Georgette: Girl in Florence/Firenze 2.0
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Georgette fell in love with Florence during her time as an exchange student and made the big step to expat life soon after getting her degree. Her blog, Girl in Florence/Firenze 2.0, is part diary, part travel and city guide, and part review collection for wonderful foods and restaurants. But no matter the subject, it's always a great read!
Please tell us a little bit about yourself. Who you are, where you come from, when you moved to Italy, etc.
I was born and raised in San Antonio, Texas and somehow managed to end up in Los Angeles after high school and now hoping to live the rest of my life in beautiful Florence. I first came as a nervous and whimsical study abroad student and after a year back in Los Angeles finishing my degree and working, I felt the need to come back and explore the possibility of real life in Florence. I also met my boyfriend from Florence when I studied abroad and we are still together now.
When and why did you decide to start blogging about your experiences?
I first started blogging back in 2007 but my posts came out either as rants or political. As my life became more stable, finding work I enjoyed and figuring out the legal kinks, my blog reflected those changes in my writing style. Now I try and write posts that provide insider information for travelers or fellow expats and hopefully they can discover the city with as much enthusiasm as I continue to do.
Do you have any favorite blog entries of yours?
My favorite posts usually revolve around weekend activities in Italy and food. The vintage photo booth post was fun and I really loved sharing my love for hiking as a version of free therapy. Berlin was also a favorite, it ended up being a little long, but I couldn’t help myself since I feel Berlin is such an underrated destination.
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?
Italy is different than the USA in a myriad of ways. The cultural differences took time to work through, even things as little as getting the correct bureaucratic information, waiting in line, calling my cell operator, or trying to find a job. I had to learn the art of waiting, being patient and most importantly learn the language. I did experience culture shock but as soon as I started to learn Italian, stop comparing, and accept that I was going to make mistakes, life was easier.
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 you can ever be truly prepared. When I first came abroad, I didn’t have the highest expectations and in a way that has made me a happier person. I didn’t come expecting to skip on cobblestones and restore an ancient villa. I knew it was going to be hard which made me very grateful for the people who took the time to help me and of course my boyfriend’s family. I don’t think I would have changed anything but may have saved more money. Italy can be expensive.
Every expat knows that expat life comes with some hilarious anecdotes and funny experiences. Care to share one with us?
Once during a job interview in Italian, the person interviewing me asked me how I get around town (whether I have a car, take the bus etc). I didn’t understand what he had said but I answered instead saying “yes the weather is great today isn’t it”, obviously he was bewildered and needless to say I didn’t get the job. My boyfriend was waiting for me in outside the office and could barely contain his laughter. I was so embarrassed!
Which three tips would you like to give future expats before they embark on their new life in Italy?
- Learn Italian, almost all the frustrations you have can be resolved/improved if you can communicate effectively in the native language.
- Be humble and don’t constantly compare your country with your adopted one. Find out what your good at and use it to explore new jobs. Join expat groups or language tandems to meet new people and get potential job leads.
- Be prepared financially, Italy is not normally the kind of place to come and make a fortune out of nothing. Save money, or come on a student visa which allows you to work part-time.
How is the expat community in Italy? Did you have a hard time finding like-minded people or fellow expats?
The expat community in Italy is thriving. There are many Americans, Brits and Europeans living in Florence alone and it’s easy to meet people. When I first came, I definitely struggled because I didn’t know where to go; I had no internet and relied a lot on my boyfriend. Now there are so many expat groups around town that I never feel lonely. Even through babysitting, I have been very lucky to find lifelong friends and people who are family to me here. We organize hikes, wine nights, share books and recipes. They are a big part of my life in Firenze.
How would you summarize your expat life in Italy in a single, catchy sentence?
Constantly curious and devouring culture, passion, travels with a few plates of pasta and a glass of vino in between.