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I've been debating back and forth on whether a tight knit expat community is really needed in Italy. I'm not at all involved in the huge community here in Florence. I probably only have one or two American friends here and although I sometimes get invited to various parties and get togethers I've never invested any time into befriending expats. One because they come and go so frequently and two because I live In Italy and I think it's better to invest my time in making Italian friends who help me to improve my language, more profoundly understand the culture and integrate into the community.

I think I am also always afraid of becoming what I call an expat groupie, a person who does everything to recreate their country of origin here in Italy. They barely speak Italian, they don't have any Italian friends, they hover around the military base or the international school and expat mommy groups that meet every week, Mexican or Hamburger dinners and Irish pubs.

Lately though since I started my own blog (movingtoflorence) and have been using forums such as this one to get the word out I've found that there is an element of the expat community that I've been missing out on, the networking and shared experiences.

My question is... what's the right balance and how did you find it. It can't be either my extreme shunning of everything and everyone American or the other that bothers me so much of completely recreating your country of origin.
 

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We might want to think about moving this into the General Expat discussion area, since it's a topic that isn't at all exclusive to expats in Italy.

I lived in Germany for a while, where there was only one English language expat group - and it was mostly Brits. I stayed away from it for a while, but finally got involved shortly before I moved. Ultimately, I moved here to France, where there are lots of US and British expats and a number of US expat groups.

It was really nice to finally be able to socialize with other Americans after three years of relative isolation. But I got much the same sense you seem to have - a little put off by the idea that some people don't ever seem to have loosened the ties to the old country, even after 20 or 30 years of living in France. They still celebrate Thanksgiving, keep on top of politics in the US and seem to associate mostly with other Americans, although most of them speak very good French, many of them work with French people and in some cases are married to French.

For me, the right balance seems to be in the AVF group (a French newcomers group) I'm in right now. The association is actually designed to welcome newcomers to the area, whether French or foreigners. Because we are in an area with a university and several research institutes, we have lots of foreigners, coming and going all the time. And plenty of newly arrived French people from various parts of France, as well as newly retired people who have lived in the area all their lives, but suddenly find they know no one in town when they are no longer working.

Lately, there are fewer anglophones arriving in the area, so the mix of nationalities changes all the time. The group is itself about 80% French members, and 20% foreigners. I find it's really nice to have other foreigners with whom you can openly express doubts about the French or their ways, but also to get to know French people (many of whom have lived abroad themselves and who a bit more sensitive toward newcomers) at the same time.
Cheers,
Bev
 

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I've been debating back and forth on whether a tight knit expat community is really needed in Italy. I'm not at all involved in the huge community here in Florence. I probably only have one or two American friends here and although I sometimes get invited to various parties and get togethers I've never invested any time into befriending expats. One because they come and go so frequently and two because I live In Italy and I think it's better to invest my time in making Italian friends who help me to improve my language, more profoundly understand the culture and integrate into the community.

I think I am also always afraid of becoming what I call an expat groupie, a person who does everything to recreate their country of origin here in Italy. They barely speak Italian, they don't have any Italian friends, they hover around the military base or the international school and expat mommy groups that meet every week, Mexican or Hamburger dinners and Irish pubs.

Lately though since I started my own blog (movingtoflorence) and have been using forums such as this one to get the word out I've found that there is an element of the expat community that I've been missing out on, the networking and shared experiences.

My question is... what's the right balance and how did you find it. It can't be either my extreme shunning of everything and everyone American or the other that bothers me so much of completely recreating your country of origin.

As an American who wants to move to Italy, I think that one shouldn't move abroad to associate mostly with other expats from your country. Personally, I want to experience the culture and people that another country has to offer. I think striving for a balance that feels right to you is the way to go--it sounds like you would prefer to be more involved in the Italian life with a smattering of catching up occasionally with other expats. I would love to have this problem right now, but I can't seem to figure out how to negotiate some of the bureaucracy in moving, particularly around having a place in Italy before applying for a residency visa. Are you a student, or do you have Italian relatives? If neither, would you mind if I e-mailed you to ask a few questions about how you handled some of the obstacles? Thanks.

Sherry
 

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15 years ago there were few Brits near<snip> Now there are several families near me and I have gotten to know them a bit. Because I am an American, now I have the pleasure of getting to know two foreign cultures when I visit the area. So much the better.
 
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