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Moving To Italy? Stop And Read These 5 Insights!

Moving To Italy? Stop And Read These 5 Insights!

If you’ve always dreamed of going to Italy for a semester (or for much longer), then you should follow your heart and go. Italy is a beautiful country with an enviable landscape, wonderful food, and a fascinating history. You can experience all of this and so much more. And it’s the “so much more” that I wasn’t quite prepared for. So, before you head over to the big boot, try to remove any misconceptions you might have before you get here. It will make your transition that much easier.

To get you started, here are 5 areas of Italian culture that threw me for a loop.

1. Organization

When my Italian boyfriend asked me to join him in Italy, I said, “Sure! Of course!” I’d already spent a year in Germany completing my bachelor’s degree, so I figured: Germany? Italy? I’ve got this.

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Boy, was I wrong. Germany and Italy have one thing in common: Europe. After that, you’re in two different worlds. Germany is incredibly organized, methodical, and punctual — all of which I really value, and none of which I’ve found (to date) here in Italy. So, if you’re looking for timeliness, structure, and systematization, stop! Instead, learn to enjoy the chaos and the humor that comes with it.

For example, I had to ship a package and I ended up visiting three separate post offices. Each one gave me a different price. Obviously, I went with the lowest price.

In general, the public offices aren’t efficient. If you have an appointment at 11 AM, so do 40 other people, and there is no recourse but to wait. I’ve learned to schedule lots of time for what should be a 20-minute gig and pack a good book — I’ll probably be able to finish it.

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If I had to choose the worst expat experiences yet, it would be at the Italian consulates in the United States. And unfortunately, the arbitrary and utter mayhem that defines “consulate” exists in both countries. Incorrect forms and information, tardy replies (if any), unreachable employees, or insolent employees when you do reach them. Truly a nightmare from start to finish. Please prepare yourself for what will be the most mind-boggling display of human behavior that you may ever witness.

2. Customer Service

Essentially, there is none. Now, if you visit a privately owned shop or talk with a real artisan or chef, they’ll be more than happy to share their stories, laughs, and little secrets with you. But if you contact your phone company because they overcharged you for a service you haven’t had in two months, you’ll get nowhere except crazy town.

During our internet famine, we contacted “customer service” twice every day, only to be told something different by each and every representative. All we could do was wait and overdose on chill pills.

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“Office Hours” are also a hit or miss, and this can take some getting used to. Open two hours one day, three hours on another, sometimes afternoon, sometimes morning. Nothing like American offices, but with time you start to adjust.

3. What Rules?

At the University of Siena, the professor allowed me (as most professors do) to take an exam immediately after the course ended. I didn’t realize that this is actually against university policy and a big no-no — everyone does it. If you walk down the halls, you’ll see crowds of nervous students, all waiting to take their illegal exam, just as I had done. The student office laid into me for doing this and I felt blindsided. Of course, they knew that everyone does it, but I had been the naïve one, waltzing into the Student Office and actually admitting it.

Rules do exist, but there’s a very subjective and loose interpretation of them. That goes for things like parking, apartment leases, working in the black, and overstaying your visa. It just depends on who you happen to interact with. Sometimes you get lucky, but as a foreigner, without the insider’s advantage, be careful!

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4. Food

The only thing that is not subjective here is food. On the contrary, it’s sacrosanct. When it comes to food, there is something like order, service, and rules. And while I can appreciate this no-nonsense approach, stemming from age-old tradition, there are times when I miss the ability to eat an easy dinner at 6 PM and not be considered odd if I eat eggs and veggies for breakfast. Of course, you can eat whatever you want, but because the expectations are set in stone, it might be difficult to honor your own individual preferences without looking, well, foreign.

5. Time

Lastly, time is a general reference point — a ball park figure. If someone says “10 minutes,” it’s roughly the same thing as 40 minutes — give or take a few. Again, the only time when time matters is when we’re talking about food.

Slowly, you begin to ease into the Italian mentality, and while this article might seem like a long bash on Italy, I hope you’ll realize, as I did, that it’s a country full of fascinating (albeit confounding) characters who live a certain way. It’s not the way I was accustomed to, so at first it seemed “bad.” Now, it just seems “Italian.”

Featured photo credit: MorgueFile via mrg.bz

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Last Updated on March 13, 2019

How to Get out of a Rut: 12 Useful Ways to Get Unstuck

How to Get out of a Rut: 12 Useful Ways to Get Unstuck

Have you gotten into a rut before? Or are you in a rut right now?

You know you’re in a rut when you run out of ideas and inspiration. I personally see a rut as a productivity vacuum. It might very well be a reason why you aren’t getting results. Even as you spend more time on your work, you can’t seem to get anything constructive done. While I’m normally productive, I get into occasional ruts (especially when I’ve been working back-to-back without rest). During those times, I can spend an entire day in front of the computer and get nothing done. It can be quite frustrating.

Over time, I have tried and found several methods that are helpful to pull me out of a rut. If you experience ruts too, whether as a working professional, a writer, a blogger, a student or other work, you will find these useful. Here are 12 of my personal tips to get out of ruts:

1. Work on the small tasks.

When you are in a rut, tackle it by starting small. Clear away your smaller tasks which have been piling up. Reply to your emails, organize your documents, declutter your work space, and reply to private messages.

Whenever I finish doing that, I generate a positive momentum which I bring forward to my work.

2. Take a break from your work desk.

Get yourself away from your desk and go take a walk. Go to the washroom, walk around the office, go out and get a snack.

Your mind is too bogged down and needs some airing. Sometimes I get new ideas right after I walk away from my computer.

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3. Upgrade yourself

Take the down time to upgrade yourself. Go to a seminar. Read up on new materials (#7). Pick up a new language. Or any of the 42 ways here to improve yourself.

The modern computer uses different typefaces because Steve Jobs dropped in on a calligraphy class back in college. How’s that for inspiration?

4. Talk to a friend.

Talk to someone and get your mind off work for a while.

Talk about anything, from casual chatting to a deep conversation about something you really care about. You will be surprised at how the short encounter can be rejuvenating in its own way.

5. Forget about trying to be perfect.

If you are in a rut, the last thing you want to do is step on your own toes with perfectionist tendencies.

Just start small. Do what you can, at your own pace. Let yourself make mistakes.

Soon, a little trickle of inspiration will come. And then it’ll build up with more trickles. Before you know it, you have a whole stream of ideas.

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6. Paint a vision to work towards.

If you are continuously getting in a rut with your work, maybe there’s no vision inspiring you to move forward.

Think about why you are doing this, and what you are doing it for. What is the end vision in mind?

Make it as vivid as possible. Make sure it’s a vision that inspires you and use that to trigger you to action.

7. Read a book (or blog).

The things we read are like food to our brain. If you are out of ideas, it’s time to feed your brain with great materials.

Here’s a list of 40 books you can start off with. Stock your browser with only the feeds of high quality blogs, such as Lifehack.org, DumbLittleMan, Seth Godin’s Blog, Tim Ferris’ Blog, Zen Habits or The Personal Excellence Blog.

Check out the best selling books; those are generally packed with great wisdom.

8. Have a quick nap.

If you are at home, take a quick nap for about 20-30 minutes. This clears up your mind and gives you a quick boost. Nothing quite like starting off on a fresh start after catching up on sleep.

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9. Remember why you are doing this.

Sometimes we lose sight of why we do what we do, and after a while we become jaded. A quick refresher on why you even started on this project will help.

What were you thinking when you thought of doing this? Retrace your thoughts back to that moment. Recall why you are doing this. Then reconnect with your muse.

10. Find some competition.

Nothing quite like healthy competition to spur us forward. If you are out of ideas, then check up on what people are doing in your space.

Colleagues at work, competitors in the industry, competitors’ products and websites, networking conventions.. you get the drill.

11. Go exercise.

Since you are not making headway at work, might as well spend the time shaping yourself up.

Sometimes we work so much that we neglect our health and fitness. Go jog, swim, cycle, whichever exercise you prefer.

As you improve your physical health, your mental health will improve, too. The different facets of ourselves are all interlinked.

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Here’re 15 Tips to Restart the Exercise Habit (and How to Keep It).

12. Take a good break.

Ruts are usually signs that you have been working too long and too hard. It’s time to get a break.

Beyond the quick tips above, arrange for a 1-day or 2-days of break from your work. Don’t check your (work) emails or do anything work-related. Relax and do your favorite activities. You will return to your work recharged and ready to start.

Contrary to popular belief, the world will not end from taking a break from your work. In fact, you will be much more ready to make an impact after proper rest. My best ideas and inspiration always hit me whenever I’m away from my work.

Take a look at this to learn the importance of rest: The Importance of Scheduling Downtime

More Resources About Getting out of a Rut

Featured photo credit: Joshua Earle via unsplash.com

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