InterNations Featured Blog
Shauna's story is not that of an 'ordinary' expat: realizing that something was missing in her life in Calgary, Canada, she just decided to go for it and live her dream. After leading a fulfilling life as a mother of three - now adult - daughters and head of her own company, she packed her things and relocated to Florence. Her blog, italianliving1, is not only a creative outlet for her, but also a way of staying close to her loved ones back home.
Please tell us a little bit about yourself. Who you are, where you come from, when you moved to Italy, etc.
My name is Shauna MacDonald; I’m from Calgary, Canada. I moved to Florence Italy, in January 2010 for 3 months… I loved it, and decided to stay longer. I have an interior decorating company in my hometown, work for myself, and have the freedom to travel. I fell in love with Italy in 2004, on a six-week trip with 7 women. Living in Italy has been a dream of mine for as long as I can remember. Italy has not disappointed, as Italy rarely does. Surpassing my expectations, daily!
I have 3 grown daughters and 1 grandson. I’m exceedingly proud of them all. They keep me grounded in life and connected to Canada.
When and why did you decide to start blogging about your experiences?
On my flight to Italy from Calgary, I watched the movie Julie & Julia. It amused me to think that one day I would have enough experience to fill a blog. I’m not a writer, and after the movie ended, I never gave it another thought…just a movie, right? I was reluctant to share my life experience with those I do not know, as I’m a private woman. The blogging started when the stories took on a life of their own. It was a natural progression. Blogging is a convenient way to stay connected to family & friends, I never expected others would read my words. I continuously question if writing is something I want to do. However, when I’m not working on design, writing has become an outlet for my creativity.
An irritating limitation…my entire life, I’ve struggled with the written word, spelling, punctuation, and sentence structure. Perhaps this is my way of overcoming this childhood deficiency.
Do you have any favorite blog entries of yours?
Dreams, Gifts & Memories. It was a personal goal of mine to spend my Birthday in Italy, and this story was the realization of that dream. An unexpected bonus, I had a thoughtful gift, made with love, from my daughters.
Tell us about the ways your new life in Italy differs from that back home. Did you have trouble getting used to the new circumstances? Did you experience culture shock?
My life is completely different from Canada to Italy. I worked in Canada, had a circle of lifelong friends, family, events to attend, clients to deal with, a house of my own. In Italy, I’m alone, quiet, reflective, time to devote to myself, no responsibilities. I struggle with the language every single day. I’ve never studied a second language, I found school brutal. My teacher was proficient, I was not! As my stories attest, I’ve experienced countless moments of culture shock. The twist... I love culture shock, bask in it, welcome it. You’d be hard pressed to find me surrounded primarily with English speakers in Italy… I have that on any given day in Canada. Why would I search that out? Yes, I tire of constantly learning, listening, paying attention; however, that’s part of my journey, and I welcome it.
Do you think you were fully prepared for what awaited you in Italy? If you could, would you change some decisions/preparations you made?
I don’t think we are ever fully prepared for a life changing experience… I was one woman when I stepped off the plane; a new woman emerged from that day forward. One-self was not better than the other; however, I needed this for me. I would NEVER change the decision/experience of living in a foreign country. Any mistakes I made, perceived or real, give me the determination to fix it, repair it, or let it go…
Every expat knows that expat life comes with some hilarious anecdotes and funny experiences. Care to share one with us?
My blog post of ‘Resume for a first Date’. I see humor in most things, be it at the time, or eventually. It’s my defense mechanism for survival! Raising three children, you have to learn to laugh at yourself and life in general.
Which three tips would you like to give future expats before they embark on their new life in Italy?
- Have a back-up plan for everything.
- Keep meticulous notes on passwords, pin#, bank information, etc. Then have an extra copy, don’t rely on your computer, and don’t rely on your memory.
- Compensate the person you’ve asked to take care of little issues that come up at home. They have their own life filled with mundane details, show your appreciation… it’s more work than you, or they, know it will be.
How is the expat community in Italy? Did you have a hard time finding like-minded people or fellow expats?
I was fortunate to stay in a wonderful residence when I arrived, the owner took me under her wing, and she introduced me to my core group. Having said that, one does need to get out and ‘do’ things. Join groups, art, history, writing, dance, walking, hiking, whatever it is that interests you.
How would you summarize your expat life in Italy in a single, catchy sentence?
Breathe in…this moment…this experience.