So, You Want To Move To Italy?
A decade ago I dreamed of moving to Europe after college. I don’t know why, it just seemed like it would fix everything. I didn’t want to change myself, necessarily, I just wanted to be an even cooler version with my multiple languages, fancy clothes, and ultra-bitchy, bitch-face. I also wanted a posh British husband who looked Italian but spoke like Jude Law. I wanted the wit of a brit, along with the prudishness of one. I was never really interested in latin lovers because I always assumed that latin lovers came with latin diseases. Their diseases sounded prettier than ours but still ate your bits away. No thanks.
It’s not that surprising that everything that I wanted totally didn’t happen how I planned. However, I DID move to Italy and my bitch-face is way bitchier than it used to be, but I still look homeless and speak like a drunk toddler. Oh, and my husband isn’t British, he’s Italian, because life is funny like that. Did everything turn out exactly as planned? No. But I’m pretty damn happy with how things worked out because my husband is awesome. Italy, despite the many irritations (like with anywhere) is a place where everyone should live at least once in their lives. I’m certainly not what I thought I’d magically become but I did become a stronger, better person because of my experience abroad. Not only did I get to do all kinds of soul-searching, growing, and all of that fun stuff, but I also got to stuff my face with amazing food, cheap wine, and spent my days in the Tuscan sun with my cracked-out poodle. The golden sunlight alone makes it worth it. There is no experience quite like being an immigrant, nothing else is nearly as simultaneously traumatic and thrilling and I highly recommend it.
I get dozens of emails every week from people asking me the same question, “How did you do it?” They desperately want to see the world, experience new things and a new culture but they’re not exactly sure how to get it all together. My advice more or less sucks because what I normally write back sounds more like a Nike commercial than genuine advice, “Just Do It.” But attitude is all that it takes. Everything else is just a “to do” list of various levels of difficulty. I tell them to go. JUST GO! They usually have similar, understandable concerns and respond with, “One day…” or they make a bunch of bullshit excuses of why it won’t work for them. But really, that’s all they are giving themselves: Bullshit excuses. There is nothing special about me. I’m not genetically superior. My DNA didn’t allow me to survive abroad where others would perish. Guys, it’s 2014, the other side of the world is a one day trip. That’s nothing when you think about the fact that going to Europe used to take weeks and weeks by boat, with rats, and a navigator with scurvy and mother fuckers STILL DID IT. If you want to move to Italy, if your dream is to move to Florence for one year or two years, or forever, the only thing you need is the guts to make it happen and Google. Google makes everything possible.
A List Of Common Concerns And How You Can Overcome Them:
1. I have kids. Sell them. Just kidding. Kids are portable. It’s totally not going to be EASY but it’s something that hundreds of people do every year. Homeschool them or put them in an Italian or find a school for foreign kids. Lots of people move their kids abroad and their kids are fine. So far none of them have turned into serial killers.
2. I have stuff. Yep, we all have stuff. You don’t need all of your stuff. You need clothes so you don’t get arrested, a computer, and that’s just about it. Most apartments are furnished in Florence until you buy so you don’t need anything.
3. It’s expensive. Sure, moving is expensive and plane tickets are super duper expensive but it’s nothing that some tight budgeting and selling some or your stuff can’t sort out. By “stuff” I mean like your T.V., not your penis or vagina. Prostitution isn’t a recommended way to get yourself to Italy.
4. I have pets. COOL! I do too and we travel with him all the time. Florence is especially dog friendly and there are numerous services that specialize in transporting animals safely. If your dog is small you should get checked out mentally to see if you’re insane like us and need an ESA, if you’re too sane to get an anxiety buddy, you can hire a service to transport Fido so that he’s safe and sound. One of my co-workers transported her GREAT DANE from Germany to Utah. You can do it.
5. I can’t be there legally. Sure you can! There are grants, fellowships, student visas, tourist visas, extended visas, and self employed visas, and marriage visas. All sorts of ways! You can be here for 3 months without any kind of visa at all if you’re from a first world country.
6. I don’t speak Italian. Use Duolingo and Babbel. There, solved, facile!
7. I have a house. Rent it out. Sell it.
8. What about my job? You probably hate your job anyways. Now is your chance to do something crazy and take a leap. You only LIVE ONCE. Change jobs (find something you can do online), ask for a 1 year sabbatical, or ask to work remotely for one year. Remote workers save the company tons of money. Tell your boss why you’ll be more productive and save him/her tons of money by working in your jammies from Italy. Worst case you can find a job in Italy or make your own. I know loads of expats who teach English, walk dogs, clean houses, work at bars or coffee shops, or run theaters and art programs. You can do anything.
9. Doing stuff is scary. Totally, but sometimes you just have to buck up and get it done.
HOW TO MOVE TO FLORENCE (ITALY) IN ONE YEAR
1. Make A Decision. Decide to go and JUST GO. Pick a date a year out, buy a ticket, and do a happy dance.
2. Save $$$. Start saving as much money as possible and preparing for a career shift. You’ll need as much as you can for the move but I’d plan on at least having $4,000 in the bank before you go. Commit to putting as much money aside as possible. Sell stuff you don’t really need. Cash in CD’s or break open your piggy banks.
3. Chang Jobs. Look in to jobs you can do from your home country in Italy. Start looking into website design, content writing, blogging, copywriting, Etsy, and any other “work from home” type positions. Do whatever you can to build that up on the side a few hours weekly for the next year. Worst case you can get a job in Italy but it’s always easier to work from the homeland. If you do want to work in Italy make sure you work on your Italian, and your Italian history. It’s also helpful to get your TEFL certificate. You’ll probably have a “tourist” related job at a hotel, in a pub, as a tour guide, etc. A tour guide is a particularly good choice because they pay well. If you’re confident that you have amazing skills that will land you a job that will result in you being sponsored (a university professor, etc) then go for that. If there’s one thing I’ve learned it’s good to have a backup plan.
4. Language Lessons. Sign up for Babbel or start using Duolingo every single day for at least 10 minutes. Put it on your phone and do it on the subway, or listen to it in the car. 10-15 minutes per day can really make the experience a lot easier and better when you land in Italy.
5. Research Visa Options. There are loads of different kinds of visa options that will allow you to live in Italy legally. You don’t want to get deported because that would just be embarrassing. Luckily for you Italy is not all that strict in terms of staying long term. You get 3 months visa free, but then you’ve got to get on it. There is an extended tourist visa, student visa, or a artist or self employed visa. There are also work visas or marriage visas but obviously you need to marry an Italian or find a company to sponsor you, those options can be more difficult.
6. Get Your Passport. If you don’t already have a passport you might want to get one. Depending on your state it can take anywhere from 2 weeks to 8 weeks. However, putting this off to the last minute is a bad idea. You’ll have so much to do before you leave that this is something you’ll want to get out of the way as soon as possible.
7. Apply To Schools. If you’ve decided to get a student visa to attend some sort of school in Florence you should start researching schools in Florence now. There are a lot of schools that vary from cheap to insanely expensive. The more Italian you speak the more options you’ll have for a cheaper school. Obviously, many of the schools in Florence are art schools but you can find a program for pretty much everything. You’ll want to start applying for schools about 9 months before you want to leave.
8. Make Friends In Italy. Join a few expat groups on FB and get to know some of the locals. Expat blogs are also a great way to develop an understanding of what being an expat in Italy is like so you can prepare yourself for some of the bumps ahead. Living in Italy is awesome but it’s obviously not always wonderful being an immigrant. You will be an immigrant. 🙂
9. Break Your Lease And Arrange For Pets. Start making arrangements to break your lease, to bring your pets, or to leave them with a family member you trust. I emphasize trust because every time soldiers leave for war, of the thousands of dogs left with friends and family, a huge percentage end up euthanized at the pound or adopted out to strangers and weirdos (many dogs adopted out on Craigslist are abused and murdered). Remember, nobody will love your dog or cat as much as you do and bringing them is not that difficult. Seriously, Italians love dogs. You can bring them EVERYWHERE (we do!). They’ll be very happy in Italy (more happy than with your creepy uncle John, for sure).
10. Apply For Visas. Once you’ve applied to schools or decided which type of visa you want you want to start getting stuff together and applying. Visa applications can take up to 2 months so you’ll definitely want to do that early enough to give yourself some wiggle room.
11. Find An Apartment. Prices for apartments can range from $300 bucks for a rented room to $1,200 for a 3 bedroom apartment. It depends on what area you’re in with the city center being the most expensive and the Noveli area being one of the cheaper areas. My husband and I live in the Campo Di Marte area and it runs us around 800 euros for a one bedroom but it’s a really nice area and we love it. Some of the best places to find an apartment is on the European Institutes “flatmate wanted” wall, or through a website like Housing In Florence or Studentsville, or longterm rentals at Airbnb.
12. Kiss Your Family Goodbye And Prepare To Be An Expat In Italy!
If you have any other helpful resources or if I missed something let me know! Feel free to leave a comment below with your advice.