hurdle. Looking at it from the challenge side, learning a language tasks the brain in ways which neurologists tell us stimulates our mental facilities, and (this is a great one for me!) keeps us young! There are many ways to do it, ranging from conversation classes to prepared tours to cooking classes (these are really fun) to making Italian friends to the advice given to me at one point – get an Italian boyfriend or girlbriend, sure-fire success. You do NOT need to sit with a grammar book filling in lines with verb forms. It doesn’t happen overnight. Wow, I still have not absorbed the Italian words for fish and peach – look it up and you will see what I mean! Laugh at your mistakes and smile a lot. Learning the language opens a whole new world for you, so embrace it.
Again, if you are contemplating a move to Italy, I assume that your mind is open to learning, not stuck totally in your past experience. If so, you will appreciate the culture in Italy with its differing concepts of time, efficiency, importance of family, importance of food. Many people acquire a whole new lease on life here, and adjust priorities in a major way just by living and joining in. Language goes a long way to smoothing that culture shock, (plus a realization that only one major thing can be accomplished in one day so relax – everything gets done eventually). Yes, there are obstacles and frustrations, and yes it may be more difficult surmounting the language barrier, but persistence, patience, and an acceptance that in Italy there is a different pace and a different way of living. So, summing it up, know yourself, know what you want, inform yourself, and jump in.
Remember, our full-service agency is here to help – we can assist with just about anything (really), so you only need to ask!