Moving abroad, particularly in a country where you don’t speak the language, can change you more than you ever expected. Depending on your circumstances and motivations, you may feel elated, scared, curious or worried to begin with, but you will never be prepared for the rollercoaster of emotions that can come with cultural shock and being plunged into a completely new world. While moving abroad is definitely easier for us than it used to be for our parents and grandparents, being able to talk to your friends and family on social media and getting news in your own language from home will not always suffice to make you feel connected to your Country of origin – and it will probably make you feel disconnected from your Country of residence. What can you expect, when you live abroad? We have collected the impressions of several expats living in Italy, as well as Italians living abroad.
Your taste in food will change
Most expats living in Italy list food among the first ten reasons that brought them to the Country and keep them here. On the other hand, Italians living abroad are known for being grumpy about every other cuisine on the planet – which is only a slight exaggeration. Regardless of your original stance on what constitutes “good food”, you can expect your taste to change, after you have lived abroad for a few years. Food is a part of every nation’s culture and therefore the more integrated you become in the culture of your Country of residence, the more you will be able to understand and appreciate its cuisine. And, most importantly, you will make memories around the shared experience of eating and discussing food, which will accompany you even if you decide to move back home.
You will reconsider your cultural bias
It is always healthy to try a new perspective in life, and moving abroad is one of the most radical ways of doing that. Even though your social condition might not change dramatically – for instance, if you move as a result of finding a better job or being transferred to a different office within the same company – you will still find yourself in a slightly less privileged position than you were used to. If you struggle with the language or if you belong to a different cultural, religious or ethnic group than most of the population in your country of residence, you will feel, at least to some extent, like an outcast. This doesn’t necessarily have to be a negative experience, but it might feel alienating at first. As you learn more about the local culture, you might find yourself reconsidering principles you thought of as absolute and acquiring new habits. If you then move back home or even if you visit your family and friends, you might notice you are now more curious about the cultures and habits of those who are immigrants in your own Country.
Everyone else’s life will go on
When moving abroad and then visiting home for the first time, you will be shocked and faintly offended by the fact that everyone you know still has a life, and that they went on with it, making significant changes you knew nothing about. Sure, social media will always tell you when someone got married or had a baby, but there will always be aspects of everyone’s lives that you won’t be able to follow. Once again, this may make you feel disconnected. Eventually, you will come to terms with the fact that your life can move to a different pace than your loved ones’ back home.
You will acquire new habits
If you move to Italy, you will startle your friends visiting from home by greeting them with two kisses, by insisting they always wear a scarf or button their coat all the way up if it’s slightly chilly outside, and you will recoil in horror at the prospect of adding cheese to a fish-based dish. These and other little quirks will work themselves into your personality, although you will not always be aware of that. And while they might drive your friends crazy, you will find that you start to cherish them, because they are the tangible signs of the cultural enrichment that has come with your experience abroad.