Life in Italy – How Not to Lose Your Mind

“Wow, you live in Italy? That must be such a dream life!”

“Why on earth have you moved to Italy from the land of perfection Holland?

Two things I hear often; the first from people who don’t live in Italy, but love it, the second from people who live here and hate it. They are both not true, at least not for me.

One thing I understood from making a rash decision of “moving to Berlin” after six years of life in Florence is that how you experience a place has everything to do with you, and not so much with the place itself.

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Me in Berlin

Before I got to that point where I was so sick and tired of that tiny little town of Florence I had spent five years with someone who mentioned he hated Florence at least once a day. Six years before I had come to Florence because I loved it, which I also said every day. Getting negative input on a daily basis from someone you love colours your vison, whether you like it or not. Then, the negative experience of a relationship mismatch also colours your vision. Everything that was once light, fun and crystal clear becomes heavy, dark and blurry.

Breaking away from that relationship, moving away for a month to Berlin (essentially the opposite of Florence), coming back and seeing clearly again, I realised that everything I was looking for I already had right in front of me: Florence.

She hadn’t changed, I had.

And so in order to not lose your mind in Italy, you shouldn’t lose your mind in general. If you make Italy responsible for your happiness, then you’ll end up blaming it for everything that goes wrong in your life, while actually it’s just a country that you decided to move to.

It’s like making your partner responsible for your happiness; another very tricky one.

What you see around you is a reflection of yourself. If you see crap everywhere, fat chance you’re feeling rather crappy yourself. If you see how beautiful the city looks, fat chance you feel really great about yourself. It’s like when you’re in love; everything is just meravigliosoooo! Whether, when you’re suffering from heartbreak, you want everyone around you to just f*ck off.

So, keeping your head above water in Italy is all about keeping yourself afloat. Once you’re strong, once you have a solid base, once you have yourself to fall back on, anything can come your way. Even the questura, visa issues, loneliness, cold pasta, flooded bathrooms, weird in-laws, bizarrely long queues and non-existent public transport.

But how does one do that? Here are five tips from a life coach about, well, life :)

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Me at my dream home in Florence

Stay True to Yourself

It is sooooooooooooooooooooooo easy to fall for someone, to start hanging out with people or to do things that aren’t really you when you’ve just moved to a new country. Loneliness is a very normal and inevitable emotion that you’ll encounter on your adventure abroad and it’s very tempting to fill that empty hole up with whatever comes your way.

In the first months of my time here in Florence I dated a very friendly, but actually very unstable Brazilian market vendor and I was best friends with a seemingly lovely, but actually extremely narcissistic Swedish woman. I found out at a later stage obviously, but had I checked in with myself more, I might have caught the signs earlier and wouldn’t have been left heartbroken by either of them.

Stay in Touch With Home

Yes, I understand: you’ve come here and you want to leave the old you behind, and everything that pertains to that. After two weeks your family might want to know how you’re doing, though. After a month you’ll be grateful you told them when the first signs of: “what the hell am I doing here?” start popping up and you desperately need someone to talk to.

Your family back home might not be as adventurous as you are, but they do know you way longer than all the new fun people you’ve just met here and being able to literally touch base with them occasionally helps you stay rooted, feel safe and know that you can always count on them if you need to. It’s like your own little safety net hanging there just in case.

Be There for Yourself

I remember thinking to myself: “I’m here now, I need to make it on my own and I shouldn’t complain about hard times at all. This was my decision after all and I’ll make it happen, being strong and confident at all times.”

Changing countries is very shocking to your nervous system. Being constantly challenged to express yourself in a foreign language is very tiring. Being blissfully happy because of your new life is also stressful in a sense. Everything is new, different and very impactful. Having the occasional breakdown, physical ailments or feelings of overwhelm is totally normal and accepting yourself for it is the easiest way through. Be kind to yourself and see how you could make life easier for yourself in these yes, wonderful, but also challenging times.

Life coach Florence

The YES Woman meet up in Florence

Reach Out

Share, speak up and don’t hide your struggle. We’re all in the same boat. Women in my Facebook group The YES Woman know exactly what you’re going through so come to the meet ups (see photo above, looks like fun, right?!), reach out to the ladies in the group or share your story.

Another way of making life easier is allowing yourself to get coaching. In my one-to-one sessions I guide my clients towards creating a more fulfilling, stable and happy existence in Italy by consciously working on themselves and their personal blocks. Being able to share your struggle with someone who’s there for you, who knows what you’re going through and can help you find solutions to your problems is really invaluable. Read more about my coaching package here or feel free to schedule a chat so we can talk.

Do What Makes You Happy

So cliché, so true. If you expect your life to be one happy bubble just because you’re living in Italy, then you’re basically setting yourself up for disaster. Life is life, wherever you are. So make sure you do things that have always made you happy. Think of hobbies like dance classes, yoga (great for language learning since you really need to understand to stay standing!), painting, wine tasting, running, singing, horse riding; whatever made you happy back home will also make you happy here. I have some great contacts and tips for all of these activities in Florence, so feel free to reach out and I’ll help you get all set.

Long story short:  Italy won’t make you happy, you fully living it will.

Let me know if it resonates and if you have any other top tips for staying sane in Italy!

Love & courage,

Sophie

P.S. Would you like to move to Florence, or another fabulous place in Italy, but feel a bit overwhelmed by the bigness of it all? Do the logistics scare you? Would you like to know how to go about studying the language? Are you curious to find out what life is really like here? Are you looking for guidance, tips & tricks and someone to fall back on when doubts pop up? Please, check out my brand new programme Take the Leap to Florence and see if this is right match for you!

take the leap to Florence

Photos: Christine Juette 

2 comments

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I am excited & terrified for the LEAP! I have heard “if something terrifies you that you should probably do it.” A delicate balance for sure. This article is incredibly timely on My Birthday. I have already found a horse riding facility in Sicily. Our entire conversation has been in Italian so far. I don’t know if they have figured out I have been using Google Translate 😝

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Yes, yes, yes!!! When something scares you it means that you deeply care about it, like I explain in this mini guide: Set Yourself Free from Fear Maybe it can be useful for you while taking your leap! Good luck in Sicily and let me know when you’re around in Tuscany! XO from Florence, Sophie

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