Navigating the Chills and Thrills of Culture Shock: My Italian Adventure

Published on 15 September 2023 at 09:23


Culture shock is an inevitable part of the expatriate experience. It's that bewildering feeling you get when the world you once knew collides with a new, unfamiliar one.  

I remember when I arrived in Italy. It was May, and my husband had told me to dress light because the weather was hot. I was expecting my own definition of hot (by Lagos standard), only to be met with a chilly 16°C. Thank God I had decided to dress formal – I had on a skirt suit, and though the jacket was light, it was better than nothing. This stark contrast to the climate I was accustomed to back home, where temperatures never dipped below 25°C, became a tangible reminder that culture shock isn't just about customs, language, or cuisine. It extends to the very air you breathe and the weather that surrounds you. 


**The Weather Whiplash** 

  Upon stepping off the plane in Italy, I anticipated the warm breeze and the gentle kiss of the Mediterranean sun on my skin. Instead, a crisp chill hung in the air. The weather was nothing like the postcard-perfect images of Italy that had fueled my imagination. 

 As I shivered in my light jacket, while waiting for my connection from Milan to Perugia, I couldn't help but wonder if I had misunderstood everything I had heard and read about Italy's climate. It turns out, I wasn't alone in my confusion. Many expats experience a weather-related culture shock when they move to a new country. We often underestimate how much our climate impacts our daily lives, from clothing choices to outdoor activities.   


**Weather and Identity** 

  Weather isn't just an everyday thing; it's deeply ingrained in our identities. Back in my tropical hometown, the weather was a constant presence. It influenced our lifestyles, the food we ate, and even our fashion choices. We practically dress the same way all year round. Even after many years of living in Italy, I’m still unable to get used to the seasonal change of wardrobe. Another thing I have realized in Italy, is that the weather is equally integral to the culture, but in an entirely different way. 

 I learnt that there were foods for every season. Also, dressing for each season especially the mid seasons (autumn and spring) is a lesson on its own. The culture shock wasn't just about adapting to the weather; it was about adapting to a new way of life. It was about becoming part of a society that celebrated each season for its unique offerings. 


**Embracing the Change** 

  As the days turned into weeks, I started to adapt. I began to appreciate the charm of Italy's weather, how it prompted locals and tourists alike to savour each moment. 

 Culture shock, it turns out, is a two-way street. Just as I was adjusting to Italy, Italy was adjusting to me. The weather, once my nemesis, became a bridge to connect with the people around me. I learned the Italian words for "beautiful day" and "rainy afternoon," and I shared stories with newfound friends about my homeland's year-round warmth. 


**The Bigger Picture** 

  My initial culture shock over the weather in Italy taught me a valuable lesson: culture is more than just what you see and hear—it's what you feel and experience. While customs and traditions are the most obvious markers of culture, climate and weather play a significant role as well. They shape our daily routines, our social interactions, and our overall sense of belonging. 

 In the end, culture shock is about embracing the unfamiliar and finding the beauty in the differences. It's about being open to new experiences, even if they come in the form of a surprise cold front in May. It's about recognizing that culture, like the weather, can change and evolve, and that's what makes the world such an exciting and diverse place. 



  My journey through culture shock in Italy began with a weather-related surprise, but it ultimately led me to a deeper understanding of the richness of Italian culture. It taught me that culture isn't confined to customs and traditions; it extends to the climate and the way people interact with it. The Italian weather, with all its quirks and surprises, became a symbol of my evolving connection to this beautiful country. So, whether you're adjusting to new temperatures, new cuisines, or new ways of life, remember that culture shock is an opportunity to grow, adapt, and appreciate the world's incredible diversity. 

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