If you are thinking about moving to Italy, there is no doubt that you have wondered if it will be easy to make new friends, fit into the social scene, or simply be accepted by the locals.
After all, you are moving to a new culture, with different norms, language, and lifestyle. All the things that attracted you to start your new life in Italy, can quickly become the very things that stand between you and settling in.
Let’s start with the question “Will I fit in?”
The answer is most definitely YES if you choose to. Italy is a warm and welcoming country, with cities that enjoy a diverse and multicultural, international resident base. Although you will always be a straniero (foreigner) in Italian eyes, if you are equally open, accepting, and willing to adapt to the new life, you will find an abundance of friends to share your time with.
It takes time to make new friends as adults, even in your own culture and language. People are busy, more insular, and not as open to accepting new people into their circle. If you are single, the isolation outside of work can impact both your physical and mental health.
This leads me to wonder, if it is hard to make friends in your home country, it must be impossible to make them in a country where you know no one and don’t speak the language.
Not really. And here’s why.
Moving outside of your home country is freeing. You can start fresh. New home, new habits, new inspirations, which inevitably turns into a new you.
For those introverts out there, don’t worry. You can continue re-energizing with long peaceful walks along iconic ancient streets, stopping for a coffee and a short chat, before heading to the next amazing experience. It’s ok to eat alone, drink alone and be alone in Italy. No one judges the single woman eating dinner alone.
However, if you are an extrovert who thrives around people, you will be happy to know that your social calendar will become very full, very fast.
Your first friends will likely be other ex-pats, and before you resist this (I know you want to immerse yourself in the Italian way) don’t discount the importance of building a tribe that you can understand and that you have things in common with early on. The support and guidance will help you through the settling-in stage more than you realize.
Your new tribe, whether large or small, will be other ex-pats to start. Some will be as new as you, and others will take the role of guide and interpreter, eager to share their new lives and lessons. From there, as you begin to learn the language, you will start to be able to communicate more deeply with other Italians and begin to build relationships outside of the English-speaking groups.
But don’t rush it. These new relationships take time to develop. Italians are curious about your life, but they are not inherently trusting of strangers, so don’t expect an invite to the family dinner early on. Piano, piano (slowly slowly), and as your language improves, and your cultural awareness increases, you will find these relationships grow stronger, likely more than you had back home.
The Italian lifestyle is centred around friends and family. It is fundamentally what makes them who they are. It is part of their cultural identity.
You will see some differences between the North and South and small towns vs large cities. The North will resemble the cultures closer to Austria, Germany, and Switzerland, which is a “reserved” welcome, most preferring the comfort and predictability of a close-knit group. These areas will be more difficult to break into.
On the other hand, the South is famous for its warm hospitality and open arms mentality, which welcomes everybody, especially foreigners. It is exciting to have a foreign person living in a little town in Italy and they will make it their mission to get to know everything about you, give you advice on how to shop at the vegetable market, help you with local trades and chat with you along the street.
For some new arrivals, this is exactly what they are seeking, for others, it can be a bit of a culture shock and overwhelming.
If you don’t speak Italian well, don’t be too hard on yourself. Practice, study, and try to learn. Italy has one of the lowest numbers of English-speaking nationals in Europe so do not expect English to be spoken freely. If you want to make friends and build relationships, you must learn the language.
At the start, however, most Italians will just continue to speak to you, the fact that you don’t understand a word doesn’t phase them the least. Use their eagerness to learn the language and local dialect which will ultimately help you fit in.
When you move to Italy you will have to adapt, make new friends, and change some of your habits and cultural behaviors. You do not need to change who “you” are, but many people admit, after moving to Italy, that they have changed and have become their “best self” open to new friendships, new love, and new adventures.
If you are thinking about moving to Italy full-time, part-time or for a lifetime, be sure to join the next Free 3-Day Move to Italy Bootcamp. It only runs 1x a year so grab a seat in the next session, or on the waiting list.
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