Are you thinking of relocating to Italy, but do you feel unsure, anxious or worried about how to go about it? Have you recently arrived are are feeling overwhelmed? Sophie Charlotte can proudly call Florence her home since 2010 and helps other women move to Italy as well in her life-coaching business. She specialises in dealing with fear, challenging limiting beliefs and believing in yourself while talking the leap towards your big Italian dream. She’ll happily provide you with practical tips & tricks, mental support and constant guidance on your way to your very own dolce vita italiana. A first consultation is always free.
Or at least, that’s what they like to say, that Italians do it better. Life that is. And I must say that for a big part they are absolutely right.
In 2010 I escaped my secure, yet boring and predictable life in Holland for the love of my life: Italy. When I used to come on holiday here, I would always feel happier, lighter; I’d feel better about myself. The overdose of sunshine, the scrumptious pizzas and continuous ciao bellas made me walk a little taller and my smile a whole lot wider. At 24 years old I decided to put myself in that happy place for good and I took the leap of moving to Florence. This bold step has allowed me to fully flourish and become the best version of myself.
There’s something special about life here and how the Italians do life. We all know the famous phrase la dolce vita, but what does that really mean; the sweet life? I’ll illustrate it by giving you five examples of ways that I personally feel Italians do it better, which are also good to keep in mind when you’re thinking of moving to Italy and want to adapt to your new habitat in the smoothest way possible. Because let me tell you out of personal experience, not getting the rules of la dolce vita can cause a whole lot of not so sweetness sometimes.
Being Dutch, I’m used to always being on time, preferably a little early to avoid seeming uninterested or rude and to show serious commitment. I made this mistake here twice and understood that Italians are always a minimum of five minutes late. Being five minutes early equates to ten minutes of frustration and wondering if you’ve been stood up. Not so sweet. So instead I do as the Italians do and always arrive five minutes late – standard. When back in Holland this doesn’t get appreciated very much, but by now it’s in my system and I must say that these cinque minuti extra are very good for lowering your overall stress levels.
Il pranzo della domenica is nearly treated as a national holiday here; everybody has lunch with their family on Sunday, punto. As an expat with no close family this can initially be some sort of an alienating experience. The more South you go the quicker they open the doors to you, the exotic creature from the North. The more North you go, the longer it takes to be invited to the sacred Sunday family gathering. Don’t be offended by this. They just take la famiglia very seriously and once you do get invited it means you’re part of the in-crowd – for good.
Italians would rather lie than tell you how it is. They choose fare una bella figura over being truthful. Their image and the relationship are way more important than risking getting in a row over a disagreement. This was a cultural difference that I’ve really had to get my head around. The Dutch are famous for their bluntness (we see it as being transparent and trustworthy, but that’s another discussion altogether) and saying it as it is allows us to get closer to each other. In Italy you create the opposite effect. When people start being very formal by calling you Lei all of a sudden instead of tu and sentences become more complex, you know you should’ve been more diplomatic in your ways of saying something. And yes, sometimes you realise you just need to suck it up and say sì instead of sharing how you really feel about spending another long and lazy Sunday at your in-laws. Relationship over everything!
Whatever you do, food is always involved. Whether it’s meeting with a mum after bringing your kids to school having breakfast together with a cappuccino e un cornetto or if it’s a social lunch with your colleagues, un caffè con merenda (a snack) with your girlfriends, un aperitivo with friends after work, cena fuori o a casa con il tuo amore, dinner out or at home with your partner, food is of the essence. It’s like the oil that keeps the conversation going. In Holland we talk about the weather, in Italy you talk about food. Also, remember to always compliment the cook like crazy. Especially when it’s a woman: they go all shy and modest, but actually they’re gobbling up every sincere and repeated Brava! Complimenti! And always have more; that’s the best compliment you can give!
Yes, what you wear is important. Going to the hairdresser is an expense you put in your monthly budget and your handbag should match your shoes. Going to the supermarket means going out, so you wear clothes that you could be photographed in. You never know who you could run into and what they’ll say. Even if you only have one good outfit, wear it and own it. Rock your fur coat like only an Italian granny can and use that Gucci bag until it’s tearing at the seams. Whatever you do, have it with you on every occasion. Looks are everything. I must admit it does make for a more pleasant spectacle when walking around in the city centre and seeing aesthetically appealing people instead of slumps that seem to have just come rolling out of bed. Life in Italy has also made me more aware of my looks and it has allowed me to discover and develop my feminine side more. It simply makes you feel better about yourself, so why not dress to impress?
Life in Italy is interesting to say the least. They sure know how to enjoy life and they’re wonderful masters at expressing themselves. Fitting in like a local is all about observing them well, learning the language and customs and trying your best to get as close to their dolce lifestyle as possible – always maintaining your own values of course. Life’s less serious here, lighter, more fun – and that is an aspect to welcome into anyone’s life, right?
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