Whenever I go back home to the U.S., I always have a piles and piles of mail that my mom collects for me and leaves in top dresser drawer of my room at home. While most of the time it’s junk – credit card companies inviting me to sign up for their program or newsletters from my university, usually asking for some kind of donation, I’ll also occasionally get nice cards from my aunt, wishing me a merry Christmas, happy Easter, happy birthday and so on.
However, this past August when I arrived home, I had several unexpected letters waiting for me among the pile and they weren’t nearly as nice as those from my dear aunt. I opened them one by one, only to discover that I owed more than $200 to the Rhode Island DMV office for vehicle registration fees.
How did this happen? I sold the car three years ago! I exclaimed. Why was I getting billed for a vehicle I didn’t own for the past two years?
The sad truth is that, even though I had sold the car and transferred its ownership, I had completely forgotten to cancel my vehicle registration in Rhode Island (I attended university there and had my car registered there for a few years). Sigh. The woes of moving abroad.
Of course, this was only one of the many things I wish I had remembered to do before moving abroad. As I’m sure many of you know, the Italy immigration process can be confusing if not chaotic due to disorganized bureaucratic processes and mounds of red tape.
While I know you can’t be prepared for everything (like the Italian Consulate telling you need yet again another copy of your passport even though you already gave them three) I can tell you one thing: had I remembered to do a few things before moving to Italy, my position on the immigration learning curve would have been much better.
HiFX, an international money exchange company, recently shared with me this amazing Emigration Checklist infographic. I can’t even tell you how much I wish I had had this handy checklist before I left: it’s full of useful reminders and things that you wouldn’t even imagine you need to do before moving, such as cancelling your newspaper subscription and collecting medical records from your doctor.
The list is truly wonderful and so full of great tips that I’ve decided to create my own list of 20 things I wish had done better before moving to Italy. After all, hindsight is 20/20!
Moving to Italy Hindsight: 20 Things I Wish I Had Done Better Before Moving to Italy
- Considered in more detail my visa/citizenship options first. If you are a non-EU citizen, research thoroughly the legal documents you need to work and remain in Italy. This is key, as you cannot move to Italy without proper legal documentation. To learn more about your options, check out this post So you want to move to Italy.
- Followed bloggers in Italy. There are so many great bloggers in Italy who write about their immigration experience. Find them and read everything you can from them. If there is a blogger in your city you might even want to contact them, as they can give you the specifics on where to go for all your documents and other helpful hints related to your city. This could save you literally hours of frustration. Check out ExpatsBlog.com for a full list of bloggers in your area.
- Learned some language basics, particularly phrases for making requests. Some useful phrases in Italian might be:
Lei potrebbe dirmi….?/Could you tell me…?
Vorrei…/I would like…
Salve…. /Hello… (formal form which should be used when addressing someone you do not know well)
La ringrazio tanto…/Thank you very much (formal)
- Canceled all subscriptions and registrations. This includes your vehicle’s registration, magazine/newspaper subscriptions, phone services, etc. Don’t do what I did or you’ll get hit with a massive bill!
- Set-up an emergency fund that you’ll have access to while abroad. For example, I kept my American checking and savings account, so that I could continue to earn interest from my savings account at home. Whenever I get money (usually in American dollars) for Christmas or my birthday, I just deposit it there and keep it in my savings. It’s comforting to know that I have this as a back up.Another good idea is to sign up for a travel rewards credit card. Sometimes banks offer this type of credit card in which you pay no international charges and you receive points or cash rewards for every purchase you make related to travel. While you might not want to continue to use this once you start earning money abroad, it could be something useful to have in the beginning for booking your flights and making large purchases. Just make sure you have plenty of money in your checking account so you can pay it off later on.
- Emergency contact in your home country. Give copies of important documents to someone you trust back at home. This way if you lose anything, you can always have them send you a copy. It’s also a good idea to give someone your flight information and where you’ll be staying once you arrive, just in case of an emergency.
- Established a communication method and a fixed time to contact friends and family back at home. This will help make sure you stay in touch, even if there is a big time zone difference.
- Downloaded useful apps, such as WhatsApp, Skype, XE Currency, Google Translate, World Lens, and ProntoTreno.
- Brought more electrical plug adapters. We live in a world of technology, so you can never have too many of these, particularly if you are bringing a lot of gadgets from home.
- Purchased an Italian MacBook and iPhone charger the first week I was here. I spent two and half years using a single plug adapter to charge my MacBook, phone, camera and flat iron. That means that if I wanted to use my flat iron and charge my phone at the same time, I was out of luck. My life would have been ten times saner had I just gone to the nearest Apple store and asked them for an Italian charger first.
- Made extra extra extra photocopies of all my important documents. I can’t tell you how much time I spent trying to find a copisteria the first few weeks I was in Italy so I could make a photocopy of my passport and other documents I needed to apply for my permit of stay card and residency.
- Packed a few holiday ingredients that are difficult to find in Italy, such as canned cranberry sauce, Jiffy cornbread mix, and peppermint extract. For my British roommate, her list included jarred minced meat, English tea, and marmite.Here some things I typically bring back with me from the U.S.:
- Brought cooking/baking tools such as measurement cups, tablespoons, and teaspoons. Since Italians use mostly weight metrics (grams, kilograms, etc…), having these on hand could be, well, handy.
- Made room for sentimental items such as photographs, favorite tea/coffee mug, and a few favorite books/films in English. This will make you feel more at home and ease any homesickness you have in the first few months.
- Packed less. Over half the items that I packed (mostly clothes) I ended up throwing away once I got here because I simply couldn’t carry them around anymore. You might have to move several times before finding a permanent apartment so better to pack light.
- Budgeted more. If I had simply saved up more money, I would have been able to pack less and purchase more once I got here. Why oh why did I buy leather boots from TJ Maxx instead of waiting to buy a pair of genuine Italian leather boots in Italy?
- Signed up for a mileage rewards program. If I had done that from the start, I probably would have had a free flight to Europe by now!
- Given myself more free time and budgeted more money to explore and travel when I initially got here. I had started working immediately, which left much travel time to be desired!
- Met more locals in the beginning. Signing up for conversation exchange groups or other common interest meetups is a great way to do this. If you’re on Instagram, look for your city’s nearest instagrammers group by searching #igers(YourCity) ex: #igersbologna.
- Organized my belongings at home better. For the first few years when I returned back home to visit friends and family, I had to spend a lot of time organizing and going through all my stuff I left at home. It drove me crazy, particularly because I had to waste so much precious time on items I didn’t even want anymore, when I could have been catching up with friends and family.
For other advice related to moving to Italy, head on over to my Moving to Italy page.