How to adjust to life as an expat in Italy

4 minute read

Italy’s allure is not hard to understand.

Great food, stylish shopping, vast cultural history, incredible architecture and gorgeous beaches are just some of the reasons that people come here to work, study and retire.

There are a lot of stereotypes about Italian life. Some are true, while others just mean you watch too many movies.

So when in Rome - or anywhere else in Italy - here are some things you need to know.

Italian food

italian food

If you're on a low-carb diet - or any diet actually - the thought of Italian food is probably already giving you palpitations. It shouldn’t though.

Italians do love pizza and pasta, but their cuisine is far more varied. It includes amazing soups, salads and seafood. The portions are smaller too, especially when it comes to carbs. Italians wouldn’t base an entire meal on pasta in the way Italian food is served abroad.

No matter what you feel like eating, the most important part of Italian cuisine is high quality, fresh ingredients. So tuck in.

The language of love

italian food

It’s always a good idea to learn the local language as an expat.

Fortunately, you are now living in a country with the most beautiful language in the world. (Please don’t tell expats in France we said that).

Even the graffiti is beautiful. It’s not uncommon to see poetic love notes spray painted onto walls as young people professs their love for all to see. It’s so romantic (and totally illegal).

Knowledge of Italian will help you in all areas of life, from succeeding at work to negotiating rent. It helps impress members of the opposite sex too, but put the spray paint away.

To get started, check out these 6 apps for learning a new language.

Meeting your partner’s family

italian famil

If your new Italian partner invites you to ‘meet the family’ then good luck. Family life is very important in Italy.

You might be imagining an interrogation round a dinner table by a small army of siblings and distant relatives. Don’t panic though. Most Italian families today aren’t as large as they used to be.

How to queue in Italy!



The rules are there are no rules, at least when it comes to queuing in Italy. Whether waiting for a bus or trying to order lunch, it’s usually every man, woman and child for themselves.

Most new expats in Italy will find this a little frustrating, although it’s the 25,000 British expats here we worry about most.

Take a deep breath. The Italian approach to queuing hasn’t led to the collapse of society just yet. At the very least, you're unlikely to be tutted at ever again.

Work life

office space

Wages can be relatively low in Italy and finding a job can be tricky. However, many expats have no regrets about working here.

For a start, the average work week is 36 hours and you get four weeks of paid holiday each year. Unusually, public sector work hours tend to be 8am to 2pm from Monday to Saturday.

The working day is longer in the private sector, but they do benefit from a very loose definition of a ‘lunch hour’. It’s usually enough time to head home for a break, do some shopping or enjoy a glass of chardonnay with a long meal.

The Bureaucracy


There’s a lot of it in Italy so patience is definitely a virtue here.

You’ll encounter complex rules, forms that must be filled out multiple times and deadlines that must be strictly adhered to.

It’s really important this doesn’t deter you from things like setting up your health insurance or opening a bank account. The sooner you can do these after arriving, the easier (and cheaper) life will be.

That’s why we’ve put together these extra resources here for what to do when moving to Italy.

The beaches

italy beach

Once you’ve finished filing paperwork and completed your daily language lesson, you can take advantage of Italy’s 7,600 kilometers of gorgeous coastline.

Italian beaches are notoriously regulated in many ways, although no one will bat an eyelid at topless sunbathing or men wearing speedos.

You’ll need to pay a small fee to use many of Italy’s most desirable beaches. This might seem unfair, but it does keep them clean and cover the use of services. Some of Italy’s most expensive beaches even have masseurs, physiotherapists and hairdressers.

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