This week marked my eighth month in Italy as part of the Bachelor of Business – International. Experiencing life in a new country can be difficult – an unfamiliar environment, language, and procedures can all contribute to culture shock. To help you adjust, I’ve made a list of a few things which you may find useful during your first days in Italy, and possibly broader Europe.
Laundry and cooking
It might not be front and centre on exchange, but it has to be done!
When you’re shopping for laundry detergent, the most important thing to look out for is ‘detersivo’ (detergent) on the box. Don’t make the mistake of grabbing what looks most familiar and end up buying washing machine cleaner instead of detergent. (Good one, Paul). You might also need something to get out those ragù stains, in which case you’ll be looking for ‘smacchiatore’ (stain remover).
If you plan on cooking, try to avoid buying pots, pans, and utensils at the big-name supermarkets. There are several discount stores around. Search online and see what’s close by to you. Just make sure you’re buying the right kind of pot/pan for the stove top at your accommodation.
Red meat can be fairly expensive in Italy so you may struggle to come up with ideas for cheap cooking. Living off pizza and gelato might sound like a good idea, but it gets old (and expensive) pretty quickly. Trust me.
You might want to cook food which can be made and stored in large quantities as it’s cheaper and a convenient solution. Think meals like spaghetti Bolognese or chicken and rice with vegetables. If they have a cafeteria, your university might offer a meal plan. This could save you money in the long run and means you don’t need to make lunches every day.
At the checkout:
If you plan to avoid human contact during your grocery shopping, here are some useful phrases to know at the self-service checkout:
Pagare (or ‘paga’): to pay
Sacchetto: plastic bag
Totale di articoli: number of items
In my experience, lined notebooks are more expensive and harder to find. Where possible, try to bring as much stationery from Australia as you can. Pens, notebooks, a ruler… it’s all stuff you’ll need, but tends not to come to mind until you’re right at the start of the semester.
Winter is coming – clothing
Depending on which semester you’re arriving, you may need to buy some clothes better suited to the colder climate. Most of the familiar, large clothing stores are also in Italy along with many others, so it shouldn’t be hard to find what you need. If you’re studying in Milan, it can get quite rainy, so it’s a good idea to bring a pair of enclosed shoes and buy an umbrella once here. Other things to consider are a scarf, parka, warm jumpers, and long pants.
More things to consider:
Watch your money
It can be easy to fall into the trap of seeing ‘€2’ and still associating that with only being a little bit over $2. But at the time of writing this, €2 is worth $3.17. That adds up over time. If you’re on a tight budget, pay attention to what you’re paying in Aussie dollars. Keep a foreign exchange tab open on your phone – it might help you decide whether or not you really need un cono grande or if you can settle for un cono piccolo.
Learn the language!
If you get the chance, try to learn some Italian – and don’t forget your pleases (per favore) and thank yous (grazie). You won’t struggle to find at least basic English in Milan, but it’s still polite (and a good challenge) to try and learn basic Italian.
Here are some helpful phrases to tie you over until then (put them into an online translator for the correct pronunciation):
Scusa (informal)/scusi (formal) – Excuse me
Mi dispiace – I’m sorry
Permesso – Excuse me (when walking past people)
Quanto costa questo? – How much is this?
Dov’e’ il bagno? – Where is the toilet?
Parla l’inglese? – (Politely) Do you speak English?
Mi porta il conto per favore? – Can you bring me the bill please?
Try your best, don’t forget to study, and most importantly, have fun!
In bocca al lupo!