So, you’ve finally admitted it to yourself: you want to move to Italy and start afresh there. It’s a place that lights you up like no other. You just feel happier there and can’t even explain why. You just feel good, really good.
Well, let me share how I did it in 2010 and what worked for me and what didn’t. And some extra life lessons along the way, which I can’t help but share since, you know, I’m a life coach, and life coaches tend to do these things.
Of course, seeing yourself being swept off your feet by an Italian macho, eating gelato in a square and going to work by gondola all looks wonderful in your head, but reality is a bit different. In order for you to turn your Italian dream into reality, you need to create a crystal clear vision for yourself.
This vision doesn’t necessarily need to become your exact life (talking about setting yourself up for disappointment), but you do need to know what you’re aiming at in order to be able to go for it in the first place. You need to have a plan, a certain structure, something to do.
Like the saying goes:
“If one does not know to which port one is sailing, no wind is favourable.” – Lucius Annaeus Seneca
So ask yourself these questions:
Where do I want to go?
Why do I want to go there?
What do I want to do there?
How will I make this happen?
Who can I contact?
Who can help me? (me!)
How much money do I need?
Learn the Language
I can’t stress this enough. If you want to be able to set up your life here, you need to be able to interact with the people. Not just for practicality’s sake, but for your connection with local life. Understanding jokes, knowing when you’re being chatted up and being able to communicate your needs are vital for survival here. So work your ass off to get your highest level attainable outside of Italy and once here enrol at a language school or get private lessons.
Yes, Italians do speak English (sometimes), but would you want Italians to speak Italian when they moved to your country? No. So don’t do that to them either.
Just do this and you speak Italian 😉
Do As the Italians Do
The other day, my partner said to me: “you can’t live in Italy like a Dutch person.” He was referring to my over-indulgence in Gouda cheese and non-existent cooking abilities.
Some years ago I would’ve been like: “mind your own business, I’ll do whatever the hell I want.”
But now I see his point. If you really want to integrate you need to adapt to their way of doing things – and see that they’re actually very enjoyable. Also because, like I wrote in this post, I really think Italians do it better. To me personally it means becoming more open-minded, trying different things and stretching myself out of my comfort zone.
I never cooked because I felt I wasn’t capable and so I avoided it like the plague. It made me feel uncomfortable. But since I’m all about facing my fears, moving out of my comfort zone and growing into my full potential, I’ve actually started cooking. Pasta al Pomodoro that is, but it’s a start – and I’m actually enjoying it.
Same goes for the place we’re going to live because – si! – we’re moving in together! He doesn’t like the city centre, and as you know, I love the city centre. Nevertheless he’s giving me a different perception of what’s possible here. Before I would NEVER EVER have considered living in the countryside, but he’s bringing out the country girl in me, which is apparently hiding in there somewhere.
I always thought: when I move to the countryside I’ll never see my beloved Florence again. No, it’s not like that. It’s about looking at it in another way: you can drive (as Italians do very fanatically), get a scooter or go by train and have both fresh air, green living, peace and quiet and the joy of the bustling city life whenever you want.
Mmm, I had never considered that. Not really.
And so you need to be willing to look at things in a completely different way. This requires flexibility, questioning your own limiting beliefs and being willing to take the leap into something new and experience what it’s like before judging it. It’s not easy, yet absolutely worth it!
Find a Job
I’m not saying this so that you can make money right away. That’s obvious: you need to make money to live. But if you’re smart about your Italian adventure, you save up as much as possible before coming here so that financial stress is the last of your worries.
At least that’s what I did coming here with € 10.000 in savings. I spent it in about seven months. In that time I didn’t have to worry about it too much and that allowed me to do my thing: study at a language school, do voluntary work at that same language school (and not pay for my classes!), make friends with locals through different online portals (see next point), get to know the city, go on trips to explore the surroundings, go out and have fun; basically enjoy life.
Then I had to find a job. Not just because of the money but because I wanted to set up a life here. And working is so much more than money: it’s filling your day with meaningful activity, meeting people, discovering new places, finding your way around, getting out of the house, that kind of super essential things for a happy life. Because let’s face it: moving here is great, but in the end it will mean that you’ll have to set up your life here, which includes normal human things like working and so on.
I worked as an English teacher since I have a degree in English teaching. It didn’t fall from the sky, but it is relatively easy to find teaching jobs compared to other kinds of jobs like being a doctor or an architect. But, nothing is impossible and if you’re willing to make it happen no matter what then go for it like your life depends on it, because it does.
Tell everyone you’re looking for work and get very clear (yes, again!) on what it is you offer. What are your super powers? Why would anyone hire you? The more proactive you are about it, the more chance you’ll have to succeed. Post your job quest in different expat groups in Italy like Expats in Italy, Friends in Florence and Tuscany or English Teachers in Florence. There are probably similar ones for other parts of Italy. Put an ad in the local newspaper like The Florentine. Be prepared to walk around with a sign saying: I’m looking for work.
Of course, this last one sounds silly, but I’ve always had this mentality of I’m willing to do whatever it takes to make this work and if I have to work in a bar, wait tables or do babysitting, I will do it. I’ve worked as an interpreter at a cooking school (yes, me!). That’s actually how I met my fabulous friend and photographer Christine Juette! (She took all the photos in this post). I’ve taught Dutch too small kids (never thought that was in my abilities either) and I finally set up my own life coaching business in Italy, even though everyone said having your own business is practically impossible here. Impossible is nothing, like I wrote in this post and it’s true. As long as you believe it for yourself too!
Like in real life, you’ll also need friends here. So, the bigger a social safety net you create, the safer you will be. I started out meeting locals by going to Meet Up events, Internations meet ups and The Florentine activities.
I joined picnics in the countryside with people I’d just met even though I got car sick driving in the hills, I went on cultural trips leaving way too early in the morning, I interacted with the people at my local bar even though I wasn’t too sure about my Italian.
I remember one day in January when I’d just come back after my first holiday back in Holland I felt so fragile you could break me in two by just looking at me. I was without a daily structure to my life since the school activities had ended, it was cold, all my classmates had left and I had no job and a very unhealthy relationship with an unsuitable partner. I was sliding back into my anxiety disorder and the only thing that kept me going was my previously mentioned partner’s dog. I took her for walks, dragged her and myself out of the house and just was, since I couldn’t do anything.
I met up with a woman I’d met at one of the meet ups and told her about how I felt – and I cried. She understood. That moment of her understanding my situation was so incredibly valuable that it gave me the strength to move on.
This is one of the reasons why I organise monthly meet ups for my fabulous group The YES Woman so that courageous women who have moved to Florence can connect with each other, find friends and just share their unique story. It’s incredibly beautiful every time we get together.
In that difficult period, I put my faith in the Universe, in Florence and in myself. I knew I would find work, I knew I would find friends, I knew I would make it work one way or another, not having an idea whatsoever how I would. I just kept putting one foot after the other, making one acquaintance after the next and creating my Florentine life day after day.
Fast forward nearly eight years I have my own business, a select group of beautiful friends, a very suitable partner, an amazing house and a project for the future. I’ve built a life here because I created it. I didn’t give up.
And I help my clients do the same! If you’re interested, read about how I help you take your leap to Italy and book a free discovery call here. I’d love to be able to help you answer your own “now what?!” in person and be that person you know you can fall back on when stretching out of your comfort zone like never before, setting up your life in Italy and absolutely loving it!
Just remember: no one ever said it was easy, but it doesn’t have to be unnecessarily hard either.
Love & courage,