Expat Interview With Simona Carini - Italian Expat In California

Published: 5 Oct at 9 AM
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Filed: Interviews,USA
Simona Carini moved from Northern Italy to Northern California in 1994 to live with her (now) husband. After working for four years in a biotech company, she went back to school to get a graduate degree. She has enjoyed all the experiences in her new country: working, going to school, making friends, exploring the natural beauties of California and other states. While she loves San Francisco, she is more at home on a hiking or biking trail or on one of the many bodies of water she and her husband explore in their kayaks. In recent years, she has discovered a passion for cooking, baking (especially bread) and making cheese at home. She talks about her adventures in the kitchen in her blog Briciole (see listing here) which features many bilingual posts, audio files that help people learn Italian words, notes on Italian culture, and storied of traveling in the US and elsewhere.

Here's the interview with Simona...

Where are you originally from?
I was born and grew up in Italy

In which country and city are you living now?
I live in Northern California, USA

How long have you lived here and how long are you planning to stay?
I have been in California for over 18 years. In 2004 I became naturalized, so I have a US passport. My husband is American and we plan to remain in California.

Why did you move and what do you do?
I moved to California to be with my (now) husband. I have changed job a few times during these 18 years. Currently, I work as a programmer / analyst.

Did you bring family with you?

How did you find the transition to living in a foreign country?
I had a general expectation that it would not be easy. In practice, the difficulties were in little, least expected things. For ex., the way we shop at a grocery store in Italy is different from here, so I would find myself doing things wrong and being looked at in a strange way. Talking on the phone was hard (this was before the internet made phone calls mostly unnecessary).

Was it easy making friends and meeting people; do you mainly socialise with other expats?
I met people at the gym and at work. Meeting people was not difficult. Making friend took a bit longer. The way people socialize in the US is different from the way people socialize in Italy, so that's another thing I had to learn. I know some, but not many, expats.

What are the best things to do in the area; anything to recommend to future expats?
California is an amazingly beautiful place, everywhere you live. And I think that San Francisco is the most beautiful city in the US (though I would not want to live in it). Of course, I have my favorite places: I prefer parks and natural areas to urban settings, so the California coast, especially north of SF all the way up to the Oregon border, the redwoods, the Sierra, etc.

What do you enjoy most about living here?
I have a wonderful relation with my husband and that is the number one thing. The rest is part of our life together. I think my situation is a bit different from that of people who move because of work. I love my job too, and everything I have here.

How does the cost of living compare to home?
California is notoriously expensive, but I am not good at making comparisons, given that I moved here many years ago and when I am in Italy, I don't really "live" there any more.

What negatives, if any, are there to living here?
There is no universal health care in the US and it is a problem.

If you could pick one piece of advice to anyone moving here, what would it be?
Do it for the right reason (i.e., do your homework before making a decision). Living in a country is not like being on an extended vacation there.

What has been the hardest aspect to your expat experience so far?
The bureaucracy of getting visa, permanent residency and citizenship. I had a wonderful lawyer that helped me with the paperwork for visa and residency, while I did the citizenship stuff on my own. A trusted lawyer is a must in this process.

What are your top 5 expat tips for anyone following in your footsteps?
Not sure I have tips to share. Again, I had a specific reason for moving to California, so for ex., I didn't have to worry about housing. Following on my answer to the question on one piece of advice, do it legally (i.e., get all the required papers) and make sure you have a plan if things don't go as expected. Seek out people and make a point of exploring your new environment. Expect the unexpected: joys and sorrows come from unexpected places, so be prepared.

Tell us a bit about your own expat blog.
I started briciole 5 years ago because I wanted to share with people Italian words regarding food. I added an audio file that people can listen to to learn how to pronounce certain words correctly (like gnocchi or cappuccino). In time, I added recipes and also travel notes not just from Italy. I see the blog as a chronicle of my putting roots in California but also keeping my Italian roots alive. People in the US love Italy, but there is also a lot of misinformation. And Italians love California, but they see it a lot through movies. So, I try to balance the records without coming across as preaching.

How can you be contacted for further advice to future expats coming to your area?
My blog has an email contact. I am always happy to answer questions.

Simona runs an excellent expat blog called Briciole which can be visited here http://briciole.typepad.com. Simona can be found on Twitter @SimonaBriciole and her Facebook profile. You can also visit Simona's listing at Expats Blog, where you can leave some appreciative comments! Help Simona to win her category in the upcoming Expat Blog Awards 2012.
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