I am an optimist, but I'm also a realist. I knew moving to Calabria wasn't going to be all roses and unicorns, but I still was knocked flat by a few unexpected aspects of settling into my new home.
1. Everything In Italy Takes 5 Minutes
And by five minutes, I mean five hours, days, or even weeks. Things aren't automatic, which is a given in the U.S.
For example: if you were to set up internet in the States, as soon as the tech guy came over and hooked up your line, you'd be in business. Not so here.
First, I went to three different companies trying to establish service. Each computer system didn't like the combination of my American passport and Italian codice fiscale (a type of Social Security number). On the third try, I was able to get a modem that operated with a SIM card (rather than fiber or cable internet)!
I eagerly got it home and set it up.
By this point (4 weeks in), I knew it might take a while, so I tried again the next day.
It was the weekend, so I gave it a couple more days. The app showed my status as "in progress," while they verified my information.
It wasn't until my fluent, fiery friend Lilly called and yelled at the company did the internet magically get turned on.
I like to think there's someone behind the scenes that has to push a button or pull a lever to get things to work here. As an American, not having things instantly has been an adjustment.
The same goes for Amazon, which I love. There is Amazon Prime (which is only €5 a month!), but often things take 3-5 days...or a week or two to arrive. I've learned to let it go.
2. People Stare
This bothered me last year when I started visiting Calabria, but I'm over it. I think they stare because it's a small town and they don't know me. Also I dress like an American when I'm out for my morning walk.
I've countered this discomfort by staring whoever it is down (inevitably an old man) and saying loudly, buongiorno! That usually makes them look away. Take that!
3. You Don't Need a Car...or Do You?
I was excited to sell my car and be without one for the first time since I was 16 when I first arrived. I can walk to four different grocery stores on foot, so why get a car? I had fantasies of taking the train everywhere. Ha.
The problem is, I live near a couple of other towns that are cool...but I can't walk to them. And the trains are erratic. You can take one to the next town and it takes five minutes, but there might not be a return train for hours...or you have to take the train past my town to a larger station and then back, which takes over an hour to go five kilometers!
I want to travel all around Calabria and Italy, and that will require a car. And when winter hits, which comes with rain, I won't be so thrilled to walk to the store.
For now, I'm getting by. Once I calmed down my expectations, I saw I could do most things on foot (I also bought a bike). I have a friend with a car, and she's sweet enough to drive me when I need it. I can also rent a car if I need it. It feels very vulnerable to not be able to hop in a car and go where I want, but I think that's part of the lesson Italy has for me.
4. Italians are Not Desperate to Befriend You
To be honest, I was a little disappointed that the only people I knew before I moved here were American. I wanted to surround myself with Italians so I could immerse myself in the language, culture, and yes, food.
Now that I'm here, I'm so grateful for the group of friends I'm getting to know. There are Americans, a Russian, and a Hungarian, and we're all independent women, which is pretty amazing. I'm slowly meeting Italians through this group. It'll come.
5. There is No Option but Patience
I have never been patient. Ever. And I knew that nothing happens quickly here. I'm learning to just let go and see where life takes me. So far, it's been to some pretty cool experiences.
The way you are raised, and the culture you're used to certainly shape how you interact with the world and your expectations. I'm learning to release my American expectations so that I can truly embrace Italy, and she can embrace me!