My friend Georgette is our first guest writer. She is a fellow resident of Florence, and has been living in Italy for 5 years despite all odds. She has chosen to remain in Florence instead of repatriating back to the U.S. She has been kind enough to share her experiences and opinions as to why she prefers the Tuscan sun over Texan BBQ. Please Enjoy!
I feel like I should provide a back story instead of demanding that people be interested in my life. I am 26 almost 27 years old, American, I grew up in San Antonio, Texas (Go Spurs), and although I love Texas and my fantastic, loud typical Texan family at 18 I packed my bags, left home and I haven’t looked back since. Of course I had some help with that, namely my ex boyfriend and best friend who all moved to LA or “la la land” as I like to call it. I came, I worked, I finished University. It was hard but in an age where I think we have a problem with what I call “sweet 16ers” , a little hard work never hurt anyone! Los Angeles was and is a great a place to live. I met many great long lasting friends and hey it gave me the opportunity to do things that I may not have been able to do in Texas. I got to go to a gay pride parade with feisty older men in leather chaps, transvestite parties, crazy nights in Malibu, and managed to pay for a trip to teach English in China. Last but definitely not least, the opportunity to study and eventually live in …..ITALY.
First, how did I get here legally? I studied here for one year at a satellite school of my University (California state university Los Angeles), and then returned to the States to finish my degree. About a year later I was sure I wanted to come back and try it out as an expat in Italy.
I did a bit of research with the help of my Italian boyfriend! I have had a permesso di lavoro for two years that I will have to renew in 2012. I obtained the permesso with the help of my Italian boyfriend’s parents. I am looking forward to renewing that as much as a fork in the eye, but it’s a necessary evil . I did a lot of research , put in my application with the anagrafe in Firenze, did my questura work, paid my taxes and voila! I am here. Of course this was due to the work visa lottery (flusi), which happens as often as Berlusconi repents (not too often). Hire a lawyer if you think you would like to apply and need help (which you probably do). It will be the best money spent in your life.
I get random emails from time to time on Facebook. Most of them positive and some of them not so much. The main question I get is, “so do your rich parents pay for your exploits?” Exploits?..What am I an Eastern European hooker? So to answer that person’s question: no no and more no. Of course my father helped when I studied here, but I live here (in Florence) under the condition that I use my degree and actually *gasp* work and *gasp* support myself. Work? Oh yes work I do! I have a real job as well as some freelancing additions to said job. These additions include marrying couples, babysitting, helping with visas/translating, and helping apartment seekers, and much more!
My main job is with a company called Insidersabroad.com, which is a “community portal” of English speakers from around the world who love Italy (and soon France and Spain). They want all the information they can get about a country they are so passionate about – and we provide them with the inside scoop. We link three markets: expats, students and tourists, which is what makes us unique. Expats know the city/country they are living in, and students need that information when they are abroad. Tourists also want to know where the locals go. This first-hand “insider knowledge” is what makes us superior to guidebooks and other travel sites. I sell online ads to companies that want to tap into this market. And I LOVE IT, because I believe in what I do. I wish more sites existed like this when I first came to Florence clueless! And what about old jobs? Here goes!
Old Job #1 goes to a Vacation Rental Company located here in Florence where my job was to find clients from abroad , rent them in vacation houses, and provide customer service. I did little bit of everything. I also had a crazy boss whose mood changed as frequently as those 2 dollar mood rings everyone bought as a kid.
She was crazy. She started making ME crazy, and if it wasn’t for my sarcastic and funny colleague from the south of Italy I probably would have hightailed it long before I did. A good job in Italy is the equivalent of finding the holy grail during the religious crusades, and I for one am not going to give that up so easily. Hence why I LOVE my job now.
Old job#2 is slightly more masochistic in that I didn’t technically need it, but since I was mainly paid on commission from job number 1, I wanted to be sure and have this one as a steady paycheck. A couple of afternoons a week I got paid (well) to “teach” English to 3 and 5 yr. old kids from rich families solely by playing with them. A very popular job with young Americans and English alike here in Florence. The funny thing about it was they knew NO English. So picture me speaking English to them and them staring blankly in my face as if I was speaking Swahili. Yep that’s pretty much what I did. The job was not without its rewards though, and they were flexible. So if I had to do something like bang a nail through my head, no biggie! I could call and not go that day because the family had not 1 but 3 nannies at their 24 hour disposal. I had perhaps seen the woman (the mom) who hired me about 3 times since I had begun working there, and the father almost never. In fact when I dyed my hair back to brown he introduced himself to me again because he thought I was a new English teacher! .. Hmm dad how about spending less time at work and more time at home with your kids?
I live, work, eat, cry, laugh, sleep, and ponder life here in this fantastic gem of a city called Florence. Is it the fantasy land where every English/American person wants to settle down for a simple life after working 50 hour weeks? NO.. but it is for me. I have learned to roll with the punches, the bad and the ugly. It really doesn’t bother me anymore, and I try not to compare it to home because now this is my home. Anyway has anyone tried to call a Dell laptop customer assistant back in the states? We live with my Italian boyfriend’s parents (we have our own semi apartment), and are looking for an apartment to buy at the moment. A hard but worthy endeavor. I drive here, am currently studying for my Italian drivers license. I actually enjoy driving here. Just remember the rules are “suggestions” no more… I kid!
There is nothing simple about Florence unless you are already rich and have people doing all of the “grunt work” for you. If you think Florence is simple , just try to get fast Internet connected at your house.
I do love it here, and yes I miss my friends and family back home very much. I have met amazing people here from all over Europe, but it makes me sad because 99.9% of them leave after a certain period of time because like I mentioned before good jobs and low rent are kinda hard to obtain here! I have met many great Italians as well (hello, I’m dating one!), but it is comforting to be able to speak in English, and be able to bring up those cultural references like family guy with someone who knows what I am talking about. Yes I speak Italian very well. I have to. After 4 years it would be kinda lame if I didn’t. If I can give anyone advice coming to Italy it would be to LEARN THE LANGUAGE! Enroll in a school program for a year to get situated before selling off your prized possessions for a “under the Tuscan sun” like lifestyle! Yes you can work without speaking the language but would you want to? Your quality of life will greatly improve socially and work wise. Many misunderstanding are due to language mishaps! Put yourself out there! This is not the country to be a computer obsessed social parasite. People value their passeggiata, gelato, aperitivo, family, seaside, and food. Get involved with the community, like I did, joining expat friend groups in your city and volunteering. Host a thanksgiving dinner for your new Italian friends. Enjoy being here and trying a new experiences. I tend to be a pretty positive person anyway , no matter what country I am in which hey probably helps no matter where you are…
It’s 2011and I see myself here for the foreseeable future , hopefully one day opening a business. Lets face it, living here forces you to be creative and think outside the box! Also raising a family with summers in the states, and just living life and not trying to overanalyze it too much. Stop dreaming and start doing!