The 4 Personalities You Need As An Expat

written by Tiana Kai
Expat Personalities

Whatever the reason is that brought you to another country you’ve probably noticed yourself adapt to new situations and cultural differences in your new home that you’ve never had to experience before.

What did you do to not have a cultural meltdown? How did you try to avoid common problems suffered by expats? Which of your personalities rose above and kept you sane?

Expat personalities

As an expat for over a year now I’ve meet many female expats who’ve learned to somehow figure things out. In Italy the bureaucracy is a nightmare. Overcoming painstaking obstacles to become a resident or citizen or even to get paid on time is not for the weary.

This post reflects my ‘expat in Italy’ experiences, but would love to know your point of view even if you’re in a different country!

The Investigator

The Investigator Expat in Italy

even Jessica Fletcher from Murder, She Wrote takes a break with some wine, all the investigation can get so overwhelming!

In order to get your life together you have to do a lot of legwork before, during and after your arrival. You’ll never get a straight answer as to what to do next, where to go for which paperwork, whom to call when, etc. The path to living in a different country legally is a long bumpy road and everyone has their crazy story to tell.

You must investigate like crazy, become your own proper sleuth and look under every rock to make sure your paperwork is done correctly and in time. To not overstay your welcome you have to be your own attorney, be persistent with your inquiries and keep asking until you get the same answer twice!

This personality also comes in handy when figuring out which bank to use and even which cellphone company to sign up with.

The Organizer

Organized Expat in Italy

doesn’t she look so happy with all those papers perfectly organized?

Ah, the paperwork is a dream, isn’t it? We’ve all had to fiddle through papers and websites to understand exactly what’s needed. Are you married? Are you divorced? Are you a student? Have you committed a crime? (Actually, if you have let me know what the hell you did!)

You have to get all of your worn out ducks in a row and somehow act like you know what you’re doing. Being organized is one of the best personality traits. You know what you need when you need it, which of course can only happen once you’ve asked a million questions.

The Extrovert

Extroverted Expat in Italy

Florence Welch in Florence (how fitting) dancing with an umbrella in a fur coat is a pretty extroverted move. Photo found via TeLaDoIoFirenze

There’s no crying in baseball and definitely no crying as an expat. Ok, maybe a few tears of frustrations here and there, I’ll admit to that! However, this is the time to go out and meet people, learn new things and embrace your new life.

In my experience no one went out of their way for me, especially in the beginning. I reached out to many expats when I first moved to Florence and heard crickets from some. The close friends I’ve made here are heaven sent and hard to come by, both Americans and Italians.

Italians have told me that Florence is the worst place to make close friends, so imagine as an expat. You really have to take the bull by the horns.

The Joker

Joker Expat in Italy

what is this and what am I supposed to do with it?

At the end of the day you really have to have a sense of humor about all of this! I’ve read blogs where people end up crying at cell phone stores…and I’m one of them! It’s not easy to live somewhere with a new language, new rulesnew culture, new cuisine, etc.

I’m not saying that I laugh off everything and never get frustrated. I actually almost broke down the other day because I’ve been waiting for medical results for months. When I called they got irritated and said the results take time, but 3 months had already passed. When my husband called they said that they had the wrong address. Mamma mia! Still waiting…

Your turn! What personality do you think is most crucial for any expat in Italy, or anywhere for that matter!?

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Cat of Sunshine and Siestas October 21, 2013 at 11:09 am

I think I’m a combination of all of them – someone called me the Fairy Godmother of Seville once, and I’m always running around organizing meet-ups and helping with paperwork, while taking it all with a spoonful of sugar (which, clearly, we all need!).

Tiana Kai October 21, 2013 at 12:30 pm

Yes, we all do need a few spoonfuls! I like to think I would have been a better Organizer Expat if my husband didn’t help once I was at my wits’ end with getting a few things accomplished like getting my own bank account, cards and checks. The checks never arrived in the mail, of course!

Rick Zullo October 21, 2013 at 1:22 pm

I tend to be the “fly by the seat of your pants” type, closing one eye and trying hard to ignore the aggravating things for as long as possible. But then it catches up to you, of course, and you have to “recruit” one of the aforementioned personalities to get a few things done, or at least to face the issues–which leads to either: 1) banging your head against a wall; or 2) laughing it off. Wine helps in both scenarios.

Regarding friendships, I’ve also been told that Rome is the hardest place to make friends. On the surface, it’s very easy to meet people. But making true bonds is quite another thing. Unless you went to the same “asilo nido” and played with the same toys, it’s hard to insert yourself into a social group, no doubt.

Tiana Kai October 21, 2013 at 2:11 pm

Wine always helps! I’ve had some rough days when trying to plan my wedding and get a health card. I got mixed answers and people would send me to other people at different offices. My husband reminds me that people just pass you to others because they don’t know the answer or hey just don’t want to bother.

Haha, yes according to friends…no one knows me from elementary, so some people show me their backs. Being used to Miami where people are more open it was weird to not always give kisses hello AND goodbye. I still try to be my open self but can tell some people don’t have it in them to go out of their way to introduce themselves.

Not everyone is supposed to be buddy buddy, so I get it, but cold shoulders are so unnecessary although here it’s just the culture. Back home it looks ignorant, so I had to get over that quickly because some close Italian friends were like that to me in the beginning and now I love them! I love reading European blogs that make fun of how bubbly Americans are and how we complain when people aren’t nice. Guilty as charged. ;-o

Becky Padmore October 22, 2013 at 1:55 pm

This is so interesting as I mostly only ever travel through countries. I’ve only tried living in another country once and lots of things went pretty wrong, you’re right a sense of humour over trivial matters is really essential!

Tiana Kai October 22, 2013 at 2:21 pm

My friends who visit Italy only get to see the beauty, not always the shady underbelly. lol

Paige Miller October 22, 2013 at 7:51 pm

I love this and I agree with all four! So many people think that all you have to do to move abroad is be spontaneous, but they don’t realize that so much more goes into it behind the scenes. Being organized and investigative has made my life in Madrid run a lot smoother. But it doesn’t hurt that I’m always down to grab a vino with someone.

Tiana Kai October 22, 2013 at 9:19 pm

Yes, if our State-side friends only knew the hassles we go through.

I was thinking about adding the Wino Expat personality, since wine must be involved!

Lisa at Amalfi Blue October 22, 2013 at 9:32 pm

We’re probably all a bit of each type when setting forth into the unknown. As to communication issues….we are truly spoiled coming from the U.S. so after 3 yrs of torture and bad internet service in the south of Italy, I found the trick. I hunted down an avid gamer and asked him for a recommendation. It worked. Net service not an issue any longer 🙂

Tiana Kai October 23, 2013 at 11:10 am

Oh no, internet connection is a must!! Gamer to the rescue! Glad you are all set now. I’m not sure how I would have gotten some of the research done without a fast connection.

Anne October 23, 2013 at 2:28 pm

Adore this, Tiana! I think acquiring nice equal measures of each of these is what i’m aiming for at the moment. Whenever I feel those tears creeping up, I just grab the nearest bottle of wine, pour myself a copious glass, take a breath and then a sip (or gulp, depending on how big the problem is). That always seems to calm my inner expat goddess down 😉

Tiana Kai October 23, 2013 at 3:11 pm

Haha, cheers to that! We all need a glass of wine handy in times of distress, meaning living abroad. 😉

Georgette Jupe October 23, 2013 at 3:31 pm

Great great great post “There’s no crying in baseball and definitely no crying as an expat.”. I likely have undergone way too many personality changes living in the wonderfully complicated city that is Florence, Italy.

Tiana Kai October 23, 2013 at 4:13 pm

I bet you have, it’s not easy! Oh the stories you must have!

Jennifer Avventura October 23, 2013 at 3:46 pm

Hilarious post! I’ve been an expat in Sardinia for close to 6 years and like you, had to figure things out all by myself. There’s not a lot of English speakers in my town so making friends was impossible for the first two years, yes, two years!! The women stay knitted softly within their own folds, while they study you from behind dusty windows. I’ll be honest, I shed a lot of tears in my first few years here, it was the hardest thing I have ever done in my life, and I wouldn’t change it for the world. 🙂

Tiana Kai October 23, 2013 at 4:14 pm

Sounds difficult! The hard to make friends thing is rough. It always help to hang out with people who understand what you’re going through rather than people watching your every move. I feel the same way though, wouldn’t change it for the world! So many people never even leave the States for a vacation!

ciaojanice October 23, 2013 at 8:39 pm

I must say i have had it easy, so many nice friends here willing to lend a hand here and there. Restoring a 350 yr old stone ‘ruin’ had its major challenges! I would say that one needs patience more than any other personality trait. Things move slowly and not always efficiently (to say the least) and besides patience a realllly good sense of humor.

Tiana Kai October 24, 2013 at 10:42 am

Hi Janice, great point! Patience is a virtue that I at times lack. It is something important to keep in mind…that things do take time.

Lani October 29, 2013 at 2:43 am

Joker, definitely. Glad I found you on G+ >>>creative and clever post. Cheers!

Tiana Kai October 29, 2013 at 4:45 pm

Hi there Lani! Ha, I’m with you on the Joker, sometimes all you can do it laugh!

Chanel @ La Viajera Morena November 12, 2013 at 2:47 pm

I definitely agree with this list. I was an expat in Korea for two years and I definitely had to deal with all of these things. I would also say adjusting to the local culture.

Tiana Kai November 12, 2013 at 7:04 pm

You’re so right, the local culture can be a killer! Korea must have been something else, what a great experience!!

Sarah Lauren December 26, 2013 at 10:05 pm

This is a really good post! I think you need a little bit of all four to make it through a foreign country. I think the most crucial trait is probably patience the way you talk about the bureaucracy in Italy.

Tiana Kai December 31, 2013 at 12:33 am

Hi Sarah, yes a mix of both would be totally ideal! It’s not a smooth transition.

espresso&lace December 30, 2013 at 8:52 pm

such a cute blog topic… and so true! being an expat really does help you discover parts of you that you never knew, and challenges you everyday. this is why i love travelling!


Tiana Kai December 31, 2013 at 12:34 am

So true, travel brings out the best (and worst) in people. I find it fun to figure new things out and on the other hand patience is always something I can improve on!

Pasquale February 8, 2014 at 6:14 pm

I think I know the trick to enjoy life as an expat in Italy: forget rules! The trouble is that I’m Italian.

Tiana Kai February 9, 2014 at 6:49 pm

Being Italian explains your answer 😉

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