Happy Wednesday friends and fam! I thought I would do a little post today on the difficulties of living abroad. Whenever you move into a new place, the first several months are spent in awe and wonder. Everything is exciting and new and an adventure. But after a bit of time, some of that novelty wears off and you find yourself looking for coat hangers…
Adapting to Abroad & the difficulties you may face, in no particular order:
#1: Buying groceries. I want to make it clear here that I actually enjoy buying groceries on a frequent basis because the grocery store here has lots of interesting things. However, the aisles are big enough for two small Italians side by side. And our grocery store is like a maze- you first wander into produce, come through fish and cereal, and then get into milk, cheese, salami, and your central aisles. Oh, you forgot something in produce and now you’re looking for salt (which is in the freezer section)? Good luck swimming upstream friend, good luck.
Fortunately, I’ve only made two minor mistakes when buying groceries: purchasing turkey instead of beef and buying thistles instead of celery. While the grocery store is great for learning foreign food words because everything is so visual, sometimes one food looks like another. Additionally, where you might anticipate finding things is not always where they’re located. Paper towel? Above the meat (and you’ve got to locate a hook type tool to get it down which can’t always be found). Diapers? Above the produce. Sugar? In the juice, beer, and water aisle. Breadcrumbs? No idea, still haven’t been able to locate those. And sometimes you find things like this, which make your shopping adventures all the more hilarious:
One more note about buying groceries before we move on…there are a TON of tiny markets in the area that sell specialty cheese, veggies, and fruits but that is where the language barrier comes into play my friends. Also remember we’re in Europe and while the metric system certainly does make more sense, it was not a primary part of our schooling. My basis for measurements currently centers around the kilo which I know is equivalent to 2.2 pounds (also helpful to know in the gym). How many fagiolini (green beans) would you like? Well, not a kilo for two people. How many grams is enough for two people? How do you say two handfuls? So many questions. And so many questioning looks. Cue the sweating.
#2: Transportation. Ah Italy and it’s public transportation system. While 85% of the time, it is terrific, that 15% it’s not will stand out in your head forever. There’s a delightful little movie that can explain this situation better than I ever could:
#3: Every day items. This situation of needing an every day item and not knowing where or how to locate it is perhaps the most difficult part of being abroad. Target, Bed, Bath & Beyond, and Christmas Tree Shop make our lives wonderfully easy. Everything you could possible need in one place. When Rich and I first arrived here, we needed more coat hangers. Challenge 1: figure out how to say coat hangers in Italian. Now repeat it back to yourself 30 times to make it stick in long term memory. Challenge 2: where to buy coat hangers. The little shop down the street? Hm, well, while they do sell solar-run bobble heads, welcome mats, school uniforms, and watering cans, nope, coat hangers are not among the random items in stock. The 99 cent store? Ah yes, sometimes they have them but today is not your lucky day. Can we just google it? Well, we can but as most of the tiny shops do not have their own websites, nothing comes up. Wandering and poking comes into play here friends. When you live abroad, try to observe as much as you can. Because that shop you passed yesterday on the bus that sells fancy recycling cans is also going to sell coat hangers. And new pans. And paint. Because this is Italy.
#4: Being far from your people. I love my people. And being around them as much as possible. And while Rich is my people and we both love having the opportunity to spend more time together during the week now, it’s hard being separated by a whole ocean from the other people you love. And airfare is expensive. And it’s really unfortunate someone hasn’t created some sort of teleportation device so we could just get to each other on a more regular basis.
Well friends & fam, there you have it: the short-long list of some of the challenges you face while living abroad. And while all of these challenges are delightful opportunities to activate some great problem solving and critical thinking skills, they also provide one excellent excuse for a glass of wine.