Living outside of your home country for an extended period of time changes you in ways you can’t even begin to imagine unless you’ve already been there. I’d like to think that for the most part Italy has changed me for the better, but then again I could just be one of those obnoxious people who have adopted some really terrible European habits like not wearing any deodorant and lifting my arms in your face on the public bus in the middle of July. How would I know, right?
Anyway, I was pondering just how much I seem to have changed since parking my butt in Florence a few years ago and deciding to make it my new home. Here are some recent life lessons I have observed in the past 6 months:
1. Material things like food, shelter and clothing are still important. Material things like having the iPhone 6 or a new Marc Jacobs handbag are not.
Honestly (and I hate to admit this but if you can’t be honest with total strangers, then who can you turn to?) whenever I go back to America, I become this insane, Target-obsessed witch of a person who buys completely useless things like her life depends on it. Over the years I’ve gotten better, mostly due to the fact that my boyfriend likes to remind me that we have absolutely no space for any of the crap I want to bring back with me, but that constant nagging consumerist drive is still lurking around in my subconscious. However, living in a country where the fundamentals of life (i.e. time with family, good food, relaxing) are a higher priority than material goods has changed my perspective drastically on the whole “need vs. want” battle. Living in Italian apartments means downsizing your life and getting used to using only the essentials–I’ve come to realized that things that I used to take for granted, like air-conditioning in the summer, aren’t actually a necessity but a luxury to be appreciated when available.
2. New friendships, however fleeting, are the cupcakes of life. Enjoy them as often and for as long as you can.
A city like Florence is great because it introduces you to a whole different side of human life. I have seen some pretty amazing things, like that guy who likes to poop in the mornings near the train station in the middle of the piazza or people high on mushrooms two-stepping in Piazza Pitti at 3 am, but nothing–and I mean nothing–compares to the people I’ve met while living here. While it can be hard to get used to the revolving door atmosphere of people coming and going, I’ve become a much more outgoing person since moving to Florence and have made some beautifully weird friendships along the way that I wouldn’t trade for all the pasta in Italy.
3. Sometimes you need to put pants on to walk your dog in the morning. Other times, just congratulate yourself for getting out of bed to actually walk the dog.
I’ve become a lot more self-aware after living for a few years in the land of the bella figura. Obviously being from California means that I pretty much came out of the womb in flip-flops, so changing up my style has been an ongoing battle but it’s an enjoyable one. For the most part I like to think that I’ve become a little more stylish over the years, but if it’s 8 am and my dog has to pee, don’t even think about giving me the stink-eye over my outfit when I drag my butt outside still wearing my pajama bottoms and a hoodie because I will end you. I am not a morning person.
4. Family is all we’ve got in the end, so just shut up and eat the third helping of spaghetti your boyfriend’s mother’s aunt is forcing down your throat.
I come from a pretty large and rambunctious family of about 500 Mexicans, so it was actually a bit shocking to me when I moved to Florence and starting hanging around Francesco’s small family (it’s just the parents and him). However, the first time we ate a meal together it was like being transported back to my grandma’s house and being actively encouraged to eat about 45 helpings of food is obviously the quickest way to gain my approval. I honestly don’t know where I’d be without the help and support and daily meddling of F’s parents–probably at least a couple kilos lighter, but that’s why they invented sweatpants.
5. Winning an argument against an Italian in their language is the single most gratifying experience you will ever have.
If you’re the type of person who revels in a good old fashioned debate, then Italy is definitely the country for you. Italians love speaking their language, and think nothing of stretching a conversation for hours on end. That being said, once you’ve settled in and acclimated to a lifestyle in Italy, you quickly learn that even though you may speak Italian, according to the natives you’re still just a bumbling idiot that now speaks a little more clearly. If you can somehow get your conversation to a succinct close and have made your point clear (you’ll know when they finally shut up) then congratulate yourself on a job well done.
6. Wherever you go, there you are. So go somewhere that has good food, strong drinks & a beautiful landscape and you’ll be alright in the end.