InterNations Featured Blog
Please tell us a little bit about yourself. Who you are, where you come from, when you moved to Italy, etc.
I was born in South Africa, moved to London in my early twenties and came to Italy as a single mother, with two sons and a ginger cat, when I was forty one. I’d fallen in love with Italy at twenty four and I knew if I waited any longer it would never happen.
When and why did you decide to start blogging about your experiences?
I started blogging in January 2009. I love where I live, I love taking photographs and writing and a blog is an excellent way of making sure that I notice things and record them.
Do you have any favorite blog entries of yours?
My sons are growing up faster than I was expecting and this early entry reminds me of life with two teenagers.
I expect a lot of bloggers like their most recent post best of all – this post sums up the fun side for me of small town life in Italy.
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?
I’d moved country before, but not language, so I was prepared for the sense of dislocation and mood swings that accompany such an enormous change. What I wasn’t prepared for was that all three of us would be so happy here. Learning a new language is exhausting but also exhilarating – learning to understand and communicate Italian has been a constant source of pleasure but even greater has been the pleasure of learning about a culture that I love from the inside.
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 moved here in difficult circumstances, leaving behind a long marriage and very secure life and I don’t think I could have prepared myself any more than I did. If I’d thought about it all too much perhaps I wouldn’t have done it, and that would have been a terrible loss.
Every expat knows that expat life comes with some hilarious anecdotes and funny experiences. Care to share one with us?
I started life here with a lot of builders, restoring my farmhouse, and they liked to begin the day with cappuccinos. The first time I went into the bar to fetch them I realized I didn’t know the word for takeaway. Luckily I spotted a sign outside, "Pizza al Taglio".
"Four cappucino al taglio," I said to the barista, and the hitherto noisy bar fell silent. Electricians, plumbers, lorry drivers and street workers stopped in mid sentence, mouths agape, staring at me. The barista frowned.
"You mean portare via?" he asked, without a trace of a smile. I nodded and a small sigh swept through the cafe before everyone went back to their conversations, coffees and brioche.
It was only as I drove away, four full cups precariously balanced in a cardboard box at my feet, that I realized that I'd asked for four slices of cappuccino.
Which three tips would you like to give future expats before they embark on their new life in Italy?
- Number one: learn Italian. Go to conversation classes, study grammar, watch films, and from the moment you arrive set up conversation exchange with as many people as possible.
- Number two: meeting people - rural Italy is filled with friendly loving people but they all have enough friends already. They don’t need you, but you need them, so be prepared to be bored stiff at dinners and lunches, but go out. Otherwise you won’t meet any Italians.
- Number three: dedicate time to getting to know the culture and the people. Think of it as a job. Join groups, find out about the art, go to concerts, immerse yourself in everything that is going on.
How is the expat community in Italy? Did you have a hard time finding like-minded people or fellow expats?
I’ve now married an Italian so my problem isn’t meeting people (where I live there are masses of friendly expats) but the challenge of finding enough expats who speak fluent Italian and want to move beyond socializing entirely with other foreigners.
How would you summarize your expat life in Italy in a single, catchy sentence?
I’m lucky to live in a place I love surrounded by people whose company I enjoy.