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Italians dreaming of living in America ?

I was in a fabric shop in Figline Valdarno with my wife and both of the ladies working there said they wished they could be in the USA. I scratched my head and wondered why. Asked them, reply was something about the gov and economy .which is ALL over the world. But they seemed to think it would be a better life in the USA

Posted by
11440 posts

Tv shows everyone in States lives in manisons with walk in closets and owns an SUV.

Posted by
11983 posts

Because they have no idea and, as Pat said, they get a distorted view from the Hollywood soap operas they see.
But once I tell my relatives the details, they don't envy us as much.
Few Italians know that most Americans only get 2 or 3 weeks of Paid Time Off a year. They get 5 weeks and up, and it doesn't include the unlimited sick time they get.
Italians have no concept of how much healthcare costs in America and that you can actually lose your life savings because of it. They have no idea how much elderly care costs, whether it's a caregiver or an assisted living facility. Since I have worked in healthcare (health insurance, Medicare, Hospital management) all my life and many of my relatives work in the Italian National Health Service as physicians or managers, we compare notes, and they are shocked.
For example in Italy a 24hr caregiver for your elderly parents will cost you less than 1000€ a month including benefits, plus living expenses, and the Italian National Health Service (SSN) will give you over 400€ (an "accompagnamento" subsidy) to help you pay for it. Try and get the same for your elderly parent in America.
They also have no idea how much higher education or child care costs for children in America. It's not free there, but ridiculously low, and on a sliding scale based on income.
They think Americans get the same government subsidized services and benefits they get, while at the same time paying lower income taxes. We do of course pay lower income taxes, but when I tell them how much my property tax is, they are shocked since there is no property tax in Italy on your residence home, only on your second homes, and it's ridiculously low anyhow (I know because I have to pay it there too). Grass is always greener on the other side of the fence (until you find out how much the neighbor is paying for landscaping).

Posted by
9454 posts

I have a couple of Italian friends who have lived in the U.S. One would return in a heartbeat if she could qualify to work. She thinks people are more honest than in Italy (probably true) and that things just work better, which I agree is true. We are far less bureaucratic in the U.S. and people tend really try to help you. In Italy it can be a challenge just to deposit a check at the bank. Don't get me started on utility companies and "service"! If one has the legal right to work, it is also easier to get a job in the U.S., although Italians do not by-and-large seem to understand at-will employment or unemployment compensation. And what Roberto said is so true: they don't understand taxation or health care realities. The cost of produce would drive them nuts!

The other friend respects our education system and thinks his kids should go to University in the U.S., but probably would not live there again. He does not want to -- nor does he -- live in Italy either. He has turned his back on Italy's ways and works abroad.

To leave Italy and to live somewhere else -- U.S., Australia, Abu Dhabi -- this is the desire of so many Italians I talk to.

Posted by
3846 posts

I guess for many - you want what is different. I rem our driver on the Amalfi Coast told us he lived in California (I believe is was LA) for a year and loved it...of course, how many people in California would give their right arm to live in Italy?

We hosted a couch surfer from Germany this weekend and she was saying how she'd love to move to Canada because there are so many wide open spaces (compared to where she has lived). Lots of trees, neighbours few and far between. I'd love to have a summer home in France or Italy.

Posted by
1700 posts

Salaries are lower on average in Italy
Unemployment is higher, especially for younger workers entering the job market.
US economy is the world's largest vs. Italy that is closer to a Greece like collapse than probably any other Eurozone nation.
Italy's population is shrinking and economy does not offer much growth opportunity.
And you are surprised???

I agree the grass always looks greener on the other side just like many Americans fancy living over there and can point to benefits the reality may not work out so well.

Posted by
11613 posts

A saying I heard often from Italians when I lived in Roma: "America li, America qui" (America there, America here). This was the time when the economy was better than it is now.

On the whole (including insurance, cost of living, employment opportunities and benefits, culture, history, crime), I'd rather be in Italy.

Posted by
11983 posts

Life is hard everywhere you live.
But overall international comparisons are very hard to make because there are too many variables at play.
In Italy net take home salaries are on average lower, primarily because of the high income and payroll taxes, but thanks to the government subsidized services, they pay very little for services, like education, healthcare, child care, elderly care, etc.
Their social security benefits are also more generous, also because of those higher taxes. For example in the US the Social Security tax (FICA tax), without the Medicare portion is 6.20% for the employer and the same is deducted from the employee (so 12.40% for both). In Italy it's 30%-35% (depending on category of workers), with over 2/3 payable by the employer.
Therefore in America take home salaries are higher for equal jobs, primarily thanks to the lower payroll and income taxes, but the cost of the above services is astronomical compared to what they pay there, and when we get old, our Soc. Sec. Benefits aren't as generous, therefore we need to save in other retirement vehicles, like 401k plans or private pension plans (often employer sponsored), while Italians don't need such investment vehicles because their State pension may be sufficient, and since their elderly care and healthcare costs are lower and heavily subsidized, they don't need to save as much (or buy long term insurance or even MediGap supplemental insurance) for those costs.
When we compare salaries, we also need to consider the purchasing power of the same, because the cost of living is not the same everywhere.
For example my salary is on average higher than my close friends in Florence, who also have business and economics degrees and have similar positions, but the overall cost of living is certainly higher here in the Bay Area than anywhere in Italy. The cost of real estate here in the Bay area ($600 to $1000 per soft for an apt condo depending on location) is more than double what it is in Florence (€3500-4000 per sqmt), and 3 or 4 times what it is in the Florence suburbs (about 2000€ per sqmt). Produce and generally food and beverage costs much more here than in Italy, in spite of a California being such a huge producer. I can't go to an Italian restaurant in California and spend less than $60 per person (with wine), that is at least 50% more than I would pay in Florence for an equivalent restaurant.
Internet and mobile phone costs are also generally higher in America, while car ownership costs are higher in Italy.
So when you take into account all variables, you will find it very difficult to draw conclusions on where life is better, at least financially. For sure people everywhere like to complain a lot, and think that life is always better elsewhere. Since I have family interests in both Italy and California, and sometimes I feel I live in both places at the same time, I haven't figured out yet where it's better or where it's worse. Haven't found Paradise yet, and for sure it's neither in Italy nor California. Any Canadians here who would like to tell me if I can find Paradise north of the border (maybe a colder Paradise)?

Posted by
1700 posts

Reality and dreaming are really 2 different things.
I imagine on average America offers more opportunity to become extremely well off, like one might dream about.
Don't know many who dream about government benefits provided to them but in reality it definitely can affect cost of living.

Posted by
3846 posts

Canada IS paradise! ;)

I may dream of moving somewhere else, but as I told our German houseguest, I love being surrounded by the ocean (a lake just won't cut it). Nova Scotia is great weather wise for the most part because the ocean helps keep the weather a little more temperate than the central provinces (Alberta - no way - can't handle 40 below) - comparable to any state on the north-eastern seaboard. Yeah, taxes are higher, but I won't go broke if I have a medical emergency (unless I need really expensive medication and don't have private insurance). If I had chosen to have a baby, I wouldn't lose my job if I'd taken maternity leave. My husband gets 4 weeks of vacation a year and doesn't feel pressure to not take it or he'll lose his job. Even me, at a retail job, was entitled to 3 weeks paid after 7 years at the same store.

OK, nowhere is paradise, but I like my little corner of the earth. :)

Finance and taxes can be a shell game. That is, all tax systems are complex and difficult even for natives to understand. People adjust their funds to wherever they live. Most people move because of job, family, or lifestyle. Then, adjust their finances accordingly. Same with health care systems. It's a wash. Plus, individuals have to be willing to learn another language - which could affect job options. Politics and economy just wash over our daily lives unless a country is actively at war on one's own turf.

Posted by
11983 posts

I think I know the answer to where it's better to live.

It is better to live rich and healthy in Italy than to live poor and sick in America.

(vice versa is also true).

There you go. You've got the answer you've been looking for.

Posted by
646 posts

Living in Italy sounds appealing, but then in Italy I'm always on vacation. What the day to day reality of living and working there is something else again. I suspect Europeans visiting the U.S. and Canada might have similar reactions.

Posted by
11983 posts

Yes. The language barrier is an important one to overcome if you plan to find a decent job. I came to America already with a high degree of fluency, so it was an easy transition. But if you just plan to retire overseas, then language skills are less crucial, all you need is some basic knowledge.

Posted by
752 posts

Mom would get upset because her family in Italy thought All Americans are rich, and she couldn't dispel that notion, the Propaganda was that strong!

It so affected Mom that she wrote her family only when necessary because they expected her to put money in the envelope, money she didn't have.

Posted by
1667 posts

In addition to the image of America they get from TV and movies, I imagine almost all the Americans they see are solid middle class or higher. I would also like to think, whether it's true or not, that they are at least slightly more sophisticated and worldly than their stay at home neighbors.

We were based near the small town of Greve when we were in Tuscany in December. I often wondered what day to day life is like for folks who lived there. To me, one of the more striking differences was the number of apartments compared to single family homes. It seemed to be higher than the similar sized city in middle Georgia that we live near.

We live in a 4 bedroom, 3 1/2 bath home sitting on 13 acres. Even if we could find it, I doubt we could afford anything comparable in Tuscany. I quick internet search found houses 1/3 the size and over twice the price. It's true, our house doesn't have breathtaking vistas of the Tuscan countryside, but it does sit in the middle of a hardwood bottom overlooking a creek with waterfalls.

I've loved every place I've visited in Europe and Central America. However, I've yet to find a place I'd rather live than the US in general and the South in particular.

Posted by
31073 posts

Statistics can often be tweaked to produce the desired result, so it's sometimes difficult to find studies that agree with each other.

"``Any Canadians here who would like to tell me if I can find Paradise north of the border (maybe a colder Paradise)?"

Since you asked.....

And from the Washington Post......

I've occasionally thought that living somewhere else would be nice, but quickly concluded "there's no place like home". As the old saying goes, "those who think the grass is greener on the other side, should spend more time tending their own lawn".

My area may be a bit chilly in the winter time, but the local ski hills like that as it's good for business. The summers can be darn HOT (40C is not uncommon). The wineries and golf courses like the warmer weather.

Posted by
11181 posts

"In addition to the image of America they get from TV and movies, I imagine almost all the Americans they see are solid middle class or higher. I would also like to think, whether it's true or not, that they are at least slightly more sophisticated and worldly than their stay at home neighbors."

In addition to everything Roberto and everyone else said (which I also agree with 100%), this is a factor. They not get a skewed view of the US from television and movies, but also from the Americans they meet, who are not a cross section of the country, but just those with the time, money, and desire to travel.

Posted by
1160 posts

At present a lot of Italians - and also all the migrants - would prefer to live in Germany, that has better working conditions than Italy, but still a functional health system. Could I get a job there, I would move tomorrow in the early morning.

As for USA: I have several former co-workers from America; a group of them, about twelve persons, got hired in early eighties. A couple of them got back in five years or so, one of them bringing with him his Italian wife, and are now fairly happy persons. Most of those who remained are females now around 60 or a little more, that after working 30 years in Italy managed to get retired at a relatively young time. Most of them planned to go back to USA after retirement, but they discovered that they get a much better health assistance here. So no one of them moved back - not the ones that got married to Italians, not the ones that did not got married at all.

Posted by
9454 posts

lachera it is always interesting to hear your perspective on these cultural questions. Thank you.

jen said

but then in Italy I'm always on vacation. What the day to day reality of living and working there is something else again.

We had two enormous transitions from tourist to resident and reality. The first was when, after two extended visits to the country, we moved here thanks to my job with the U.S. government. It was made easy by the services offered by the embassy to those of us employed there. Diplomatic Post Office, an on-site medical unit that paved the way to Italian specialists, help at every turn with services and problems. We lived "on the economy" but in an American Bubble.

The second transition was retiring here. The bureaucracy, unshielded now as we were outside the embassy umbrella, became more of a factor. Thank goodness we don't have to deal with as much of it as our Italian friends who still work or own homes! It does get tiresome dealing with lack-of-services, odd policies, shrugs of indifference: things one seldom experiences as a tourist on vacation. The good things are very very good, but the difficult things can make you crazy.

Posted by
1160 posts

Thank you laurel. As an Italian, you have networks to help you when things get complex: your family, your old school friends, your long time neighbors, your co-workers. The old lady living in front of us, for example, counts on her sons for general assistance and her neighbors (my wife and me) for emergencies - we have already saved her life once when we realized she was getting sick by ringing her bell and not getting any reply at a time we were sure she was home. She may help us with little things that keep her busy.

As an expat you may not have these networks and life can get really hard - maybe harder in Italy than in USA. If you decide to move, it is essential that you get involved with as many people as you can. You may have to give away a piece of your privacy, but they will be your safety net.

Posted by
9454 posts

lachera that is a great observation. I think Italian friend networks are stronger than they are in the U.S., and much more personal. I love that older people can stay in their homes because there is a support system. Even our portiere does wellness checks on his elderly residents.

Posted by
6248 posts

The last few comments really resonate. It's easy to think of the (Italian) close-knit family unit in warm sentimental terms but they serve a very pragmatic purpose in a place where there are gaps and other dysfunctions and it's up to the family to take up the slack and navigate around the dysfunctions (and even provide jobs for other family members in small businesses in rural areas or small villages). Historically, living on the land in many parts of Italy and Sicily was very hard on the inhabitants, so they had to rely on their families for strength just to get by. In more modern times, it's a bulwark against the many sorts of frustrations mentioned by prior posters, plus "who you know" is a ticket to all sorts of patronage positions especially in a bloated government sector and other bureaucracies that don't seem to function the way citizens would like (take trash collection for example). This is not meant as a criticism but I don't believe meritocracies are the organizing principle for advancement in many parts of Italy and Sicily (and the Mediterranean countries as a whole, let's not forget Greece). There are many upsides to close-knit families but also some downsides - like lack of geographical mobility to greater opportunities. Families have some internal pressure to stick together, live very close by, and help each other out.

There are so many other cultural differences that I think it's safe to say both Americans and Italians would have a steep readjustment if they were to pick up and live in each others' countries. When Italians "dream" of America, they aren't thinking (or often cognizant) of the downsides; neither are Americans who "dream" of moving to Italy.

Posted by
1160 posts

I do not believe meritocracy has really a place in the world. Take for example the US presidency. In a country with 319 million people to choose from, it comes out as president the son of a former president. Another son considers running after being the governor of a state. Now the wife of another former president is running for office - after having been a senator and a secretary of state. And you say family life is not important in the USA?

Posted by
2815 posts

Resurrecting this topic as I just watched Michael Moore's film "Where to Invade Next." It's got nothing to do with invasions, mostly an unflattering comparison of the US with European workplaces and work benefits, public schools, school lunches and such. If you are normally offended by Moore's films this one will also offend.

Anyway, it opens in Italy with an interview with a working class Italian couple dreaming of America, then comes a comparison of vacation time in the two countries. The look of disbelief on the Italians' faces is priceless.

Posted by
785 posts

For example in the US the Social Security tax (FICA tax), without the
Medicare portion is 6.20% for the employer and the same is deducted
from the employee (so 12.40% for both). In Italy it's 30%-35%
(depending on category of workers), with over 2/3 payable by the

The employer's portion of taxes may not be coming out of the employee's paycheck, but the employee certainly pays it (thus the lower salaries for Italian workers as in the US for similar job). It's a cost of employment just like salary or any other "benefit" that is "provided" by an employer. The employer has a break-even point when hiring employees. The more that Uncle Sam gets, the less I get, or the fewer employees can be hired. Either profit has to go up or taxes go down to pay more to me or to create new jobs.