Expat Interview With Georgette - American Expat In Italy
|Published:||25 Oct at 9 AM|
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Here's the interview with Georgette...
Where are you originally from?
I was born in Texas but my family spent the first five years of my life in New Orleans, Louisiana. We then moved to San Antonio, Texas near the rest of my large crazy family and this is where I grew up and went to school. Upon turning 18, my best friend and my ex boyfriend and I moved to Los Angeles where I went to university. After Los Angeles, I then studied aabroad in Florence where it all began..
In which country and city are you living now?
I am very lucky to live in the beautiful city of Florence, Italy.
How long have you lived here and how long are you planning to stay?
I have lived here full-time since 2007, after finishing my degree in the USA I returned to Italy where I have been ever since. I hope to stay forever but you can never say never. I do miss my family and if I was to return back to America it would be for that reason. For me, 'home' is now Italy.
Why did you move and what do you do?
I really wanted to come back after my study abroad experience, also because my boyfriend is from Florence and I really like living in Europe. I only wanted to however, after getting an education and working a 'real world' job so that I knew what I wanted wasn't temporary. Upon coming back I did every job you can imagine - from nannying to being a celebrant for Tuscan weddings. Since working in Italy can be a challenge if you don't want to teach English, it has really made me work hard for everything I have achieved. Right now my main job is as a regional sales manager for an awesome travel/expat/student website for Italy, Spain, and France called www.insidersabroad.com. In addition, I am the social media manager for an Italian startup www.Attrakt.com. I also do freelance gigs, blogging and I still work as celebrant since I really enjoy it.
Did you bring family with you?
I did not bring any family, just myself. Now that I have been with my Italian boyfriend for seven years, it would be safe to say I have an adopted Italian family right here in Tuscany. I do hope my family visits me more since I love being a tour guide.
How did you find the transition to living in a foreign country?
I came with relatively no/low expectations so I found it pretty easy to live abroad - especially since I studied abroad here in 2005 and had an idea of what I was getting into. The first year or two were the hardest, mainly because I was dealing with a lot of red-tape to stay in Italy legally and also struggling to get a steady job with a normal contract which is really difficult even for Italians. Once you have moved once, afterwards gets easier and easier - I consider myself to be very adaptable.
Was it easy making friends and meeting people; do you mainly socialise with other expats?
In 2007 I lived in a shared apartment with an older roomate who worked a lot so it was harder to meet people my age and in the same position, plus I didn't have internet. In the beginning I would say I met mainly English speakers but soon after I met a lot of interesting people from all over Europe and Italy. Now I have a pretty great mix of both local and foreign friends who are essential to my life (and sanity) in Italy. We have girls nights, day trips, hiking excursions and coffee dates, I have great friends.
What are the best things to do in the area; anything to recommend to future expats?
The better question is what is there NOT to do. Florence is a dynamic, international city full of fun activities, events, culture at your doorstep. Really! Coming up is the 50 days of International films at the Odeon cinehall, and I would also encourage expats to go to a sagra/food festival outside of the city. They normally serve really great seasonal food and it's the perfect chance to mingle with the locals and get a break from the city. For me personally, I don't think I could live in an isolated community in Italy, Florence is a great compromise for me since I feel like there is so much to do. My blog usually has up-to-date information on local events that I constantly update.
What do you enjoy most about living here?
I really enjoy the Italian way of living which is so different than the one I grew up with. Here people enjoy small pleasures mainly, great food, time with family and friends, and a healthy active lifestyle which I really appreciate and respect. Italians have a very close connection with what they eat and 0km food is 'normal' here, I find it easy to get my food delivered from a farm and local wine that I enjoy and get to know those who produced it and hopefully help small businesses survive. Living among history is also a huge bonus since I am a history buff and a book nerd. I also appreciate the close proximity to the center and the countryside not to mention easy access to all of Europe via easyjet and ryanair. Living and working in Florence also ensure that most people I meet are interesting and international, which is a great friend filter! Plus...wine is cheaper than water, need I say more?
How does the cost of living compare to home?
Florence is an expensive city - especially when you look at the the average monthly salary locals make, which is why many Italians remain at home until they can afford to move out. Living here has changed the way I spend money and made me a much more practical person, thanks Italy!
What negatives, if any, are there to living here?
I am a positive person but if there is any negative to living here it's probably the red tape. Cancelling sky can take a month and that's just a small example. If you are lucky enough to succeed getting a work visa like me, you need a lot of free time - and patience, to go to the various offices to file for everything. Also, people who work at these public offices aren't always polite and helpful but you have to learn how to stand your ground and be informed yourself, and speak Italian. Also when it comes to working, learning about your rights and having a lawyer look at any work contract isn't a bad idea. It's easy to be taken advantage of here if you don't know whats 'normal'.
If you could pick one piece of advice to anyone moving here, what would it be?
Come knowing that you can't expect Italy or Italians to change but you are in fact the one who must accept the culture - the good aspects and the bad ones. Try not to compare too much and enjoy life day by day.
What has been the hardest aspect to your expat experience so far?
Getting to know people and then having them return to their homeland, it's heartbreaking to constantly have people come in and out of your life and play such an important part. It has shaped how I now choose to make friends.
When you finally return home, how do you think you'll cope with repatriation?
I have no plans to go home in the near future, but I do think I would have reverse culture shock since my life has changed so much.
What are your top 5 expat tips for anyone following in your footsteps?
1. Make a financial plan, whatever you think you need, bring double. If you plan to work - do your research!
2. Learn the language, pick a local coffee bar where you can practice your Italian every day and make friends.
3. Make a routine, join a book club, gym or art class which will help you feel at home, stable and a part of the community.
4. Expect the unexpected, last minute bus & train strikes, and even your hot water suddenly not working. Italy at times, functions in a different time-table.
5. Get all your ducks in a row. What I mean by this is, make sure you can legally stay in Italy and your health insurance is up to date. Don't make the common mistake of trusting hearsay (which is often wrong), just because others have come illegally doesn't mean you can or should. It won't be easy but you will save yourself a huge headache and won't jump every-time you see carabinieri.
Tell us a bit about your own expat blog.
My blog really became alive in January 2012 and at first was just a way for English speakers to get local information about events, special deals, festivals translated from Italian that I saw a lack of online - hence the very generic name 'Girl in Florence'. Considering all the blogs out there about Americans in Italy, I didn't want to be 'special' but rather I sought to share a different perspective on life, that of a hard-working – not rich, immigrant. Now I really just love blogging about anything, life in general, travel - it has really transformed in a way that has motivated me to keep writing and sharing my experiences with others. There are so many things going on in Tuscany and I really enjoy sharing them with everyone so that people can see why Florence is special.
How can you be contacted for further advice to future expats coming to your area?
Email me through my blog or catch me on twitter or blog facebook page. I am always happy to help.
Georgette has her own lovely expat blog called Girl In Florence http://girlinflorence.com which is very worthy of a visit. Georgette can be found on Twitter @Ggnitaly84, her Facebook page. Girl In Florence has an ExpatsBlog.com listing here which would love a nice review if you can spare a quick moment! If you liked this interview with Georgette, please also drop her a quick note below.
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Comments » There is 1 comment
"If you could pick one piece of advice to anyone moving here, what would it be? Come knowing that you can't expect Italy or Italians to change but you are in fact the one who must accept the culture - the good aspects and the bad ones. Try not to compare too much and enjoy life day by day." This is so true. Good interview!