Thai Expat In Italy - Expat Interview With Mee

Published: 31 Oct at 9 AM
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Filed: Interviews,Italy
Since a very young age, Mee had always been a fancier of European languages and culture. Her dream was to travel through Europe, and so she studied English, French and Italian. After her graduation, Mee worked with foreign companies and due to her job as a junior international study consultant in a British agency in Bangkok, she was excited at the prospect of frequent trips to the UK. But fate had other plans, and she met an Italian guy with whom she fell crazily in love. They didn't wait long to get married. Things moved quickly and she moved to Italy to build her family with the man of her life. Mee's expat blog is called (Extra)ordinary Things Around Me (see listing here)

(Extra)ordinary Things Around Me

Here's the interview with Mee...

Where are you originally from?
I was born and lived in Bangkok, but my real origin is Chinese. All of my grandparents were Chinese (Cantonese to be precise). They immigrated to Thailand and settled down in Bangkok. My parents were born at Bangkok too. Thai and Chinese cultures has been melted in me.

In which country and city are you living in?
I'm living in a rural area of Piacenza, situated in Northern Italy, about 80 kms distant from Milan.

How long have you lived here and how long are you planning to stay?
I've lived here for 13 years already! My home is here now, we're growing our son here and we don't have any plans to move at least until our son will become adult. I and my husband sometimes imagine ourselves in a small seashore house somewhere in Thailand when we get old, who knows!!

(Extra)ordinary Things Around MeWhy did you move and what do you do?
I moved for an obvious reason: LOVE. I don't have a stable work but only some occasional jobs. For several times, I've been contacted, through my old connections at Bangkok, from Thai people who needed an interpreter for some days near my city for a trade fair or a university research. I accept to do baby-sitting but I dedicate most of my time to my home, my son, my kitty and my hobbies which are reading, writing, cooking and baking.

Did you bring family with you?

How did you find the transition to living in a foreign country?
I left Thailand with plenty of optimism. However, at the beginning it wasn't surely as smooth as silk. The Asian mentality is quite different from the Italian one. I needed time to learn their way of thinking. Fortunately, I'm a person who adapts oneself quickly and the family of my husband is very kind. They're always ready to help me in anything. I really feel grateful for them. They've always make me feel loved. The thing that frustrated me was that any time I went to apply for a job, they showed an insecurity about my background. Probably they don't know Thai studying systems, and don't recognise my degre and my university.

(Extra)ordinary Things Around MeWas it easy making friends and meeting people: do you mainly socialise with other expats?
This is a positive point of living in Italy; people are quite socialable. It's said that people in the North are more close-minded than those in the South but I find it only half true. At the beginning when they don't know you yet, they might look a bit indifferent but after some times of saying “buongiorno”, they begin to make friends, to invite you in their houses, and then to give you some suggestions. They're mostly generous (from my own experience). I didn't have much difficulty thanks to my previous study of Italian language. I often socialise with other expats too, as much as the local people.

What are the best things to do in the area; anything to recommend to future expats?
Well, Piacenza is not very industrial but it's rather agricultural. It's the eldest city of Italy; therefore, there're various historical sites. The main agriculture is based on tomatoes, wheats, garlic, vineyards, etc. Piacenza may not offer you much opportunity of working, a lot of people go to work in Milan. Almost no one speaks English. If you love agriculture and handicraft, you can have more chances.

What do you enjoy most about living here?
Beautiful and amazing places. In each angle of the country, even in a very small and unknown town, there're always fascinating churches, constructions, statues, art, panorama, etc.

How does the cost of living compare to home?
The difference is quite notable. In Italy, we pay high taxes in everything, food and services are expensive. In Bangkok, although the cost of living has been rising, you have more choices: from luxurious restaurants and brand-named garments to a very cheap ones. If you buy food from a local morning market in Bangkok, it can cost much less than buying it in a serviced supermarket. In Italy, the prices are the same. The difference is very little if there is.

(Extra)ordinary Things Around MeWhat nagatives, if any, are there to living here?
First of all, the cost of living is too high camparing to the income. It's almost impossible to save money, or you must sacrifice a lot if you want to. Second, if you've to contact an officer; for example, you need to apply for a residence permit, you must wait a lot of time (about 3months or longer). The bureaucracy is incredible! They change rules often and don't say the same thing everytime you contact them. They make you lose much more time than you should have to. To talk about my city, the climate isn't so good. It's very humid and I hate the thick fog in autumn and winter.

If you could pick one piece of advice to anyone moving here, what would it be?
Learn Italian language before coming, it can help a lot.

What has been the hardest aspect to your expat experience so far?
The moment I'd like to be present physically in my family in Bangkok, I'm just here.

What are your top 5 expat tips for anyone following in your footsteps?
1 - Learn the language before if you can.
2 - Be very patient. Some procedures might be so long and complicated.
3 - Keep every paid bill. It happened to me at least 4-5 times that they continued to ask for the same payment.
4 - Don't be shy. Speak with local people although you're not good at the language yet.
5 - Go to the local feasts and markets. They often organise very interesting ones.

(Extra)ordinary Things Around MeTell us a bit about your own expat blog.
This blog was born because of my passion in writing. I had created other blogs before but they were written in Thai language. Firstly, I just wanted to practise my English writing skill but then I found it such a good idea that people world-wide can read my articles.

How can you be contacted for further advice to future expats coming to your area?
Just write me at meeluna{at}gmail-dot-com I always check mail ;-)

Mee's expat blog is called (Extra)ordinary Things Around Me which is very worthy of a visit. She can be found on Twitter @MeeMeeluna and her Facebook page.(Extra)ordinary Things Around Me has an listing here where you can leave a nice comment if you like! If you appreciated Mee's interview, please also add a quick note below.
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