Every day, I learn something more about my new home in Calabria, Italy. I now laugh at how much I DIDN'T know before I moved to Calabria. Hopefully, it'll help you to gain a few more nuggets of wisdom before relocating to Calabria!
1. You're Top Priority with Calabrians...Until Their Phone Rings
I'll be in the middle of a deep conversation with a friend or Francesco and then the phone rings. 98% of the time, they'll answer.
While many Americans also keep their ringers on and answer or respond to texts, by far, the Italians have them beat. They will respond no matter what they're doing. (Do not ask me to elaborate. You can use your imagination here!)
And if they're the ones calling and if they get no answer, they'll call again. And again. And again. Italian phone numbers don't have voicemail, so you can let the phone ring until tomorrow if you want.
This is one frustration I haven't gotten over. I feel like when you're with people in person, they should be your focus, not whoever's calling to shoot the shit.
2. WhatsApp is THE Texting App to Have
Another thing Italians don't do is text with their built-in text app. Instead, they ALL use WhatsApp (there's another app called Telegram, but as far as I can tell, the same people use it, so what's the point?).
WhatsApp works like your native texting app, with the added benefit of being able to text anyone around the world without incurring extra charges. And it's free. So if you're visiting Italy before your move, download it and you can still text folks back home when you have data or wifi.
But beware the dreaded WhatsApp groups! Italians love creating and participating in text groups that sometimes have dozens of people. There are groups in Calabria where people post events in the area, which is cool, except when you get a ping on your phone every. time. someone. likes. a. message. My advice? Archive these groups and check them when you feel like it.
3. You've Never Met Nicer People
Since I moved here, I keep hearing about these negative, closed-off Calabrians, but I have to say, I have yet to meet one. Everyone I've met has been gracious, kind, and curious about why a solo woman decided to uproot her life and move to Calabria.
I met a woman who lives in the apartment building across from mine. We shouted back and forth from our apartments, and she told me if I needed anything, just to ask.
When I go to the market, inevitably a wizened old farmer will throw in a few extra potatoes with a wink. One man, when I asked for just one tomato, was so dumbfounded (since everyone buys enough tomatoes for a large family) that he waved away my effort to pay for it.
Ask a Calabrian for directions, and they will personally walk you wherever you need to go, regardless of what their plans are.
4. You'll Probably Need a Car
I know what you're thinking because I naively thought it too. You're thinking you don't want or need a car in Calabria. You'll walk everywhere!
While living in Soverato has meant I use my car less, I still need it to go to bigger grocery stores, the centro commerciale (mall with clothing stores), and on adventures throughout Calabria. There is a train, but it doesn't stop frequently in each little town, and it doesn't go to all the neat mountain towns I love to explore.
And unless you want to shell out an extra €10k for a (new) car with automatic transmission, you're gonna need to learn to drive stick. I know, I know. It sucks. But a year later, I am ever so much more comfortable driving manual. You'll be fine.
5. Your American Driver's License Won't Work (for Long)
While European Union citizens have an easier time converting their driver's licenses into Italian patente, Americans are not so fortunate. You have one year to drive with your American license (and you'll need an international license to accompany it) before you need to get an Italian license.
After that, you will enter my hell: Italian driving school. There is no option to take the test in English (though if you want to take it in French or German, have at it!), and you'll learn a ton of Italian words you never thought you'd need to know. Like rimorchio (trailer) and autotreno (trailer truck). The Italian driving exam for your license is ever so much more complicated than the American one. My son studied for about a week for his in California...I'm on month 2.5 and only halfway through the material!!
Planning to move to Calabria? What questions do you have that I can answer in a future post? Send me an email!