Two Life Lessons for Expats in Italy

Damien O'Farrell
4 min readAug 31, 2022

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#1: Focus on Yourself

Everyone who moves to Italy is on their own unique journey. Some people will take a little bit more time to learn the language in comparison to others, and that is perfectly fine. What is important is that we invest ourselves as much as possible to create the best life we can in Italy.

Others, occasionally, will need some “treats” from their home country, and that is fine, too. Being away from family can be hard, even if it is by choice, so it can be nice to experience those memories from where we come from at times. Some people may not get all the cultural rules of Italy immediately, and that is also alright; it does not need to irritate or annoy us.

Everyone is entitled to an off day, and that is simply being human. Not everything in Italy will go your way all the time. The important thing is not to slide into constant moaning and complaining.

My motto has always been to try to live my best life possible in Italy. I realized a long time ago that I could not change sixty million Italians, so I decided to bend like the willow rather than resist like the oak. It’s amazing how life becomes much easier when you embrace rather than push back. This does not mean being passive, when assertiveness is called for, you need to draw on that.

Make yourself the focus and leave others alone unless it is to offer help or to be a wayshower for living as well as possible in Italy. Some people, unfortunately, don’t want to find solutions, and that is their right — but it’s also your right to choose if that is what you want to be surrounded by.

Life is short; do your best, help where you can, and know when you need to walk away.

#2: Who Are You Listening To?

Recently, on an expat forum, I saw an American lady being given completely wrong information, on how long she can stay in the Schengen area. Hopefully, she won’t listen to this advice and end up on the wrong side of the law, by being identified as an overstayer.

While I am obviously a fan of expat boards and groups, mainly because of the wonderful generosity shown by most of the members to share advice, tips, and encouragement, I would, however, like to point out that such platforms should never be interpreted or relied upon as solid, accurate professional or legal counsel. The information shared is normally of a general nature, and, as such, should not be applied to a specific situation without proper due diligence being carried out.

There is not a day that goes by that I don’t hear from an expat who went the do-it-yourself route and ended up with unexpected tax bills, immigration issues (one woman would not listen to me and is now banned from Schengen for two years), landlords who won’t give back the deposit, people left in very precarious situations when their relationship with an Italian broke down, and so on.

Early on in my life in Italy, I listened to the wrong person when it came to a referral and paid dearly — it took several years to resolve the problem. While one can do certain things on their own, when it comes to taxes, immigration compliance, and legal matters, please make sure that you protect yourself by hiring the right professionals. Believe me, it will be worth it in the end, and you will sleep much better.

If you require any case-specific assistance, please feel free to contact me www.damienofarrell.com

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Damien O'Farrell

Global Mobility Specialist and Expat Coach with thirty plus years’ experience in providing high-touch immigration, relocation, & coaching services in Italy.