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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 13, 2018

12 Practical Tips To Stay Fit For Christmas

12 Practical Tips To Stay Fit For Christmas

Christmas is approaching fast, and lots of people not only tend to ruin their usual diets, but they also gain a few extra pounds. Based on studies, the majority of people tend to gain additional weight during the holiday season that starts at the Thanksgiving Day and ends with the New Year celebrations. Excessive eating is claimed to be the main cause for the additional weight gain, but it is also due to lack of physical activity and exercise.

A lot of individuals out there tend to set aside their fitness routines during the holidays since they believe that they do not have enough time to perform their workouts. And because they feel guilty after the holiday season, most of the gyms and fitness centers are packed with fresh members. Always bear in mind that you can still enjoy the holidays and stay fit at the same time. If you want to stay fit during the holiday season, especially during Christmas and the New Year’s Eve, here are some useful tips that might help you:

1. Eat Before Heading Out

First, it is best that you eat something before heading out to visits, trips or family dinners. By doing so, you will no longer be tempted to eat a lot or overindulge yourself since you have already eaten. Skipping on meals is not a good idea either, because you will only be forced to eat more later.

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2. Select The Treats

Make sure to select the treats that you eat in a wise manner. You should choose something that you can only enjoy during the holiday season and not something that is readily available all the time.

3. Avoid Skipping Meals

Don’t skip meals, especially breakfast! Even though it can be tempting to skip on certain meals, believing that it will make up for the treats you consumed in the previous day, don’t do it because it will only lead to counterproductive results.

4. Drink With Moderation

It is best to regulate your drinking since alcohol, coke or other juices will only add more calories to the ones you already eaten!

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5. Be Active

You should still perform your fitness routine whenever possible and if you can’t do that, simply walk more, park your car some distance away from the store or just use the stairs!

6. Get Out Of The House

Make the holidays a family affair and plan outdoor activities where everyone is involved. Even a snowball fight in the backyard will burn a lot of calories and will keep the children entertained.

7. Don’t Skip Your Strength Workouts

Always remember to perform your strength training in order to maintain that muscle mass you worked hard to get. You might be tempted to use lightweights and just do some cardio, but you can burn just as many calories by lifting weights. And with all of those extra stakes you had on the holiday meals, you might even gain some extra muscle. And this is much better than gaining some extra fat.

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8. Set Realistic Goals

You should set realistic exercise objectives. Aim for at least half an hour per day and you will be very happy when you will achieve that. If you plan one hour or more and not achieve it, you will only end up disappointed.

9. Enjoy Yourself

Also make sure to set realistic diet plans! Trying to restrain yourself totally from some foods will only make you eat more. Feel free to enjoy the treats that you really love, but in small portions.

10. Drink A Lot Of Water

This can satiate your appetite as well as keep you hydrated at all times. And it will also prevent a possible hangover if you overdo it with alcohol.

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11. Eat Less And More Often

Distribute your meals evenly throughout the day, and do not eat everything at once.  Instead of having 2 enormous meals, have 5 small ones.  Eat your dinner earlier and have a nice walk before going to bed.

12. Prioritize Your Workouts

Try to do them early in the morning while everyone else is still sleeping. This way you will also avoid remarks like “Oh, come on! It’s Christmas…”

So there you go! Twelve simple tips that will help you avoid gaining weight during the winter holidays, but will also allow you to enjoy yourself and have a great time with your loved ones.

Happy Holidays everyone!

Featured photo credit: rawpixel via unsplash.com

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