My name is Natalie and I am originally from California, USA. I studied food and it is still one of my greatest hobbies. Yes, I consider food a hobby! I use my spare time to wander around markets, experiment in the kitchen, and research future meals. I also love to write, plan my next trip and explore new places.
I moved to Italy for graduate school and ended up staying. Because I studied food, it was important for me to find a place that has a very strong food culture and tradition. Italy fit the bill perfectly but I did not imagine then that I would end up staying here! About a month after I moved here, I met my now-husband.
Likes/dislikes about Rome?
Rome is the most beautiful city I have ever seen, but I really dislike how little the government invests in its upkeep. Trash piles take over and citizens are sometimes to apathetic to do anything about it.
Overall though, Italy is a great place to live. I like the cuisine and the culture, except for the culture of ‘furbo/a’ which celebrates being a bit tricky and getting away with taking advantage of someone.
I love the climate, which makes Rome an outdoor city for most of the year. This means that I can walk just about anywhere, which is great because I really really dislike public transportation here.
Has your life style changed since you moved to Rome?
Yes. 100%. I worry a lot less about “keeping up with Jones” to use an American expression. In Italy, there is a lot of personal confidence, but not a lot of bragging or showing off, which does happen a lot in America. I feel more relaxed in this kind of environment. My life has slowed down. I make time for coffee, long walks and elaborate meals. My FOMO (fear of missing out) has all but disappeared.
Also, I have so many vacation days! In the US, it is standard to get 2 weeks per year and use those primarily around Christmas to see family and maybe fore 1 week in the summer. Now I have a month off! Plus state holidays! It is amazing and so much better for work-life balance.
What is the the first thing you do when you go back to your home country?
Hug my mother and then ask her to drive me to my favorite Mexican place so I can eat tacos.
Does Italy seem multicultural?
No. This is one thing that I wish I could change. Italy can be very insular, and there is a distrust of people who are not from Italy, or even from a specific city in Italy, or a neighborhood. There is not a lot of celebration of other cultures, and this is only getting worse with the ongoing refugee crisis.
Do you feel yourself integrated?
Yes and no. I feel that Rome is home now, which means I must have integrated. Yet, I also feel a bit apart from Rome. I exist as an expat, but I know this city so well. It is not the same as having been raised in Italy, but it still matters because it means I have made a conscious decision to build my life here.
Could you tell me a few words about your blog?
I struggled to find information about life in Rome when I first moved here. My Italian was pretty poor and helpful resources in English were hard to come by. Moving to Italy was a shock, in the best possible way, so I wanted to document that while also trying to share some of my favorite tips and tricks for this gorgeous city. That’s how an American in Rome was born!
Have you ever experienced any cases of discrimination/racism in Italy?
Most Italians assume I am either American or German on sight, and I have been called a straniera (foreigner) more times than I can count. Most of the time, ‘straniera’ is just an observation, but I have been called it in a derogatory sense a few times which is hurtful. However, I am fully aware of how easy I have it and I have sadly witnessed many cases of discrimination against others. My sense and my hope is that this is changing slowly but surely.
An advice to a new expat in Rome? 😉
Don’t hesitate. Rome is not an easy city, it makes you work it. Nothing is clear cut or straightforward but that is part of the game so embrace it! Learn as much Italian as you can and then dive in.