Photo by Jonathan Bean on Unsplash

How smooth was your landing in Italy?

If you were to receive an offer moving to Italy. What would be your first thought? 

Wouldn’t you have in mind all the beautiful images of Italy: beautiful sunshine, great culture, historical cities, delicious food, a cup of cappuccino on the piazza and many more.

Italy and the Italian life are beautiful and extraordinary, there is no doubt about it. How come that in the Expat Insider 2019 Survey, conducted by Internations Italy is ranked among the worst expat destinations?

Editors note: surprised? So was I. Read on to find out why and what you can do about it – btw, these tips will work anywhere.

Source: Internations, Expat Insider 2019 Survey

Working with many families arriving in Italy, I made the same experience: getting settled and living in Italy is not a walk in the park.

So I wanted to dig deeper and know more about pitfalls and challenges getting settled in this beautiful country. I ran a survey and did many interviews asking trailing spouses how their landing was in Italy and to name the main challenges moving to Italy and living there.

The Top 5 challenges were Immigration procedure & Italian Bureaucracy, Healthcare system, Housing, Mobility and the Italian Language.

Many international newcomers are not aware of the fact that speaking and understanding at least some basic Italian is very helpful. In many places, not everybody speaks English, so it is crucial to know at least some basic phrases to get along in everyday life. Italian language is the key to successful integration in Italy. Best advice is, learn as much Italian as possible already prior to your move! You can start with online classes before relocating and continue to frequent local schools. 

Photo by Liam Martens on Unsplash

How can Italian food help overcome the language barrier?

It is no secret that food plays a huge role in Italy. But can food and its culture help you to soften your arrival in Italy and to learn the Italian language in a pleasant way?

1. Shopping for food at the marketplaces

Get yourself out and go to the markets to practice your Italian. Even with basic vocabulary only, you will make it. Italians are always so helpful in finding the proper word in case you might not know it. So there is no need to be shy but to use your daily shopping as a little conversation practice. Soon you will learn the correct Italian words for all kind of food and some basic phrases. This gives you confidence and might stimulate to go ahead with Italian classes.

2. Take your breakfast in a bar

Go out and have your morning coffee and your brioche in a local bar. This is a great opportunity to watch Italian habits, study morning routines and maybe wonder how many different ways there are to drink a coffee ….. Frequenting the same bar, sooner or later the staff will start a small conversation with you, asking where you are from, what’s your name etc. So another easy way to practice your Italian. And the day, when they welcome you with your name and serve your favorite coffee before even ordering, then you have made the first step to becoming a local.

3. Participate in cooking classes

Another pleasant opportunity to learn Italian is to join local cooking classes. You will not only learn the secrets, insights, of the Italian kitchen which differs from region to region, but participating at a cooking class means also to meet other Italians, socializing and having conversations with them. At home you can pass on all your new knowledge to your family and prepare the local dishes – they will definitely love it.

Photo by Sara Scarpa on Unsplash

One option: Tortellini

If you are located in Emilia-Romagna, you could learn how to make Tortellini, which for sure belongs among the Top 3 traditional dishes from this region.

There are several legends around the origins of Tortellini. My preferred one is the one claiming that Tortellini was inspired by the goddess Venus’ belly button. The legend says that a long time ago, Venus arrived at a tavern between Bologna and Modena to have dinner and decided to stay overnight. The innkeeper was overwhelmed by her beauty and spied on her through a keyhole. The only thing he could see was her navel, which inspired him to create a pasta in this shape dedicating it to her beauty: the Tortellini was ‘born’. 

Served in broth or in ‚panna’ (cream) it is a traditional / classical plate for Sunday lunches and festive dinners.

To make them takes time and patience. But the result is worth it. And once you’ve made them on your own you will appreciate eating them even more. Tiny and small, ideally 7 pieces fitting on a spoon, then they have the correct size. Usually a group of (mostly female) family members and/or friends come together to make big quantities of this delicacy. This is not only to share the workload but above all to have a little chitchat (per chiaccherare). When the work is done, the Tortellini are divided and everyone takes home a portion for their family. Stored in the freezer, they keep their freshness. Of course, every family has its own recipe ;-). 

Video is more helpful than descriptions so tap on image to get to a link to a delicious recipe & directions to make authentic tortellini.

Buon lavoro e buon appetito!

I am thrilled to host fellow global mobility professionals as guest bloggers. Today’s contributor is Isabell. She shares some surprising data about expat life in Italy. But she also give tips on how to settle in start to feel more at home through food – how can you resist tips related to coffee & Italian cuisine?! 

About the Author

Isabell_profilodonna_10_19 Kopie
ISABELL
Isabell is a business consultant, founder of guidexpat and co-founder of the Here We Are Italy network. She helps international newcomers and families settle into their personal and professional life in Italy more smoothly. 
German by birth and Italian by heart, she has always been part of international communities. This provided her with the opportunity to learn about the challenges and potential pitfalls expats and their families face when settling into a new country and inspired her to found guidexpat. Isabell is a networker by heart and passionate about bringing people together to help them grow and to create opportunities for them. 

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