What should I firstly do to make my settling-in in Italy smoother?
First of all, bear in mind that no one from any culture is ‘Mr Average’. So, when you come to Italy as an expat you may meet a number of Italians whose behaviour fits the points above but some may be quite idiosyncratic compared to the Italian ‘norm’ – because of regional origin, personality or even the special nature of the organizational culture to which they belong. However, you can be pretty sure that most Italians will agree that these values are important to operate in an Italian context and it will be appreciated if you take these aspects seriously. Learn Italian! Italian grammar is not easy, but learning at least some dozen words and making yourself understood saying isolate words is fairly easy. In Italy the knowledge of English is spread, not mandatory. If you absolutely want to speak English, always ask: “Parla inglese?” (or even in English “Do you speak English?”) and wait for an answer. Do not just start speaking English at people. Anyway, when you speak English with a local you’d better use basic words and expressions and articulate well.
What is culturally relevant and to bear in mind?
One of the most important things to remember on arriving in Italy is that the top priority for the Italians is building relationships. Family and friends lie at the heart of the culture. Trust comes from the closeness of one’s relationships. If you dedicate time to this you will reap enormous benefits, both at work and in your personal life. Relationships commonly take precedence over the rules – in Italy ‘doing a task’ is often not as important as ‘doing a favour’. Another important step you can take as you are integrating is to adapt to the Italian style of communication. You will often experience ‘conversational overlap’. Your Italian interlocutor will give you an answer before you’ve even completed what you wanted to say. This is motivated usually more by enthusiasm than a desire to take control. La ‘Bella Figura’ is another key value in Italy and it is used to describe the ability to present oneself well, have a sense of style, behave with respect and know one’s place in society. It is about standing out of the crowd and it stems from a love of beauty and form which is instilled at an early age. Many Italians are obsessed with what others think of them. This is linked with the concept of ‘fare una bella figura’ and it is the importance given to protecting the right image – which can be more important than the reality of the situation, even if it is an illusion. ‘Fare una bella figura’ is about impressing others by getting it just right!
Is the crime rate high in Italy?
Over the last years theft and violence have been on the increase in Italy as a result of migratory flow and financial crisis. Like the rest of Europe, major cities have unsafe areas that are best avoided, especially at night. Petty crime including bag snatching, pick-pocketing and theft from cars can take place especially in larger cities, in and around major tourist attractions, on public transports and around transport hubs. When using bus, tram and metro, pay close attention to your personal belongings. Street children may stand outside railways stations, acting on their own or in pairs to distract their victims and rob them.
What are most important common-sense rules to follow?
• Be aware of bag snatchers and pickpockets on public transport, railways and metro stations and in very crowded areas in general.
• When using public transports, always watch your handbag, briefcase, purse or wallet and keep it close to your front. Men should not keep their wallets in rear trouser pockets.
• Do not leave your luggage unattended.
• Car theft is high, so possibly leave your car in a garage or indoor parking place overnight. When parking on the street, never leave windows open and/or valuable items in view.
• Always lock your car doors if you stop at coffee shop or gas station on highways or motorways.
• While driving, do not leave your valuables in front or rear seats, or keep car doors locked.
• Avoid hanging your arm out of the window if wearing an expensive watch as well as stopping and getting off the car if approached by people pretending a fake accident.
• At supermarkets/shopping malls do not leave your trolley unattended with your bag in.
• If living on lower floors or in a house avoid leaving windows open, especially at night or when out, and keep front door locked. Alarm and/or windows safety grates have a deterrent effect. In case of theft or loss, always report the incident at the police station within 24 hours and ask for a police statement (denuncia).