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Contemplating moving back to Italia

Some of you may have followed my posts when I jumped off the cliff and moved to Italy in 2015. I've been back in the States now for almost 2 years. I have struggled with the re-entry. A lot.

I'm no contemplating a permanent move back to Italia. My lease has gone to month-to-month, my mother is healthy and happy, my daughter grown and living her own life. I could afford to live comfortably in Italia on my early Social Security. At 63 I'm just not that excited about the corporate grind. I've picked up painting (like artist type) about a year ago -- and I discovered I'm not bad. In fact my very first endeavor was a water color of a poppy covered field in the hills of Tuscany about 45 minutes outside of Orvieto. I didn't really know anything about painting so I just bought a $19.99 "starting kit" with paper and watercolors with 3 brushes and gave it a try.

As I look out my window onto the concrete parking lot I really long for the peace, the stunning beauty and the people of Italia.

I would love to hear from anyone that has lived in Italy - for at least 3 months - where, how did you like it, were you part of an ex-pat community or were you hanging out with the locals? I loved Orvieto but I might want to try somewhere else - somewhere with water would be fabulous!!!

Look forward to hearing your comments!
Ciao!
Caterina e Jake (he is not my husband - he is my dog)

Posted by
166 posts

I hear you! I've thought of moving to the Lake Como area to live, Italy is such a amazing place. I hope American's who have lived in Europe will comment on the challenges because I would like to know.

Posted by
20625 posts

There is someone here who recently in the past year moved to Italy for an extended stay of a year or so. She has posted from time to time. I am sure she will respond. My only thoughts would be are you running to something or from something. How long were you in Italy in 2015? And you will need a lot more than early SS.

Posted by
104 posts

After living in Italia for 18 months, I'd say the challenges are far fewer than I expected. Once you learn to live without needing a schedule for every hour in the day, learn a little of the language and start breathing before you panic -- Italy is a truly wonderful place to live at any age.

The challenges for me were learning how their systems work. Italy's government and infrastructure aren't perfect. But hey, who's going to say America's are? I was very fortunate to meet a few very kind friends in my first week -- buying a mattress was my introduction to friends that I still stay in touch with! I spoke better Spanish than Italian and I struggled with the correct pronunciation. There are not retail options that Americans seem to crave - but I quickly learned that I really have enough clothes, shoes and cosmetics. If you do not drive a "stick" -- I suggest you learn before moving to Europe. I learned to drive on a 3 on the column, then a 4 on the floor ..... and loved getting back to a stick!

I honestly felt safer in Italia than I do in America. I drove by myself with Jake, a very cute dog. The only time I was a little nervous was when I got lost in Napoli. It was clear that there weren't any tourists around. My car was stopped by several men and until Jake popped his head up they were not looking very friendly. Charmed by the dog, they made it clear I was not welcome in the area and I was accompanied out until I was safely back on the main boulevard. I also got a wee bit nervous my first time driving from Como up to the house I rented. Only room for one car -- you honk before you come to the next curve and whoever honks first, goes. Same down on the Amalfi coast. And up some of the country roads to that gorgeous castle. you want to photograph.

I chose to be in the national health system in Italia since I had a long term stay visa for 12 months, and later secured a renewal. It was TERRIFIC! Medications are mind blowingly cheap, you can get in to see a doctor or a dentist quickly, and when I took an American tourist couple up to the ER at the hospital, I was very impressed. First, there are no shooting or knife victims in the ER on a Saturday night. It is a calm, orderly place. The woman thought she had cracked a few ribs in a fall, and I stayed with her to do my best to translate. She was checked in, escorted into an exam room, then to the x-ray area and back to the exam room. The radiologist came in to meet with her 15 minutes after her x-ray. Then the on duty physician came in to see her immediately after. 45 minutes after we arrived, she checked out with her prescriptions and paid the 40 Euro for the entire treatment. That's because she wasn't on the national health plan. If she had been, I bet it would have either been no charge or a minimal charge.

I also do not remember seeing homeless people. I didn't spend much time in the big cities of Rome, Florence or Milan. Perhaps they have some issues. I just never saw any. The elderly are the most important in the family. Grandfathers walk to school and escort their grandchildren home, telling stories and sharing their daily events. Family comes first. Not a new car. Or a bigger house. Or more shoes. Family.

From my experience and perspective, life in Europe is good.
Caterina e Jake

Posted by
1845 posts

From all I've personally observed and heard from European friends, you are absolutely right about everything you say. If I were younger (and my kids and grandkids would move, too!), I would be there in a heartbeat. And I know my dog and cat would love the Italian way of life, too!

Posted by
104 posts

Frank,
No I am not running from anything/anyone or to anything/anyone. I moved in 2015 after my father died -- I quit my big fancy corporate executive job when he became sick so that I could stay put and help manage his care and help my mother. Before he died he challenged me to pursue at least one dream. "While you are vertical, go pursue every dream. Because when you are here, permanently horizontal, all you will regret is what you did not do." He and I talked a lot about my big dreams. Biggest were Africa and Italy. I'd traveled a lot to France for business and that was my first inclination but he poo-pooed it as being "no challenge at all." So I chose Italy (can't take Jake to Africa). Chose Orvieto after a lot of reading and thoughts about what I wanted to do with my time in Italia. It's central, has a train station, on the Autostrada, and crime free. RS does tours, but they are day visits so it is peaceful.

Why would I now return and retire in Italia? I do not enjoy living in the States. I won't even get into all of the issues facing us here in America. There are issues anywhere in the world.

As to what it takes to live in Italia versus here in Dallas? I couldn't survive here on Social Security. I don't know anyone that does. The cost of living in Italia, and in Orvieto in particular as well as many of the comfortable but smaller cities, is very reasonable. The national health system works. I used it. The basics of life are very affordable - comfortable apartment, plentiful food grown without hormones or chemicals, wine by the jug when you visit your friendly vineyard a few miles down the road, and people who are friendly, kind and genuine. I managed to get lost, drive into a ditch, lose my car in a maze of cobblestone streets and churches on every corner, and fall down a marble staircase -- I've never had such kindness from strangers.

Each of us must make our own decisions. For me, I have no one else depending upon me, nor do I have anyone in my life to negotiate or compromise on my decisions. I am happy, enjoy people, and especially enjoy the beauty in the countryside. I grew up a Navy brat -- moving every two years. High school in Taiwan. I've traveled all over the world. And I choose Italia.

Best to you!
Caterina e Jake

Posted by
104 posts

Andi -- You are never too old! Go on over for a while and go back if you decide that's best. My 90 year old mother uses FaceTime here as well as when I lived in Italia. I'll bring Jake and pick you up and show you some sights.

All I know is that I am not as happy here as I was in Italia. The closest friends I have are in Italia, South Africa, France and Finland. I met them all while traveling.

All the best to you!
Caterina e Jake

Posted by
20625 posts

Then I think you have made your decision. Go for it. The only reason I thought I saw a small red flag was when you ask for comments from posters living in Italy for at least 3 month. But since you have already had a long term stay, you really should know the potential problems very well. It wasn't clear that you were just looking for location suggestions. Good luck.

Posted by
104 posts

Frank,
I appreciate your feedback -- and yes, I'm seeking input on locations. Orvieto is a wonderful place -- I'm just curious as to others' experiences. I'm in touch now with an American couple who have just retired on Maggiore. North might be a good idea since the summers are brutal in central Italy.

18 months was a good learning opportunity. I have no desire to return to the big cities, and when friends visited near the end of my stay I declined to drive them to Rome, Milan or Venice. So many more beautiful places.

I will update my post here once I've made a decision! Leaning towards Italia .......
Ciao!
Caterina e Jake

Posted by
515 posts

After becoming a dual citizen in 2008, I got a job at an international school in Vicenza and lived in Vicenza and Verona from 2008 to 2011. Like you, I had a little dog and it was just the 2 of us. I had visited Italy many times before and have to confess to having a vacation mentality before I moved there. When you have a job and have to go about the business of a regular life there, I found it to be a bit difficult. As an American, being used to convenience and customer service, dealing with banks, post offices, doctors offices, technology etc. caused me some stress. On vacation, you really have no obligations and are there just to enjoy life. It’s quite different. On the other hand, I lived in 2 beautiful small cities, the food was wonderful, the scenery amazing and the ability to travel easy and inexpensive. I didn’t stay past three years for two reasons. My salary was so far below my American teaching salary that I couldn’t sustain it for more than a few years. The major reason I left was that I got very sick over there and nearly died due to a mishap with an antibiotic I was highly allergic to. I had quite the opposite experience with the medical system and being on my own in a foreign country, not getting the treatment that I needed, not being completely fluent in the language, at least in terms of medical language, it was just too much. My experiences with doctors and specialists were not positive, the waits were long, the hospital I visited was very outdated, in the end I ended up diagnosing myself, as the doctors never connected the antibiotic allergy. I ended up moving back to the United States, getting back in my local school system and now I travel to Italy and happily spend most summers there as a tourist. I generally rent an apartment in a larger city for 6 weeks, take day and short overnight trips, visit the markets and cook wonderful food with fresh ingredients and really enjoy myself! My parents are retiring in two years and are talking about moving to Italy and at that point I will probably relocate with them, as I’m sure I could live there quite happily with a support system this time. However, we will probably end up sharing housing as they will be on a pension and I will again take a large salary cut in a teaching job over there. I had some expat friends, but in the cities I lived in, becoming friends with local Italians proved to be a challenge. For example, it took a year for my upstairs neighbor to acknowledge my greetings. I have heard that in the North, people do not tend to be as friendly as Southerners. Whatever the reason, I went there hoping to develop a nice group of Italian friends and left after three years with two good friends who were not Italian, but expats. I’m sure the smaller cities in other locations provide completely different experiences. I do love Italy and I am grateful for the experience of having lived there; next time I will go into it with the less of the vacation mentality and a little more prepared to deal with things that function much differently than what I’m used to. For a beautiful places to live near the water, the Amalfi coast area comes to mind. 😀

Posted by
1529 posts

Jealous! Wish that I could enjoy Europe for long periods of time. Feel much safer there.

I have not explored Italy yet, but wish you the best on your research!

Posted by
6171 posts

Couple of questions, only if you don't mind sharing:

  • Did you already take an early retirement (by Social Security rules), or are you just contemplating it?
  • If your Mother's health took a (negative) turn in the future (heaven forbid), would another sibling in the States be able to help, or how would that potentially impact you if you lived abroad? Would you likely need to move back?
  • How would moving abroad work with Medicare? Would you simply avail yourself of Medicare altogether once you're eligible at 65? Is that a difficult decision to make since you've been paying into the system so long?
  • Any other financial considerations you can think of, or trade-offs that must be made?

Sorry for the questions, but I think there are some serious things to consider with such a big decision.

Posted by
6543 posts

Orvieto would be a very nice place to move, but as you said Central Italy is pretty hot, comparable to the U.S. South but with less effective air conditioning.
But if I might ask: How are you eligible for an Italian visa allowing you to live there?

Posted by
915 posts

My two pence and something to think about.

1) Could you do an extended tourist visa for six months and/or rent out your home? That way, it wouldn't be permanent and you could have a semi-vacation, which IMHO sounds like what you need.

2)Would you and your mom be okay if something sudden happened to her and you couldn't get to her? I had a co-worker whose parent lived in Europe and was spy into his 80s, then parent fell down the steps and needed constant care. The stress of being overseas and having to direct and contact hospitals/nurses doctors, etc took it's toll on him.

3)As you know, Italy has it's own issues. A family friend moved to Italy with his wife for her job and thought he'd love la dolce vita and that Italy was more relaxed, etc, etc. In fact it was more like SSDD.

Posted by
87 posts

In response to a comment or question by Agnes, there is no Medicare coverage in foreign countries. Only works in the U.S. She would need to buy separate health insurance while abroad.

Posted by
1161 posts

SSDD?

I appreciate Kirsten's honest report of her time in Italy.

And in case you missed it from the OP--don't mess around in Napoli.

Posted by
4506 posts

Caterina,

You may want to contact Karen. She, her husband, and their chocolate lab, moved to Verbania (Lake Maggiore) this past August.

Best of luck!

Posted by
9419 posts

Caterina,
We lived in Roma for almost 5 years. Three years were as employees of the U.S. Embassy and 18 months+ in retirement. We chose to come back to the U.S. for two reasons: we wanted to own a house again and taxes were a concern. Are you aware that you have to pay in Italy and file in both countries if you spend 6 months or more in Italy? And that although you will get your money back from the U.S. for any duplicate payments (there is reciprocity), it will not be immediate as the countries are on different cycles. We consulted an attorney who is knowledgeable about both U.S. and Italian tax law which gave us a lot to think about. We could have made it work, but coupled with our desire to have our own place again (and get back to friends and family), we decided to leave Italy.

If we had lived somewhere other than Roma, it might have been different. We did have great healthcare (private insurance BTW), loved being able to hop a train on a whim and go anywhere (we traveled a lot), and of course, the food. SIGH.

On the downside, Roma was crazy, noisy, hot in the summer, and it became a chore to live there. We never did really understand how a lot of things worked despite having a reasonable command of the language.

Perhaps more accurately, we observed how poorly some things worked in Italy versus in the U.S. Should it really be so hard to do banking? Get Internet service? Deal with utilities? Did we want to have to request permission to stay every year-or-two?

I do agree that the overall cost of living was manageable, and if it was so in Roma, it surely is even more feasible elsewhere. We did not have a car, so that helped with overhead.

BTW, we had to get a lot of help getting a legal lease on an apartment once we left the embassy's embrace. Landlords may try to foist a lease on you that is not consistent with what is legal, so it may be in your interest to consult an attorney before you get into a 4+4 lease you do not understand. I would NEVER buy real estate there.

If I could, I would spend 2 or 3 months a year in Italy and additional time traveling elsewhere in Europe, being mindful of Schengen rules, of course. Alas, my spouse is not so excited about that plan, so we take one long trip (7 or 8 weeks) each year.

EDITED TO CLARIFY: You pay taxes in Italy if you spend more than 6 months (I believe measured as 180 days but do not quote me on that) in a calendar year.

Posted by
35 posts

What will you do about Jake? Take him with or ...

Posted by
12099 posts

Nothing wrong with running from anything or from someone, as long it's not the law. Other than that I couldn't care less.

What you say I can relate to...a good portion of it. While you were away, if you were never homesick or felt the need to plant down roots, so to speak, that's good. All my travels in Europe from 12 weeks to 10 days, I was never homesick either. No real experience comparable to yours but I never had any problems being among locals, talking with them in their language in Germany, dealing with them day in and day out on my trips, be it in a hotel/hostel, grocery stores, post offices, book stores, dept stores, train stations, travel agencies, museums, restaurants, local buses, shops, etc but then I was traveling, anywhere from tourist sites to the "boonies"

The good thing is that it seems you've acquired the language. My suggest is: keep working on that, the more the better. Just being conversational in the foreign language is not good enough.

Posted by
12099 posts

"You are never too old." True, as long as you still have your wits about you and are functioning mentally, ie in good health. Part of is getting out of the "comfort zone" if you believe in such a thing and looking outside of the "box".

I know two Americans (personally) who took this plunge by becoming literally ex-pats, both married to foreign nationals, (over 10-15 years now), ie a German and an Austrian, both living in a town, one in Germany, the other in Austria, not a big city like Vienna or Munich, Hamburg, etc., both working and raising kids, one was already fluent in German when he moved for good to Austria, the other totally dependent on her German husband linguistically when they moved there in North Germany.

Bottom line...It can be done, depending on your priorities and determination...what you desire, or willing to forego, miss, give up, etc.

Posted by
1511 posts

We've been living in Italy now for 3 1/2 months. One thing I'd read someplace is that the US can be great place to work, make money, and save for retirement. Italy is a great place to retire! Many cost of living aspects are less (depending your US point of reference- ours is Northern California) such as rent, groceries, cell phones, wine, and eating out. Other things are more expensive (dog food, gasoline/diesel). I've heard that Utilities are expensive, but since ours are included with rent can't personally attest to that.

A couple of comments after reading Kristen's post. We've yet to come across an American expat in our town of Verbania. Since it is not an American tourist destination, fluent English speaking Italians are few and far between. We have friends back home ask if we've made any friends here. My husband and I just laugh at the question. Difficult to make friends without speaking the same language. That being said, we've found the people here to be nothing but friendly and helpful. We live in an apartment building and everyone says Buongiorno or Buonasera to us. There is a woman (handicapped in a wheelchair) in our apartment building that adores Barley, and lights up every time she sees and pets him. She's asked us for Christmas dinner. One of her children lives in NYC and sounds like he's home for the Holidays. We've gotten a couple neighbors to wave/acknowledge us from their balconies. On the ground level there are two Bars and there are several regulars that can't wait for Barley to walk buy so they can pet him. In our limited, but improving Italian, we are able to communicate a little.

Living here is definitely a different mind set than going to Italy on vacation. The daily chores of living here are getting easier, but were definitely a challenge when we first arrived. Simple things like; how to access a shopping cart, how to buy fruit and bread, buying a Sim for internet and cell service, figuring out the bus system and buying tickets, etc.

Posted by
769 posts

I think you should go for it! If I could I would totally move to Scotland, my ultimate happy place and so much closer to the wonders of the Celtic lands that I love!

Sounds like a great idea. My husband and I have had a house in Italy for 12 years; two years ago he retired and we sold up in the UK and moved to Umbria. I still work so do a 'commute' on a weekly basis to central Europe (though sometimes work from home). We don't regret our move one little bit - the people are charming and tolerant of our rusty Italian (my husband went on a one month course at the university for stranieri in Perugia to get some grounding in the language). We live above Lake Trasimeno so we have a perpetually changing beautiful masterpiece right outside our windows and we are high enough that the breeze minimises the mosquito issue and helps us feel a bit cooler in the height of summer. There are of course lots of frustrations with the bureaucracy and rules and regs - understanding this is impossible, but tolerance is essential and a small price to pay for the privilege of living in what in our view is one of the most beautiful places on the planet. Whether it's the ever changing landscape as you travel around, or the towns brimful of art and music at every turn, or the freshest of food and the incredible range of wines, Italy is just amazing. We know we will never see everything we want to see in Florence, for example, never mind all the other gems that make up this exquisite country - but we are surrounded by centuries of history, living alongside some wonderful people and don't miss our old life one bit. We miss the people of course, but you know what? They visit, we have Skype and we are settled into 'The Good Life'. For anyone with the urge to experience Italia, I'd say, do it, you'll be hooked. Ciao

Posted by
170 posts

Yo TG,
What an exciting proposition! You are doing the right thing to seek as much input as possible. Maybe also consider posting the same same query over on Lonely Planet's 'Thorn Tree' forum, as well as Fodor's equivalent? We recently met a Houston couple who finally made the jump to live in Europe, specifically in Lourmarin, Provence.
Btw, in Orvieto, did you ever run into the retired, ex-pat Brit named 'Mike'?
I am done. The end.

Posted by
104 posts

Here is my latest update on my eventual permanent move to Italia!

I have successfully received early Social Security benefits (I'm in between 62 and 66 and 2 months). I discussed with financial planner and accountant. I am grateful that I can even get Social Security benefits -- I've been feeling nervous for the past few years on whether there would be any benefits at all (or if they would raise the qualifying age up again). For anyone born after 1954, they have already implemented a sliding scale upward -- adding 2 months for each year past 1954. i don't know if there is a max on it, but my younger friends are not happy.

And for those that were concerned about my elderly mother and what I would do if something happened to her: After numerous discussions she gave me specific orders that if I stayed here because I felt I needed to be here for her, she would be very upset with me. She reminded me that I spent two years dedicated to my father's healthcare and her adjustment to being able to live on her own. She does not want me to be her care giver, and she does not want me to see her die as I did my father. She wants dignity in her final time -- something that I can totally understand. She is a very strong woman and was very independent in her travels throughout her marriage to my father. She played golf in Scotland and Ireland ... as well as Australia and New Zealand. Yup. Just a lady on her own traveling the world to enjoy what she loved doing. My father wasn't a big travel enthusiast (he spent 32 years as a Naval officer and the combination of ship duty and moving every two years he didn't really want to pack anything after he retired).

Let's see -- and the questions about how do I have permission to stay so long and what about Medicare. First, you must be granted a Long Term Residence Stay Visa before you can just live in Italia. You can stay 90 days within 365 without a visa. I was stopped several times to check my Permesso. I obtained my first with no difficulty and was granted a 2 year extension while living in Italia. Like many other things bureaucratic, you must understand what is expected of you and you must follow their system and rules. Including the 5 different offices you must visit. None are open at the same time. All on a different day of the week. And about healthcare. You must have a rezidenca (not sure on spelling there) before you can enroll in the Italian healthcare insurance program. I received mine within weeks of arriving. Your first year you will pay a premium based on your documented income from the prior year. I found the system to be excellent. Outstanding physicians and the hospital outside Orvieto was very impressive. I took an American couple to the ER (they spoke no Italian and were in Orvieto for 3 nights after she fell in a toilet before they arrived - 3 broken ribs). I have never seen such kindness in any ER or urgent care. She received outstanding care with consultations with the radiologist, the attending ER physician and an orthopedic physician. She was given a prescription for a mild pain reliever. The entire bill (they had no international health insurance) was 40 Euro. Yup. 40 Euro. I shudder to think what that would cost in America.

About making friends if you are not fluent in Italian. I have the world's cutest dog, Jake. He introduced me to so many delightful people! My Italian began with a butchered pronunciation (I speak fairly decent Spanish), and I laughed along at my goofy mistakes. I asked for help .... from the butcher, the cheese shop, the weekly outdoor market stalls .... everywhere so I could improve my pronunciation and master the nuances of "proper Italian" versus "commoner Italian". Orvieto has a sprinkling of English speaking ex-pats and some returning seasonal folks. It is on the RS tour circuit so there is more English spoken. I will keep. you posted! Ciao!

Posted by
2873 posts

As an expat in a different situation (DoD expat under the Status of Forces agreement - aka "the easy way") for 8 years I totally support people becoming expats abroad as long as they do so with clear eyes. I only skimmed the many posts here so apologies if some of this has already been addressed, but I wanted to speak more to the emotional as opposed to the practical issues of becoming an expat:

-Learn the language. I don't speak German. I thought I'd be here for one years, then 3, but halfway to 3 is when I started encountering the difficult grammar and gave up because, "What's the point, I won't ever need German again anyway!" I should have just buckled down and finished at least B level classes early on. Even in a place like Germany where many people speak English, it's very hard to be part of any community in a real sense without fluency in the language.

-Live someplace with an expat community. Even if you speak the language, it can take years for locals to really accept you, so for not feeling isolated, an expat community will provide you with the social fabric and just a ranting/sounding board. Within an expat community, it's VERY helpful to befriend mixed-nationality couples - i.e. a local and their foreign spouse. It's a great "bridge" between the two worlds.

-But also understand that expat communities can full of toxic people. Some expats really are "running away" from something. There can be a lot of drama. It varies from place to place but a lot of expat communities can be insular, incestuous, and difficult to find a foothold in. Don't be discouraged. It took me about a year to find people I'd really call friends here, and a lot of trial and error.

-Since you lived in Italy for some time, you probably already know this, but real life isn't a vacation. Even if it's retirement. The shine can wear of quickly, especially if you've tied yourself to a place and you don't have any plans to move back to the states. Living abroad can be a very lonely, isolating experience, and homesickness is a thing. For me the best cure is to remind myself why I love living here in the first place, whether it's going to a unique local festival or taking advantage of travel opportunities.

-Don't lose touch with friends and family back home. With social media it's easier than ever to stay in touch, but it's also easy to mistake reading Facebook with real social interaction, even from afar. Make the video calls, write the emails, etc. This is something I was better at when I first moved away, and am trying to get back into doing. One of the loneliest feelings is returning to your "home" for a visit and realizing life goes on without you, even while you may not feel fully rooted to your new home, either. It's a paradox, but becoming an expat grants you the gift of two "homes" while often making you feel somewhat homeless at the same time. Spend enough time away and you will feel like a foreigner in your home country, but it's very difficult to feel native in your new country. That's the tradeoff for all the amazing benefits of living abroad.

8 years in, I wouldn't change this experience for anything. I have friends all over Europe, I live a great life, I travel frequently, etc. I also miss my home, miss how things "work" at home, miss my friends and family back there. I'm supposed to return to the States soon but I'm now at the point that I hope to eventually live abroad permanently, but it's important to be honest about the pros and cons of choosing this life! Good luck to you and I hope you're able to realize your dream!

Posted by
541 posts

Great post Sarah. You summed up what several friends and family have raved/complained about for the past couple of decades of international living in a few paragraphs.

Posted by
104 posts

Sarah
You raised good points. Language is a key foundation. And there are expats that are “damaged people”. They are everywhere, in your home town and in any US city. It’s compounded when you are living in a different country with a different culture.

I grew up a “military brat “ and moved and adjusted every two years. I don’t think “normal”’people that come from a deep community can adapt as easily. I went to high school in Taiwan. Learned Chinese in order to become more of a good fit with the community.

After living in Italia for 18 months I moved to 3 places. I’m not intimidated by picking up and trying something different. I had an amazing experience living in the city center in a converted palazzo broken into apartments. And living in the countryside on a hilltop with history of WWII and neighbors were a famous castle, winery and a sheep farm. My neighbors were wonderful in the city and in the countryside. I learned how to manage the system of getting my wine from the neighbors with a big glass jug and buying meat from my butcher and cheese at the stinky cheese shop. I traveled with my adorable dog so I had an instant introduction everywhere we went.

I agree that having an English speaking group is helpful. It’s also helpful to establish regular places where you are known by the owner and staff. My dog and I had a “regular table” at my favorite bar/cafe and my favorite pizza place. And the breakfast coffee place.

I thought I would miss the USA. The only things I missed were Mexican food and first run movies. So I had taco seasoning sent over or brought over by friends. Became a “taco hero” at my bar once a month. Attracted a consistent crowd.

If you have lived in the same place for more than 10 years you might have a bit of an adjustment at being the “new stranger”. I connected with people on this forum that I met when they were on a RS trip. I had friends come visit from the States. Some came more than once to enjoy having a driver and an amazing place to stay.

For anyone considering a move to a place outside the USA I recommend you talk to your family about how it would work for your family gatherings. You definitely want to establish regular FaceTime visits. I don’t have much family. I found a new family in Italia. The culture in Italia us much different from Germany or the UK. I spent a lot of time in France for work. I chose Italia because I had never visited and I was fascinated by its history and the culture. After two weeks I was part of a family that included me in Sunday lunch. That means spending the entire day with the extended family trying to stuff in one course after the other.

If you are thinking about it— try it! Ciao! Caterina e Jake

Posted by
12099 posts

Hi,

Good that your plans are coming along. It is very much up to the individual and his/her surroundings overseas, the goals, comfort zone, risks, emotions, life style as you envision it, etc etc.

My friend, an ex-pat in Austria, a fellow Calif boy, late 40s, has been living there for the last 15 years with his 2 kids and the Mrs, a foreign national (Austrian), ie, not an American citizen.

When I go to Europe and Austria, I visit them and I don't visit them, depending on the trip. We speak in German and in English, he's fluent in German, works in a computer firm with locals. I am one of his last few "links" to Calif outside of his mother and sister.

Contrary to other ex-pats I know, he cut off all official links to life here, such as bank accounts, etc as I have asked him about the legal and official red tape he has to go through, or if they still apply to him, etc. Obviously, I've asked him about life there, day in and day out. He was asked at one time by an American woman ex-pat in Austria if belonging to such a group would interest him, toyed with the idea but basically gave up on it. Bottom line,,,wasn't interested.

Posted by
1511 posts

Glad to see you are moving ahead with your plans. Italy is like a magnet. We don’t know why, but it’s easy to be drawn here, despite all the challenges.

Posted by
2873 posts

The absolute worst thing about living in Europe is the lack of decent Mexican food.

I'm famous in my city for being the lady that makes "real tacos" (usually carnitas with handmade tortillas an a selection of salsas from scratch). I also cook a lot of American Chinese food, Sichuan Chinese food, Jewish food, all the stuff I can't get here at a restaurant. European food is great when you're on vacation, but if you're an American from a city with a decent food scene and you're not living in London, Paris, or Berlin the lack of access to good international food will drive you slowly crazy. I think it's half of what expats talk about when we're together . When I return to the states I have a "food itinerary" of the restaurants I want to eat at.

That and Target. There is no European equivalent, nothing that comes close. I spend hours in Target when I'm in the US and it's glorious.

So basically, if you want to live in Europe, go for it, just be ready to cook your own tacos and not have a Target.

Posted by
1085 posts

I have been loving this conversation. I always wanted to live in Europe where I feel so much more comfortable than in the US, especially when I lived in TX BTW. I, too, was a military brat for awhile and moved alot growing up. Sounds like that may be an advantage when you become an expat. I thought I would move to the UK or Italy when I retired, but the more I studied it I became convinced that as a solo traveler in life it might be even more lonely than when everyone speaks your first language. Maybe that cute dog is the solution. I still dream about this, but in the meantime I make sure to plan a trip 'over the pond' each year. I look forward to hearing more about your decision.

Posted by
104 posts

Laurie,
YES my cute dog was a huge part of my happy experiences. People were drawn to him and we were always approached by people everywhere. He's a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, extremely well trained and well behaved. His tail wags everytime someone approaches and asks if they can pet him or ask what kind of dog is he. I was never "alone" because I had him along to keep me company and we met so many wonderful people. Jake was greeted with warmth and enthusiasm any time we returned for the second time at a restaurant, bar, store or market stall. He attracted the rich and famous people on Lake Como and was photographed for several Italian magazines with some pretty stunning movie types. No one remembered my name. I was "Jake's Mamma". Worked for me. Everyone misses their dog while on vacation -- but no one told me they missed their children. We ran into some tourists two or three times and were always asked to join them for a glass of wine and conversation.

There are things I missed: MEXICAN FOOD. Target. Lowe's. But I learned how to enjoy the smaller businesses that could help me find anything. The auto mechanic would have his wife follow him in their 3 wheel "ape" (pronounced Ahh-pee) when he was finished working on my car because he felt that he should always return his customer's car to them. The seafood stalls out on Monte Argentario were wonderful - and they recognized us on our second visit. Charming third and fourth generation stall operators are just wonderful. They pick the best for you whether it is fish, cheese, dried fruits ... you build relationships, not just transactions.

I would encourage you to have a pet. You can take a dog or cat to Italy with very little trouble. Not to the UK. If you sit at a table outside with your dog, someone will come along and speak to you within minutes. If you go to the same pizza place, they will recognize you and welcome you. Waiters will stop and chat with you and hug you hello and goodbye.

There were ex-pats that were not much fun to be around. Then there were those that I miss so very much. I had a car. Many ex-pats don't have a car for a variety of reasons. I had a wonderful friend that was my "lunch road trip buddy". He and I remain in close contact. He writes short plays. He is quiet but fun and we both look forward to those road trips resuming again as soon as I can return.

I did not find romance - and I did not go looking. I'm happy on my own and discovered that solo travel is actually easier and more fun for me. No negotiating on what the schedule will be, or what restaurant to choose. I loved getting in the car with Jake and setting out to explore. I stumbled on some amazing things on those unplanned trips. Ancient ruins. Tiny villages with amazing little cafes run by Mamma with one fixed menu for lunch - you eat that or nothing. Views of the mediterranean from a terrace with fresh seafood and house wine for lunch -- I never tired of it. I enjoyed pulling over and watching sheep being herded across the road by shaggy dogs and a lone shepherd. The history is simply more than I ever imagined. Lake Como alone has some stunning history. Napoleon used it to transport horses and army materiel - it runs north/south and saved him days of going up and around mountains. Who knew that? The Greek temples in southern Italy and on the island of Sicily are STUNNING. The Roman ruins of emperor's grande villas stand as testimony of a great civilization with artisans, deadly politics and incredible engineering without any mechanical systems.

Please keep me posted -- I hope you'll give it a go! After all, what's the worst thing that happens? You don't like it and you move back to the States. You can contact me direct: txgirl620 at gmail.
Caterina e Jake

Posted by
78 posts

X2 on the Mexican food issue.

I lived on Vancouver Island for almost three years and the total dearth of decent Mexican food was the second biggest drawback. The first was the rain. 😀 It was quite surprising since there was a plethora of central american places.

Given that I am half hispanic, this was a huge problem. So, I learned to cook my favorite dishes and otherwise accomodated by developing a fondness for Indian which now rivals my addiction for Mexican.

Now I can open a Mexican restaurant anywhere in the world!