Expat Interview With Brandi - US expat on Work Visa in Florence, Italy
|Published:||9 Jul at 9 AM|
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Here's the interview with Brandi...
Where are you originally from?
Cali girl! Los Angeles, CALIFORNIA! Born and raised.
In which country and city are you living now?
Florence, Italy! sighhhhh Get's me every time.
How long have you lived in Florence and how long are you planning to stay?
I have been here for 3 months and will be here for the next 18 months on my work visa and after that is unknown..cough:cough FOREVER.
Why did you move to Italy and what do you do?
My husband and I moved after I visited Florence in 2011 for work. I work for a licensee of Guess handbags and our design team is in Florence. I was fortunate enough to travel for work and the moment the taxi drove me in the center of Firenze I knew. I called my Husband and told him if he ever wanted to see me again to come to Florence. I just knew we would live here. You know those crazy deep feelings where you just know? You know the man/ woman you're going to spend the rest of your life with, you know if you need to buy those shoes or if you need to make a life changing decision without hesitation? I just knew. I eventually returned home and came up with a game plan to move with my company. After a long process my company accepted and gave me the green light to move and work in our Florence office. In March 2013 we moved to Florence without our visas being complete and only having 90 days to be in Italy without being "illegal." Two and a half months in Italy and our visas were finally ready. A year in the making. We flew home to LA and received our visas. It's been an incredibly long ride but a lovely opportunity that we will cherish forever. La Bella Vita!
I did! duhhh! Italians laugh when I say duh! I brought my amazing husband who was also fortunate enough to keep his job and our two kitties, Mixie and Mowgley. I wish the rest of my family would move with us. Then it would be perfect.
How did you find the transition to living in a foreign country?
I am still transitioning. I feel like the first few months in a foreign country is a dream. I walk to work and giggle to myself in disbelief. Is this real life? Is that the Basilica di Santa Croce? How did I take the 405 to work every day? Where is the traffic? I think I am adjusting quite well. The one thing that is difficult is not having friends. I have been able to make friends with some girls at work and I love it. Slowly but surely. There are things we needed to learn like how to buy produce in the grocery stores, asking for the wifi password every bar we go to, playing cherades to get our questions across, dodging cars and buses because oh ya pedestrians DO NOT have the right of way and dealing with the insane heat AND trying to understand why Italians don't like air conditioning. There is so much more to learn and I can't wait to soak it all in!
Was it easy making friends and meeting people; do you mainly socialise with other expats?
Easy? no. My husband and I are very sociable. We make friends on every vacation and we just love meeting new people. But it's so difficult not speaking the language. yet! Most everyone that we meet speaks english and are only traveling through Florence. I want to befriend locals and I know it will happen. I'm bummed it's taken this long. I would LOVE to socialise with other expats as well. It would be nice to grab an aperitivo with someone who is going through or been through the same things I am.
Honestly, WALK AROUND. Florence is magical. As a coworker described, it's a "museum under the sky." It truly is. My husband and I take a walk almost every night and there are always new things to discover and look at. We sit on the bridge and people watch. It's fascinating. Every weekend there is some sort of festival (gelato being my favorite so far), concert, art exhibit, wine walk, car rally etc. I feel like we live in ancient Disneyland.
What do you enjoy most about living hin Italy?
I love being out of my comfort zone. I love the culture. I love how relaxed Italians are. Americans go go go and before you know it the day is over. Italians take it easy and smile at strangers. It's refreshing. I also enjoy the food. ALL of the food. The gelato is my drug. It's the best!
How does the cost of living in Florence compare to California?
It's about the same. We are not comparing apples to apples here but we are paying about the same amount each month as we did in LA. In fact it may be cheaper since we don't have to pay a car payment, car insurance or gas! But we havent received some utility bills yet so I can't properly answer this. ;) The lifestyle is much more expensive though. It's easy to say to yourself "let's go out and get dinner" and that turns in to 1 drink, 2 drink, appetizers and meals and boom...pricey. There is so much to do and see and it's difficult to not spend money. It's been challenging for us.
The one thing that I get down about is not knowing people. Missing our friends and family is so hard and feeling lonely can be draining. My husband travels a lot and thats when it really hits home. I miss girls night, wine night, throwing theme parties on a random saturday and just having people over. If you're in Florence, come over!! :) Most people think living in Florence is the perfect life. And I admit...it's almost perfect. I just want my favorite Cali people to come visit.
If you could pick one piece of advice to anyone moving here, what would it be?
Learn Italian! Really. Husband and I are trying and we will get it...one day. I should go call our tutor... And, TRAVEL! I mean Paris is an hour and a half flight away. All of Europe is at your fingertips! mmmmmm.
What has been the hardest aspect to your expat experience so far?
The hardest is meeting people. I want to so badly go up to everyone and ask if they speak a little english so we can become besties and live happily ever after. I miss that connection with people so badly. It's also hard not knowing if you are getting ripped off because you're American. It happens. But when it's blatant it's rough to deal with. We are slowly learning what is supposed to happen and what things are supposed to cost. Normal to Italians may be making up the prices from person to person.
When you finally return home, how do you think you'll cope with repatriation?
IF we return home I will need to live and work in a place that is no more than 10 minutes away by car. I honestly don't think I will ever be able to commute again. Spending 3 hours in a car each day is just a waste of a day. I am learning to enjoy life and every second of it. I want to keep that always. The food at home will be a challenge. We are eating like kings over here. I don't know how I will cope without gelato.
- PLAN your stay in advance. The visa process was a long nightmare and our blood, sweat and tears are all over our passports. It's a challenging process that I'm sure weeds out the weak and lazy people. Fight for it and it will be yours! Research your to-do's and know what paperwork you need. It's a lot. Hang in there!
- SAVE your money! That means nothing coming from me but really things can get pricey here. You may think you have enough saved but keep saving. It will go so fast.
- KNOW all about Florence. Where are the museums and what's inside them? Learn where the locals hang out and not the toursits. We are still learning each day and it's incredible how much history is here. Florence is so inspiring and everyone should get a piece of it.
- MAKE friends. Don't be lonely. Get out there and meet people to throw theme parties with!
- LEARN Italian! You can only get so far in Italy until you're tapped out. Learning Italian will open up so many doors and allow you to be in the Italian world!
Tell us a bit about your own expat blog.
I sarted Blicious in 2007. It's been my therapy outlet where I share personal stories and photos. I recently started a series called "La Bella Vita" to capture all the Italian things I think are worth blogging about.
How can you be contacted for further advice to future expats coming to your area?
Email me, facebook me, tweet me, instagram me...Oh the times now are funny.... All my info is on my blog!
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Comments » There are 2 comments
I love, love, love Brandi and Brandon and have been following her blog for sometime now...what a fantastic interview! Love that they both have a love for life and made a dream a reality! :)
Hi Brandi, I enjoyed reading about your story & glad you were both able to transition to Italy easy through work. Many people want to relocate but do not realize how difficult it really is. I'm a dual EU/US citizen just back from Verona where I'd planned to relocate; even with EU citizenship, there are hoops to jump through....I just wouldn't have to fly back to US. Your husband is Italian...if his parents, grandparents or great grandparents were born in Italy, he can apply for citizenship. I think by marriage & residence in Italy, you can get it to, thus being able to stay longer if you wish....and it seems you do. Who can blame you! Florence is ENCHANTING! So was Verona but issues arose back here in the States that I thought I could manage from Italy, alas...,I could not. But I loved being there, living like a local. As for getting the language, I have some Italian....it was once awesome but now "functional" so I did alright. I always recommend Living Language (Beginner & Intermediate) program to people for getting a fast, fun, functional grasp of a language. It's affordable (compared to Rosetta or Pimsleur) and from there, you could move on to their next level or a local tutor, classes. It is hard being lonely, but even seeing same shopkeepers etc. each day will help expand your encounters, visit same cafes regularly but limit to one cafe or acqua frizzante to keep it affordable (ironically wine is often cheapest!) and you'll get to know the people in your "home" cafe. It seemed there were more expat groups in Milan & Rome but you're NOT the only one in Florence for sure so maybe think of starting something yourself......you sound like you have experience hosting. Perhaps put up a sign on the University bulletin board even though it's summer or put an ad in the local paper announcing a group...tweet it, FB, etc. if you host it, they will come. So too will Italian friends....it just normally takes them time. There are more Americans outside Florence in Tuscany who ay not mind driving in for a social (& then reciprocate!) so perhaps expand your reach too. Enjoy the gelato....it was my even too. See if there's a "La Romana" gelateria in Firenze....this place is to die for. Also, go to a panetteria and try the local schiacciata.....a little bit of heaven, and I'm not a bread eater but this stuff is unbelievable & a Tuscan specialty. I've had it in Firenze. Buona Fortuna!