Please tell us a little bit about yourself. Who you are, where you come from, when you moved to Italy, etc.
I’m originally from a small hamlet on the Northants/Leicestershire border in the UK. I left Britain when I was 18 in order to move to Spain (Mallorca) for the summer to learn Spanish, but never quite got round to coming back. After eight years and four different Spanish cities, I moved to Southern France where I worked in Monaco and lived in a small village near the Italian border for about five years. I then spent a couple of years travelling and working in various different countries following the death of my father in 2008, before finally moving to Italy in March 2010.
When and why did you decide to start blogging about your experiences?
I began blogging when I reached Italy primarily to hone my writing skills and to get into the habit of writing regularly. But as someone who has always been fascinated by the descriptive powers of the written word, I have found it a wonderful outlet for the accounts of situations, anecdotes and opinions that are constantly floating (unbidden) around my mind.
I have written books about my experiences in Spain and France, but blogging gives me enormous pleasure because it allows me to document things as they happen, hopefully providing an interesting insight for my readers as well as keeping memories fresh for me.
Do you have any favorite blog entries of yours?
The funny thing about blogging, and I don’t think I am alone in feeling this, is that the posts you the writer are most proud of, are often not those that garner the best reader response. It can be frustrating, but the writing is in itself cathartic, so sometimes that just has to be enough.
One of my favorite posts is this one because it never fails to remind me of those exciting first months of discovery when I moved to my Italian village, but I also very much enjoy writing posts like this on language acquisition; a subject very close to my heart.
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?
Every country I have lived in has been slightly different, but having moved about so much, I have learnt to become more adaptable – those first few months in a new country are always the most fabulous as far as I’m concerned. The challenges involved with learning the language, fitting in and getting some sort of work-life up and running are what have spurred me on over the years to keep flitting about.
My life in Italy differs from my previous experiences primarily in that I am working for myself, from home, and that part of my livelihood now comes from my writing – a dream come true on so many levels.
Do you think you were fully prepared for what awaited you in Italy? If you could, would you change some decisions/preparations you made?
Spain prepared me for Italy in a lot of ways. Those things that most frustrate and baffle people from Northern Europe – bad timekeeping, inefficiency, aggressive driving, aggressive queuing and so forth, are characteristics that can be found in both countries and I am certainly a lot more laid back this time round!
But Spain also prepared for the positive things; generosity of spirit, joie de vivre, family values and a humorous outlook on life… although I would say that Italy has certainly surpassed my expectations.
I can think of nothing I would have done differently, except perhaps develop my freelance career a little earlier to avoid three appalling months working for the least professional company in the whole of Liguria!
Every expat knows that expat life comes with some hilarious anecdotes and funny experiences. Care to share one with us?
My life in Italy so far simply brims with anecdotes; the group of little old ladies in their eighties who set out for a long walk every day, rain or shine; the many hours spent chasing my own tail inside Italy’s bureaucratic machine; acting as taxi driver for an elderly Italian neighbour to his hospital appointment but then being asked by the nurse to make sure he understands all the hip-replacement terminology she is spouting – in Italian…
And so it goes on, but the best would have to be the day I drove through an Italian village and stopped for coffee. Having been looking for rental accommodation for some time and not finding anything cheap or rural enough, I just happened to ask the barman if he knew of anywhere in that particular village. It turned out that his mother had a small apartment to rent, and within half an hour it was my new home. Luckily for me, it also turned out that she was the mayor – Italy is certainly a country in which it pays to make contacts!
Which three tips would you like to give future expats before they embark on their new life in Italy?
How is the expat community in Italy? Did you have a hard time finding like-minded people or fellow expats?
I have never been very involved with the English-speaking expat communities in any of the places in which I have lived. One reason for that is that I travel primarily for linguistic and cultural reasons; deliberately spending time with Anglophones does not really facilitate finding a niche in the local community and certainly hinders the acquisition of a new language.
Another reason could well be that many of the places in which I have lived attract ex-pats of retirement age, so not really the demographic I would be drawn to as I am still ‘only’ thirty-five.
How would you summarize your expat life in Italy in a single, catchy sentence?
After many years of wondering and wandering, I have finally come home.