Expat Interview With Hayley, Canadian Expat In Italy

Published: 2 Sep at 9 AM
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Filed: Interviews,Italy
Hayley never could handle change well. So when the opportunity to leave Canada and move to Italy presented itself - she jumped at it. Backwards. Now six years later, Hayley is livin' la bella vita, exploring Tuscany, making pasta al dente and using her daughter as an interpreter. Talk about your SpoiledExpat. Hayley's expat blog is called SpoiledExpat (see listing here)

Meet Hayley - American expat living in Italy
Meet Hayley - American expat living in Italy

Here's the interview with Hayley...

Where are you originally from?
Kelowna, BC, Canada

In which country and city are you living now?
Lido di Camaiore, LU, Italy

How long have you lived here and how long are you planning to stay?
I've been living here for almost 6 years, and unless circumstances change drastically, I'll be here for life.

Why did you move and what do you do?
After my then-boyfriend-now-husband and I became pregnant 2.5 years into our long distance relationship we decided to 'try things out' in Italy. At the time I was working full time as a Business Analyst for a background checking company and I was fortunate enough to keep my job and work remotely from Italy for 3 years. When the company that I had been working for was acquired by another company I started teaching English full time and looked for another job in the meanwhile. I was extremely blessed to find a job just 15 km from home as a Product Owner for a very successful application - more or less the same job that I was doing in Canada.

Viadellamore Sunset
Viadellamore Sunset
Did you bring family with you?
Our daughter was born in Canada and we lived there with my parents for the first 4 months of her life until we moved to Italy. My husband was able to be at her birth and a couple of weeks after, but then he had to return to Italy for work. He didn't see her again (aside from all of the photos I sent him everyday) until he came back to Canada to pick us up and bring us 'home'. So, to answer the question, yes! I did bring family with me!

How did you find the transition to living in a foreign country?
It was not easy. After two months I had a complete emotional breakdown (I wasn't hospitalized or anything, more of the 'lay in bed wailing' type of breakdown) because I didn't know the word for 'conditioner' (it's balsamo in case you ever need to know!) and how I had no friends and I couldn't talk to anyone and I didn't know where everything was and I missed my family and friends and sushi....but after a while I started to get used to things, and understand the language, and things got better. It's still not easy, but things get better every day.

Carnevale 2013 Burlamacco
Carnevale 2013 Burlamacco
Was it easy making friends and meeting people; do you mainly socialise with other expats?
I don't make friends easily to begin with - I'm a bit shy, so it was not that easy for me to make friends here. I had lots of acquaintances and knew a few other expats but without knowing the language it's hard to really get to know people. I struggled between not wanting to spend all my time with expats (I wanted to live here and mix with everyone and not just in an expat bubble) and being completely out of sorts with the locals. Now I spend my time with mainly with locals and a few good expat friends.

What are the best things to do in the area; anything to recommend to future expats?
There is a long list of things to do here! Check out Carnevale in January/February! Enjoy beach season at one of any hundreds of beaches (pay or free) along the Med! Eat some amazing tordelli in the mountains! Take in an aperitivo on the ponte overlooking the sea.

What do you enjoy most about living here?
Living here has taught me to do more with less. Hard to believe with the amount of food and wine we consume, but I have found that there is much less consumerism here than there is in Canada. I have become a more gregarious and demonstrative person, and one who actually turns off lights when I'm not in the room. We boast about our energy conservation efforts in Canada, but here it's actually out of necessity! Gas and electricity are EXPENSIVE! Power has limits! Vacuuming and doing wash at the same time? No, no, no...that will never do. ;)

How does the cost of living compare to home?
As Einstein knew, it's all relative! Dinners out here cost a lot less with respect to the price and quality of food than dinners out at home. However, try buying a 'staple' from home, here in Italy. $5 for a small tin of oats? $7 for a small jar of peanut butter? It's all relative but I think it pretty much balances out in the end.

What negatives, if any, are there to living here?
It's difficult to find work if you don't live in a major city. There are also other considerations - types of contract and implications of each. I've been very fortunate to find work here, but it wasn't for lack of trying! Don't give up. Use your network - that's your best bet.

If you could pick one piece of advice to anyone moving here, what would it be?
Learn the language. It is amazing what a different world you will find yourself in when you can have idle chit chat at the train station, or cafe, or walk into a book store and not have to look for the English books. And don't stop at just learning the language - that is only half of the battle (the other half is 'knowing'), immerse yourself in the culture. Not museums, or galleries, either. Watch the old Fantozzi movies that come on TV. Listen to music that people your age listened to 20 years ago. Go out to dinner where the locals go. Ask for recipes, make them at home. Learn the best swear words - use them.

What has been the hardest aspect to your expat experience so far?
The isolation. Not just because of my introverted tendencies - but because here, in Italy, you are the foreigner and everything is different. I can't run out to the store at 11pm to buy my groceries because the stores aren't open past 9pm. I can't decide on a whim to get Indian food one night because there is no Indian restaurant nearby. I can't make awesome jokes about Arrested Development to anyone because no one will understand them. Living abroad is a constant exercise in openness. It is a never ending challenge to yourself to be more open, flexible, and adaptable. It is the human condition on fast forward.

What are your top 5 expat tips for anyone following in your footsteps?
  1. Learn the language.
  2. Be willing to adapt.
  3. Adapt.
  4. Explore your surroundings.
  5. Keep your sense of humor AT ALL TIMES!

Tell us a bit about your own expat blog.
SpoiledExpat is a blog with more than just anecdotes from my daily life and recipes, though you'll find plenty of both. I strive to make SpoiledExpat a place where you can learn more about places that are off the beaten track, whether that be an amazing beach, or a fantastic restaurant nestled in the hills. I keep the blog current with events in the area - sagre, medieval festivals, markets - all the things you would never find in your guide.

How can you be contacted for further advice to future expats coming to your area?
I can be contacted through the Contact Us page on my blog (see link below)

About the author

Expat Blog ListingHayley is a Canadian expat living in Italy. Blog description: Canadian expat livin' la bella vita in Tuscany. I came, I saw, I hemmed and hawed, now I'm conquering.
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