Why did you decide to move?
Back in 2006, I went on my first overseas trip. With a friend, I left Australia and for three weeks we travelled around Italy and France. After that trip I came back home to Melbourne with a new found desire to finally get serious about learning Italian.
Since all of my dad’s side of the family is Italian and I was named after my ‘nonno’ (grandfather), I felt like I owed it to myself to learn the language. I was drawn to Italian from a very early age, but my dad never spoke it at home because he spoke a dialect.
The idea both terrified and excited me. But, with the support of my family, I quit my job and moved to Rome in 2010 and thus began my new life and adventure.
For the next four years following my first trip to Italy, I took learning Italian seriously. By the fourth year I was going to Italian class three times a week, had a private tutor, and watched every single film at the Melbourne Italian Film Festival. I lived and breathed Italian. You could say I was mildly obsessed.
I knew that if I wanted to take my Italian to the next level, I’d have to move to Italy. What a horrible idea, right? The idea both terrified and excited me. But, with the support of my family, I quit my job and moved to Rome in 2010 and thus began my new life and adventure.
How much Italian did you speak before you moved to Rome?
Before moving to Rome my level of Italian was at B1. Within two years I completed my C1 exam. I owe this to the fact that I worked in an Italian company, continued to go to Italian class, and had mostly Italian friends who were ever to willing to teach me colloquialisms and correct me along the way.
One day I messaged a friend telling her I’d be five minutes late. Her response was “Michele, sei troppo inglese!” (‘Michele, you’re too English!’).
It didn’t take me long to pick up on the different Italian accents, either. Some were easier to understand than others. Most of my Italian friends are from Naples and the surrounding area which is known for having a very distinct dialect. Even Italians from up north have difficulty understanding them. I found it funny that films set in Naples are always subtitled in Italian cinemas so the rest of the country can understand!
Was there any culture clash?
I wouldn’t say I experienced severe culture clash, I just learned to take a new perspective on life. Italians, or should I say, Romans in particular do everything ‘con calma’ (‘with calm’). Arriving late is normal. This is such a non-issue for Italian. While I hate being late, I stopped stressing when one day I messaged a friend telling her I’d be five minutes late. Her response was “Michele, sei troppo inglese!” (‘Michele, you’re too English!’).
How did you imagine life in Rome before you arrived?
I didn’t have any expectations. The only thing I was worried about was finding a job in my field, which is IT. It took three months, which according to Italians is very quick. I put it down to a bit of luck and the fact that my employer liked the fact that I had international experience.
What was the most difficult about moving to Rome?
There’s not much to complain about when living in Rome. It’s always sunny, I used to walk past the Colosseum on the way to work each day, and just being surrounded by centuries of history is mindblowing. Especially for an Aussie!
I remember a colleague asking to take the day off work so he could go to the post office!
Organising my permesso di soggiorno (permission to stay document) was a nightmare. I was redirected multiple times and waited in ridiculously long queues, then waited weeks for my card to arrive which I had to go and pick up.
Going to the post office was another dreaded excursion. I remember a colleague asking to take the day off work so he could go to the post office!
Any suggestions for people thinking about moving abroad?
Follow your heart and your gut. I just knew that moving to Italy was something I had to do and everything would work out.
As for the language, you don’t necessarily need to know the local language before, but it definitely helps the process of settling in. I recommend reaching an A2 level before moving.
To be a successful, you have to be passionate and motivated. If learning a language doesn’t excite you, then the whole process will be harder. Make sure you get your daily fix. Listen to the radio, watch movies with subtitles, and stick to Italian even when others respond in English.
Michele from The Intrepid Guide is a travel and language blogger. She lives by the motto “The more we travel, the more we learn.” With her blog, Michele shares her passion for bringing language and travel together through with her destinations guide, language learning tools, and travel phrase cheat sheets, and more! Follow her on social media as she shares fascinating and little-known linguistic and cultural facts.
Feeling inspired to learn a new language? Check out our 20 Italian Survival Phrases!