The dream of moving to Europe seems appealing and spending not just a few days or weeks sipping wine and eating pasta in the Italian countryside seems like a dream. What's it really like to move to Italy from the United States though and what do you need to know if you want to make that lifestyle change a reality? Let's take a look at what you'll need to do to move to Italy.
Bring Your Car To Italy, Lease a Car, or Buy One There?
Bringing your car to Italy is probably going to be cost prohibitive so you should probably consider buying one there or leasing it. Luckily, unlike the UK where they drive on the other side of the road, Italian cars are essentially the same configuration as American ones. You'll find many of the same brands and just like in the US, dealers are always offering discounts and incentives to buy specific cars like this Toyota Chr. When looking at what car to choose, remember that driving in Italy can be much different than in the United States. This is especially true in cities and villages where roadways are extremely tight on space. As such, a scooter or motorbike might be a better option.
Don't Focus Only On American Friends From the Expat Community
Major cities throughout Europe will have large expat American communities and Italian cities like Rome are no different. While it might be comfortable to be able to spend nights at the pub talking with these guys ... you should focus on making local Italian friends as well. Many Italians also speak English and this is a great way to learn how to speak Italian as well as learn the culture.
Many Businesses Are Small and Locally Owned vs Large Chains
This means that you'll often need to visit local markets or a bread store, a meat shop, and a wine shop to get everything you need for dinner. There are supermarkets in the suburbs and some cities though. Also, unlike businesses in the United States that are generally open all-day-long, shops in Italy often shut down for lunch since you are expected to enjoy your meal instead of using that time to go out and do errands.
Some Over The Counter Drugs Are Very Expensive
In the United States, I can get a bottle of painkillers for less than $5 but in Italy €5 will only get you a small pack. The same is true for flu medicine and other over the counter drugs due to the very powerful Pharmacist lobby.
Don't Assume You Can Use ATM and Credit Cards
Legally, businesses in Italy are required to allow you to pay using your bank card for any purchase over €5. In practice though this is not accurate and you should always plan to have cash on hand for shopping, taxis, and other commerce.
Tipping at Bars and Restaurants Is Not Expected or Required
In the United States it is rude to not leave something extra for your bartender or waitress. In Italy - as most European countries - it's quite the opposite. There is no expectation of getting a tip and in fact it can be embarrassing to have you provide one. The exception here is if the service provider did something extraordinary for you or did a major favor. This is because unlike in the United States where servers get less than minimum wage, most bar and restaurant staff in Italy are paid a standard wage.
Italian Television is Terrible
Satellite channels can help provide some variety but as an American you will be disappointed with Italian television. Instead, I'd focus on registering your Netflix and other streaming services to a friend's US address and streaming your favorite shows that way. That being said, watching TV and films in Italian is a great way to learn the language in a passive manner. This is especially true if you are watching American films that have been dubbed so you know what the people are saying already.
Understand that Life Moves at A Different Pace In Italy
Most Americans have the expectation that if you set a time for a meeting that it starts on time and that events such as meals are over quickly. This isn't true in Italy though. Life here moves at a different pace and you should expect that people may be late to meetings, appointments, and parties. Also, expect that dinners - especially ones where a celebration or social gathering is scheduled could last many hours and go late into the night.
Unfortunately, this pace extends not just to social functions but is especially pervasive in government bureaucracy as well. Anything involving the Italian government will take longer than you might expect. For people seeking residency permits or other paperwork to make their move official, that means you need to plan ahead more than you'd initially expect.
Ultimately while it is an adjustment, this slower pace of life is something that most Americans enjoy about moving to Italy. Though the adjustment to Italian life might take some time, it can be very rewarding and enjoyable!