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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 December 9, 2019

5 Simple Ways to Relieve Stress Effectively

5 Simple Ways to Relieve Stress Effectively

Everyone experiences mental stress at one time or another. Maybe you’re starting a new career, job, or business, or you feel incredibly overwhelmed between work, parenting, and your love life (or a lack of it). It could even be that you simply feel that you have way too much to do and not enough time to do it,  plus, on top of everything, nothing seems to be going the way it should!

Yup, we all experience mental stress from time-to-time, and that’s okay as long as you have the tools, techniques and knowledge that allow you to fully relieve it once it comes.

Here are 5 tips for relieving mental stress when it comes so you can function at your best while feeling good (and doing well) in work, love, or life:

1. Get Rationally Optimistic

Mental stress starts with your perception of your experiences. For instance, most people get stressed out when they perceive their reality as “being wrong” in some way. Essentially, they have a set idea of how things “should be” at any given moment, and when reality ends up being different (not even necessarily bad), they get stressed.

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This process is simply a result of perception and can be easily “fixed” by recognizing that although life might not always be going as YOU think it should, it’s still going as it should—for your own benefit.

In fact, once you fully recognize that everything in your life ultimately happens for your own growth, progress, and development—so you can achieve your goals and dreams—your perception works in your favor. You soon process and respond to your experience of life differently, for your advantage. That’s the essence of becoming “rationally optimistic.”

The result: no more mental stress.

2. Unplug

Just like you might need to unplug your computer when it starts acting all crazy, you should also “unplug” your mind.

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How on earth do you unplug your mind? Simple: just meditate.

It isn’t nearly difficult or complicated as some people think, so, if you don’t already meditate, give it a try. Whether you meditate for 5 minutes, 30 minutes, or 2 hours, this is a surefire way to reduce mental stress.

Meditation has been scientifically proven to relax your body (resulting in less mental stress), while also reducing anxiety and high blood pressure.

3. Easy on the Caffeine

Yes, we know, we know—everyone loves a nice java buzz, and that’s okay, but there’s a fine line between a small caffeine pick-me-up and a racing heart and mind that throws you into a frenzy of mental stress.

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Try giving up caffeine for a while and see how you feel. And, if that’s completely out of the question for you, at least try to minimize it. You might find that lots of your mental stress mysteriously “disappears” as your caffeine intake goes down.

4. Attack Mental Stress Via the Back Door

That’s right: your body and mind are part of the whole being, and are constantly influencing and affecting each other. If you’re experiencing a lot of mental stress, try to reduce it by calming your body down—a calm body equals a calmer mind.

How do you calm your body down and reduce physical stress? A  great way to reduce physical stress (thereby reducing mental stress) is to take natural supplements that are proven to reduce stress and anxiety while lifting your mood. Three good ones to look into are kava-kava, St John’s wort, and rhodiola rosea:

  • Kava-kava is a natural plant known to have mild sedative properties, and you should be able to find it at your natural health food store or vitamin store. It’s available in capsules or liquid extract form.
  • St John’s wort is a natural flower used to treat depression. Again, it’s found at your local health store in capsules or liquid. Because it uplifts mood (enabling you to see the brighter side of all experiences) it helps relieve mental stress as well.
  • Rhodiola rosea is a natural plant shown to reduce stress and uplift mood, and Russian athletes have been using it forever. Like the other two supplements mentioned, rhodiola rosea can be found at your natural health store in capsule or liquid form.

While these supplements are all natural and can be very helpful for most people, always check with your health care provider first as they can cause side-effects depending on your current health situation etc.

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5. Good Old-Fashioned Exercise

This tip has been around forever because it works. Nothing relieves mental stress like running, kickboxing—you name it. Anything super-physical will wipe out most of your mental stresses once the exercise endorphins (happy chemicals) are released into your brain.

The result: mental stress will be gone!

So, if you’re feeling overwhelmed or just plain stressed, try using some of the above tips. You can even print this out or save it to refer to regularly.

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Featured photo credit: Radu Florin via unsplash.com

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