Moving abroad can truly sign a turning point in your life, but getting adjusted to a new culture is never easy. “Patience, flexibility, and open-mindedness” are keys to a successful expat experience – say Lauren and Richard Barton, a lovely American couple who moved to Rome from Oregon in 2012. After 25 years in Portland working first in the telecommunication industry and later as a CFO, Richard, and in the FBI, Laurel, the Bartons started their Italian adventures. Mr and Ms Barton have shared bits and pieces of their life in Rome for all of our newly arrived and soon to be coming expat in Rome readers. When you have questions, always ask the pro’s!
What inspired you to move abroad?
We first traveled to Italy for our 25th wedding anniversary in 2010 and we fell in love with Italy and with travel. On our way home we were already planning a return trip in 2011! We came back for Christmas that year. Unbelievably, a job with Laurel’s agency came open in Rome, and she was lucky enough to be appointed to that position, allowing us to move here in May of 2012. We both worked at the American Embassy for three years.
When our tour-of-duty was up, we weren’t ready to go back yet. Although we miss family and friends, we were not done traveling and living here, plus we are still working on learning Italian! So we retired in May, 2015, and decided to apply for a visa and stay in Rome with our two elderly cats. We just received our Permessi di soggiorno in November.
Which would be the top three personality traits for a successful expat experience?
Flexibility, because you have to adapt constantly;
Patience, because you never know what is going to happen;
Have an open mind and understand things are not going to be like they are “at home.”
Is there any trait you still find odd or funny in Italians?
That’s a loaded question! We like the Italian people very much and find them warm, kind and generous, but we are often mystified by how they walk down the street and take up the entire sidewalk, making it hard to get around them! There is no tendency to keep right when walking, as we tend to do in the U.S. and in much of Europe. All of our visitors comment on this too! And people walk out of shops without looking where they are going, sometimes running into you. It’s very perplexing!
What is your favorite, non-touristy, spot in Rome?
There isn’t really one place. We enjoy the off-beat museums and parks, like Villa Torlonia, Palazzo Braschi, or hiking up Monte Mario. And we are still discovering little corners of Rome and new-to-us restaurants. We consider a restaurant to be non-touristy if we are forced to speak Italian and there are no other native English speakers present.
Mediterranean diet is known to be healthy, but all this Italian food around can be challenging for a newcomer. Do you have any suggestions for expats on how to keep healthy in Rome?
We have been quick to adopt many facets of the Mediterranean diet. We eat more vegetables here, use fewer spices because the food tastes better, and we have added a lot of legumes to our diet. We shop nearly every day, which is unusual in America. We also eat less meat, overall, than we used to in the U.S. We like pasta but we do not eat it too often and we no longer use butter. We do love the wine, as well!
As a result of our change in diet and the amount of exercise we get walking in Rome, we have both lost quite a bit of weight. We do not own a car, so we walk 7 or 8 kilometers a day. That helps!
What do you miss most of your country of origin?
Family and friends, of course, and really understanding the news, the culture, and what is going on around us all of the time. We are still working on learning Italian, and it is challenging to absorb information in a foreign language.
What is your single most important recommendation to any soon-to-be expat in Rome?
Be open-minded and also, learn Italian! The language is terribly important and being open to new ways of doing things is essential to assimilating. It does not help to compare “how we do it at home” to the way something is done here. And we have found things that Italy does far better than the U.S.
If like us, you wish to know more about the Roman experience of Richard and Laurel Barton follow their blogs, guaranteed to be useful and entertaining:
Stay with us for more precious advice provided by our expat community in Rome!!