Here are my two cents worth for any woman who is thinking of marrying an Italian:
A) Elope! Just kidding. Weddings are beautiful but you will find yourself caught up in a whole thread of nonsense no matter what country you get married in and to save your sanity and a lot of money I highly recommend this alternative.
B) Do not change your name! I’ve always had the misconception that Italians were very old-fashioned about names and therefore assumed that I would be taking my husband’s name. While in practice this can be the case, legally, I am and always will be Armstrong. But there’s more to this story that I feel compelled to share here because I think it may help.
I was married once before. I assumed my first husband’s name in Canada and never bothered to drop it in favour of my maiden name after my divorce. So in fact, my birth certificate shows my maiden name but every other document I had, including my passport was in my married name.
When I got remarried and submitted my documents here in Italy I had to go back to Canada and hire a lawyer to swear that I was the same person. Then I had to have all ten pages translated into Italian! In hindsight, it would have been simpler to change my passport and driver’s license back to my maiden name 😦
C) Always say yes to Mama, (it’s so much easier). Unless you are compromising your religious beliefs or sanity, the best way to handle your future mother-in-law is to just give her what she wants. Otherwise you will only pay for every “no” with a pound of flesh for the rest of your life. It’s really not worth it and besides, how long will the old crow live anyway?
D) Learn just enough Italian to get by but not enough to really know what they’re saying about you. Trust me, you really don’t want to know!
E) Practice lying. Italians have this down to an art form. I’m Catholic and Canadian, that is like a double whammy of guilt for every sin but in Italy it’s a means of survival. They love to play head games with you. For example: Fastweb called me and told me their computer system went down and so they needed my bank information again. I had in fact stopped payments because they owe me a lot of money and this was a trick to get me to resubmit payment authorization! I almost fell for it then came to my senses and realized it was a sneaky trick on the foreign girl. This example has a continuation that warrants its own post.
F) Stay home on Mondays. Nothing is open anyway and you will just drive yourself crazy trying to get stuff done on this day of the week so stay home, curl up on the couch with your cat and eat some gelato.
G) Let him pay. I know the modern woman in me had a real hard time with this at first but I have gotten used to it now. Italian men get embarrassed if you open your wallet and try to pay for something. It’s okay to offer it up later behind closed doors but for the love of God don’t do it in public. Perhaps the younger guys are not so bothered with this but my experience has been mostly with men in their 30’s and 40’s.
H) Forgive and forget. Italians don’t dwell on stuff. I once had a big fight with Mama and couldn’t sleep all night worrying about it. The next day I told her and she looked at me like I was a silly girl. “you’re family”, she said, so the fight was forgotten before dinner. I, on the other hand, hardly ate or slept and only put myself through needless stress. I have also found this to be true with my husband. We have a fight and then an hour later we are talking about what’s for dinner. I have really learned the art of ‘letting go’…but have yet to perfect it.
Obviously this list is personal and my experiences may not coincide with others. However, these are the lessons I have learned in the past 5 years and if even one nugget of information here helps or makes you chuckle then mission accomplished 😉