I read this article today about the five crucial mistakes expats make in Italy and though I understand the point the author is making, I can't say I agree with her 100%.
I personally don't think there is anything wrong with trying to better the place you live in as a native or an expat- be it your building, your block, your neighborhood, your city, and so on. Actually, more people should start speaking up and taking an active part in bettering the world.
Problems with littering and bad customer service shouldn't just be brushed off as unlovable aspects of Rome, they are things that can be changed! If you see a heathen toss his/her litter on the street, you should say something. You'll probably be told off, but so what? Maybe, just maybe, some of your words might stick and the heathen will think twice before littering - if anything, only out of fear of being publicly shamed again. Any civilized Italian would speak up (yes, I can assure you there are lots of Italians who do!), so I don't see why an expat should feel it's wrong to do so. Same holds true for bad customer service- you should file complaints, write letters/emails when service is shady instead of just thinking "Oh well, I'm in Italy". I for one have written lots of letters to companies and even state agencies, and I have seen some positive results. I've even had companies thank me for my constructive criticism because it helped them build a better business and/or offer better customer service. I can't say it happens all the time, but it's worth 5-10 minutes of my time to try and make a difference.
So does this make me an expat who's not well-adjusted? I don't think so... if anything, it makes me a good "Roman" who is trying to better the place she has chosen to live in. Italy, and more specifically Rome, is stagnating because too many people have been chanting that passive Italian mantra "che ci vuoi fare" for far too long. It's much easier to say that than to actually find viable ways to help improve your surroundings. If we were all to adapt that "you’re not going to change Italy" attitude, organizations like Retake Rome would never exist. Expat Rebecca Spitzmiller would've just said "Oh well, Rome is dirty, I can't change it"... but she can and she is!
So while I do realize there are limits as to what we expats can do in our adopted cities, I think it is important for us to maintain our civic-mindedness and to do what we can to better Rome without being accused of being idealistic foreigners.