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  • Writer's pictureMark Tedesco

Our Italian Adventure: Managing Expectations in Italy

PART 85: It might be interesting to share how we pulled off living in Italy for part of the year. I will post some steps and what we are learning along the way.

We love every minute of it, and what was once a dream is our life!

We live in Tuscany in the Fall, then back again in the Spring, and in California for the rest of the time (in a previous blog, I explained why we live in Italy only part of the year).

Step 1: As we settle into our life in Italy, sometimes our cultural backgrounds influence our experiences, and we may even find ourselves complaining that life in Italy is not unfolding as expected. This week, let's explore managing our expectations.

Step 2: Expectations are a part of our daily lives. Once we become used to something, we often come to expect it. For instance, I expect my local supermarket to be open late, my gym to be open every day of the week, and my local Costco to stock the large bulk items I need. Similarly, I expect quick and courteous service when I visit a government or county office. I anticipate fast, accurate, and timely service in any transaction or human exchange.

Step 3: Cultural differences and appreciation

Carrying expectations from my culture to life in Italy can damage the joy of the adventure and disrupt one's time living in another country.

In my previous blog posts, I have shared some examples of the "ugly American" behavior that I have either witnessed or been a part of. Using one's own culture, food, or viewpoint as the standard to evaluate another culture, people, or country reinforces the ugly stereotype of someone who believes that they are always right and everyone else is wrong.

We may have all encountered people like that, and we know how unpleasant it can be to be around such people. So, how can we avoid becoming an "Ugly Whatever"? The answer is to manage our expectations.

Step 4: Steps to managing expectations

When I moved to Italy, I quickly realized that different doesn't necessarily mean better or worse. Just because someone in another country drives, cooks, speaks, or behaves differently from what I am used to, it does not mean that my way is superior. It is just different.

The second step was to learn from the Italian culture. Most of my local friends are spontaneous. They would suggest going out for pizza and figure out the details later. I, on the other hand, usually prefer to plan ahead of time. However, I have come to appreciate the importance of relationships over schedules.

The third step was to recognize that sometimes other cultures do things better than my own. For instance, when I first moved to Rome, I was frustrated by the time it took to shop for groceries. I couldn't understand why people went to different shops for different items instead of doing everything in one go at a supermarket. However, I have come to appreciate the quality of food and the relationships one forms by shopping at small, local stores.

The fourth step was accepting that some cultural practices are imperfect, and I needed to learn how to work within the system. The bureaucracy involved in getting things done or improved at a government agency in Italy can be challenging. However, developing relationships with locals and learning to navigate the system has helped me get things done.

Step 5: Letting go

Letting go of expectations can be liberating.

Sometimes, tasks that were meant to be completed within three days, end up taking ten days instead. It's up to me whether I get frustrated by this or accept it as part of the adventure.

When I immerse myself in a different culture without judging it from my own perspective, I open myself up to new experiences.

A fascinating religious procession, an ancient cultural festival, or a celebration of a historical event can become things that I no longer experience as a spectator but as a participant.

However, this is only possible if I let go of my expectations.

More next time.

Now on sale for $2.99: My book is "Stories from Puglia: Two Californians in Southern Italy." Amazon US:

Amazon Italy- my book "Lei mi ha sedotto. Una storia d'amore con Roma":

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Apr 08
Rated 5 out of 5 stars.

nicely written and good advice.


Apr 08

Ciao, thank you for your insight and stories. We are also a California couple on a similar journey. Recently purchased a place just on the other side of Monte Amiata from where you are, in a very small village in the Val d’Orcia.

Kindred spirits with many of the same experiences.

Thank you

Apr 09
Replying to

Mark, looking forward to that.


Apr 07

Letting go of preconceived ideas is vital if you want to enjoy life in Italy. It can be very frustrating (post office) but I can forgive it everything because of its incredible beauty.

Mark Tedesco
Mark Tedesco
Apr 07
Replying to

Thx for the comment. We can sabotage our experience of living in Italy if we only use our own cultural window.

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