Saturday, December 6, 2008

Playing for Pizza: The Little Things in Expat Life

I have just finished reading John Grisham's book entitled 'Playing for Pizza'. Not a lawyer in sight! Instead, this story is about an expatriate. More accurately, about an American moving to Italy to play football (by football I mean American football and not REAL football, otherwise known as soccer in the USA).

When you move to a new country, quite often it is the big changes you are prepared for, have planned for and thought about. Arrangements have usually been made for a new job, schools for the kids, a place to live in, the work permits and the travel bookings.

However, expat life throws up many more things to take care of once you are in your new location. 'Playing for Pizza' highlighted a few of the issues that maybe don't jump out when you think about a move to a different country. In this case, the experiences are from the point of view of an American moving to Italy, but they are relevant to a much wider audience, regardless of host or home country.

  • Using a new currency - ditching familiar dollars for the Euro

  • Switching from gallons to litres when filling up your car with fuel

  • Driving a manual car when automatic has been the norm for your driving 'life'

  • Climbing into a much smaller car; the cars in Europe tend to be smaller than in the US

  • Shopping daily for fresh food instead of stocking up with cans, tins and bottles for the weekly grocery run

  • Fear of a native talking to you when you have no knowledge of the local language, and knowing they expect you to respond

  • Lack of geographical knowledge of the area

  • Different clothes fashion

  • Local traffic laws

  • Knowing the paperwork required to own and drive a car in your new destination
  • The legality of your driving licence in your new country
  • A different attitude to food and eating out; Italians take their time over their meals in restaurants. It is a real social event, and a world away from the fast food experience

I could list many examples from my own personal experience (I'll save that for another blog entry), just moving the short distance between England and the Netherlands, so I can imagine from further afield the small culture shocks and adjustments are sometimes more overwhelming than the large, obvious changes to life.

I would love to hear from you what 'little' change in your new country was difficult to deal with, or was the most surprising to you.

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