It’s been 1 & 1/2 months in a captivating and memorable city of history and sunshine. As I have been adjusting to a new routine and culture, Rome itself has been adjusting (slowly because it’s still deliciously warm for my British blood) to Autumn’s entrance. In this article I’ll delve into 7 of the ways I’ve transitioned smoothly whilst settling in here during my first few weeks from September 14th – onwards!
Before I unleash my top 7, here’s some context about my experiences so far: I have a very famous neighbour who lives down the road, you may have heard of him- the Pope? I’ve begun a new job, (working as an Au Pair for a very welcoming family and will publish more articles for those interested in Au Pair work), I’ve made many new friends, seen some sights, tried new food and joined a language school. It’s safe to say I feel very content! It helps that I have a balcony connected to my bedroom and each morning I can go out there, enjoy some coffee and fill my head with fresh ideas for my writing: whether that’s this blog or my novel I’m working on- because in the mornings I’m free. On weekends when I don’t have Au Pair work either, I wake up and look out at the city skyline, do some yoga stretches and look forward to adventures with new friends.
1) Trying to Learn the Language – the key word here is trying! I certainly struggle at times particularly because locals speak very quickly, often like a machine gun! Yet I’m picking up words, phrases and practising pronunciation. Even just walking around and ordering a coffee or looking at signs in shop windows slowly immerses me more and more each day. Italian is a beautifully sounding language, that rolls off the tongue and drifts harmoniously through the streets of Rome. I’ve chosen to part with some cash and spend some money on lessons at the UNESCO certified language school- Dante Alighieri- which has been around for hundreds of years and is in a decadent mansion building in the historical centre. (See image below). I’ve been starting with the basics two mornings a week, surrounded by American women, an Argentinian lady, a German lady, a Vietnamese lady and two Kenyan women. They are all a bit older than me, either because they’ve married Italians and now live in Rome- or they are here for work. Our teacher, Antonella is the funniest most energetic lady and is the perfect person to maintain my language learning attention for 2 hours on a Tuesday & Thursday morning. I also get in my daily practice on Duolingo too! So, I would definitely recommend some lessons so the grammar isn’t daunting and more importantly, you can order yourself coffee, prosecco or cake in any of the cute cafes dotted around Roma. Essential.
2) Utilising Social Media– here me out. Of course it’s unhealthy to use it too much but I’ve been using it to my advantage. However, I was not expecting the bombardment of messages I received when I posted on a Language Exchange Facebook page! In my first week I posted, I was expecting maybe 5 people to respond- anyone willing to show me around the city and help me improve my lingo. I would say I’ve had over 200 people message me. 75% of those have been older men…no thank you. Another 15% have lived too far away or don’t have the time. Then there were the remaining 10%… I’ve chosen to only connect with women for safety and so far I have two language buddies who I see pretty regularly. Chiara who is a Masters student studying International Relations & Economics- we went to a vintage fair in an old warehouse one Sunday in San Paolo which was pretty cool. Then Federica, who was an Au Pair in London a few years ago- now a language student, huge Harry Potter fan and very friendly girl who took me to a tapas bar near the Colosseum. There’s a couple more girls I might meet up with, when we have the time, but so far my current language buddies are brilliant.
So that’s how I used Facebook to my advantage. Secondly, I used Bumble BFF. Forget using Bumble for dating; friendship is what it’s all about! Set up a profile for yourself and let yourself connect with some new people! I now have 3 friends I see super regularly because of Bumble BFF- Demi an Austrian Au-Pair and Instagram pro, Dharam a language student and my regular lazy Sunday breakfast date and Alessia- the Italian version of me. Honestly! We like the same music, books, we both love tarot cards, fashion and dogs… she also has the sweetest family who have been so kind to me. They took me to some waterfalls one weekend which I will post an article about!
Thirdly, there is an Au Pair WhatsApp group which is regularly on fire with Au Pairs in Rome sharing useful information and arranging regular meet ups. Always good to have this on hand; with a group of 130 Au Pairs all able to converse and share similar experiences.
3) Doing some touristy things– the emphasis is on some! I’ve seen some sights- like walking past the Colosseum, the Trevi Fountain, the ruins in the centre (but not all), I’ve been inside the Pantheon, Borghese Art Gallery & Museum, the Non-Catholic graveyard where some of my favourite writers are buried and I’ve enjoyed the parks Villa Doria and Villa Borghese (which recently had a chocolate festival)- all just to get a flavour for the city. I have not booked any tours or been inside the Vatican. There are still many more museums, the Castel Sant Angelo, the Mouth of Truth…and much much more to fill up Georgia’s Journal with! Yet I’ve been conscious to get settled into a daily routine here because I’m not a tourist- I’m a new citizen.
4) I’ve been saying yes – because life is so much better with an open mind and saying yes can lead to great things. For instance, I said yes to going for a Saturday lunch with my host family’s extended family. It was an amazing lunch in the grandparent’s very Italian apartment and much red wine and pasta was enjoyed. I said yes to going to the waterfalls for the day with Alessia. I said yes to taking the two boys I look after trick or treating at Halloween and doing their spooky makeup. I’ve said yes to every Au Pair that has whatsapped me privately to hang out. Yes is a word that can do so much.
5) I’m learning how to say no – drawing boundaries is an art form. That I admit, I am appalling at. I’m good at the yes part but I’m not good at saying no- I struggle to voice to others that I’m tired, or after hanging out for 8 hours I would really like to go home and do some blogging…or Netflix watching. I’m a smiley, empathetic person and sometimes I do care too much. If a new friend is talking about her boy problems, or personal problems I’m not good at drawing a boundary. I seem to take other people’s problems as my own. I also don’t like drinking alcohol because it really doesn’t agree with me. I can enjoy one drink but I normally stop there, as alcohol gives me an awful headache straight away. So hanging out with new friends often means I say no to drinking a lot, or we go for coffee instead. But I’m learning. I’m learning it is not healthy to feel drained from the emotions of others, I’m learning it’s fine to not drink and socialise in other ways. It’s also okay to enjoy a glass of wine and not feel guilty about it, if I feel in the mood for it. It’s perfectly okay to do things I enjoy like curling up in a blanket with a book for the evening just to recharge and clear my mind.
6) Also enjoying time alone – similarly to what I said above, I’ve been giving myself permission to just be myself. Moving to Rome has been a fresh start and a chance to really get to know myself. After 3 years at university surrounded by people it’s nice to take a breather here. Even though on weekends I often spend it with others, weekday mornings before work, I don’t mind going for walks around the city, to take in the scenery, jot ideas and inspiration down in my notebook by myself. I regularly go for runs and listen to my downloaded Spotify podcasts out in the fresh air. I like to walk around with a hot chocolate and slow down time a little. Time by myself means I feel energised and I can be mesmerised by the architecture, food and culture. Self care and rejuvenation has never felt better.
7) Taking it slowly – a bit like a relationship, I’ve been playing it cool in my new city: to prevent a freak out! There is no need to rush anything because my Au Pair contract is until June. I know that in a few months time my friendships will be stronger, I will know my way around better and I’ll be confident speaking Italian. For now, I’m easing into the Roman life. With this calm outlook I haven’t really had culture shock, I’ve had zero tears and of course I miss my friends and family but thank goodness for wifi. Oh and my family have just got a new puppy, who I desperately want to stroke! My biggest homesickness however is that I really miss gravy. So if anyone could post over some Bistro cubes that would be great!
Do let me know if this anyone can relate to my experiences! Or how you were inspired to make that move to Rome, (or even just a short trip here) or to any another city you were dreaming of…
Ciao, Georgia x