Posts Tagged ‘Expat Interviews’

Expat Interview – Katie in Florence

Wednesday, October 14th, 2009

Katie Greenaway and I connected through our blogs initially, and met in person in Florence, Italy in January 2007.  She’s been going back and forth between Florence and the US for almost 8 years.  If anyone loves Florence, it’s Katie.  Recently she came back to Florence – this time to stay – and I was excited to be able to ask her a few questions about her experience.

What do you do in Florence right now?

Right now, I am doing a plethora of things.  I teach English Tuesdays and Thursdays in Prato. I end those two days with a BodyFLOW class at a local gym.  Then several days a week I teach BodyFLOW at It’s Yoga Firenze studio near the Ponte Vecchio.  This week I start working part time for a local school helping with marketing.  Every other minute of the day I write on the Nile Guide as a Local Expert on Florence.  Soon I will take on the challenge of being the Tuscany Expert as well.

You have been in Florence on and off for several  years, and now you live there permanently.  Can you tell us a bit about the struggles and the triumphs of this journey?

My  journey started  in 2002 when I was a student here through Saint Mary’s University.  I am able to live here permanently because my mother was born in London, so I obtained UK (and EU) citizenship.  My grandmother was born in Italy but it was a mess trying to obtain Italian citizenship.  One big struggle was being unable to work properly because I didn’t have documents to work.  A triumph was definitely the day I received my passport.  I became an EU citizen.  I am still flabberghasted over it.

What’s your favorite part of your current Florentine routine?

The spontaneity of my life here.  I could run into my friend Pasquale on the street and end up hanging out with him all day.  I might come to the center just to teach my class but end up sitting with Davide at his hot dog stand.  It is great to know that my friends just randomly call or text me to go for a walk or a drink.  That is the biggest difference in my life here as opposed to in the States.

Even though you know Florence like the back of your hand, are there still things that surprise you about it?

There are still streets I come upon that I don’t recognize.  That is great because then I can explore a new street like I just arrived in Florence.  I also enjoy seeing new, unique stores and cafes that perhaps were never in my frame of view as a student.  Now that I have full range of the city and my new neighborhood, I can explore and get introduced to new ventures I never fathomed experiencing.

What piece of advice do you have for others who dream of moving abroad?

DON’T GIVE UP!  When you have a dream it is important to not let others put it down.  If you know your path is to be in a different part of the world, really believe in yourself.  Also a great quote my professor from college used to say to me, “I think the royal road to achieving genuine satisfaction in life is going the Bloody hard way.”  Keep the naysayers out of your circle of friends, those people don’t understand how to live life to the fullest.

Read Katie’s blog here.

Tina Ferrari is a translator, writer and tango dancer based in Perugia, Italy.  She writes at AffordableCallingCards.net as well as on her own blog, Tina Tangos. Comments are always welcome!

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Katie, what do you do in Florence right now?

Right now, I am doing a plethora of things.  I teach English Tuesday and Thursday in Prato. I end those two days with a BodyFLOW class at a local gym.  Then on Monday, Wednesday and Friday I teach BodyFLOW at It’s Yoga Firenze studio near the Ponte Vecchio at 11 am Mon and Wed and Friday at 6pm.  This week I am starting to work part time for a local school helping with marketing.  And every other minute in the day I am writing on the Nile Guide as a Local Expert of Florence.  Soon I will be taking on the challenge of being the Tuscany Expert as well.

Most of us know that you have been in Florence on and off for the past 8 years, and now you are living there permanently.  Can you tell us a bit about the struggles and the triumphs of this journey?

My journey started back in 2002, when I was a student here through Saint Mary’s University in Winona, MN. I’ve come to Florence for study, for pleasure and finally now for work.  I am able to live here permanently because my mother was born in London.  I obtained UK citizenship in this way (which makes me an EU citizen).  My grandmother was born outside of Modena but it was a huge mess trying to obtain Italian citizenship.  One big struggle was being unable to work properly because I didn’t have documents to work.  A triumph was definitely the day I received my passport.  I became an EU citizen.  I am still flabberghasted over it.

What’s your favorite part of your current Florentine routine?

The spontaneity of my life here.  I never really know when things will happen.  I could run into my friend Pasquale on the street and end up hanging out with him all day.  I might come to the center just to teach my class but end up sitting with Davide at his hot dog stand.  It is great to know that my friends just randomly call or text me to go for a walk or a drink.  That is the biggest difference to my life here than in the States.

Even though you known Florence like the back of your hand, are there still things that surprise you about it?

There are still streets that come upon me that I don’t recognize.  That is great because then I can explore a new street like I just arrived in Florence.  I also enjoy seeing new, unique stores and cafes that perhaps were never in my frame of view as a student.  Now that I have full range of the city and my new neighborhood, I can explore and get introduced to new ventures I never fathomed on experiencing.

What piece of advice do you have for other girls who dream of moving to Italy or anywhere in the world?

My advice is simply, DON’T GIVE UP!  When you have a dream it is important to not let others put it down.  If you know your path is to be somewhere else or live in a different part of the world, really believe in yourself.  No one else can believe in your idea as a possibility more than you.  Also a great quote my professor from college used to say to me, “I think the royal road to achieving genuine satisfaction in life is going the Bloody hard way.”  Keep the naysayers out of your circle of friends, those people don’t understand how to live life to the fullest.

Interview with an Expat: Sara Donahue in Puglia, Italy

Thursday, October 8th, 2009

While it is true there are an endless number of expats in Italy, the blogosphere, like a good cocktail party, pulls us party-going bloggers together, helps us mingle, gives us the courage to interact. One of the newest bloggers I’ve been chatting it up with lately is another southern Italy expat, located just across the foot of the boot, in Puglia.

1. So tell us, Sara, how did you end up in Molfetta, Italy?

I had been teaching English in Japan and felt I wanted a change. After taking a master’s degree in Teaching English as a Foreign Language at the School for International Training in Vermont, I started sending out applications for jobs around Europe.

I had a few different offers, but decided to take a job at a private language school in Bari. Through a friend of a friend I ended up meeting my future husband, Francesco. Our relationship got off to a rocky start because after we had been dating for only a couple of months a series of events led me to leave Italy and return to the States: the Gulf War broke out and sentiment was rather anti-American around Bari, my father had an emergency operation back in the States, the school I was working for never got around to getting me a work visa…

I said good-by to Italy and Francesco and thought that that was that. But, Francesco had other ideas and followed me around the world, even coming to Japan, where I had returned to teach again, and in the end convinced me to come back to Italy and give life with him a try. He was born and raised in Molfetta, so that’s how I ended up here.

2. What are some of the differences between the US and southern Italy when it comes to rearing your children?

I’ve never raised children in the US, so any differences that I have noticed are more products of my memory of being raised in the US than anything else. And I was a child a long time ago! One thing I really appreciate about Italians is their love of children. They love kids’ energy and noise and accept it much more readily than many other cultures do. However, that causes us some problems when my perfectly well-behaved children (by Italian standards) go to the US and are perceived as being too noisy, undisciplined and even rude.

It’s hard on them because they are suddenly expected to behave differently, and hard on me, too, because I hate for them to be seen as behaving inappropriately. Something that used to drive me crazy about having small children in Italy was the way that Italians feel perfectly justified in coming up to you and giving you unsolicited advice, or even scolding you, because you are treating your child in some way that is different from what the Italian advice-giver would expect.

The Italians accept noise and confusion and little kids staying up till midnight and running around the pizzeria like maniacs, but they go into a panic if your child doesn’t wear 3 or 4 layers of wool, including cap with ear-flaps after the first day of winter, irregardless of what the weather is actually like! And let’s not even mention the whole issue of catching a draught after working up a sweat, it seems like the number one Italian parental fear. As an American I always thought that a good gust of wind would dry me off if I were sweating, never imagined it could bring on illness and who knows what other dread conditions! You can really get caught in a cross-cultural bind of contrasting expectations!

3. What family traditions have you started in Italy?

As a bi-cultural family, we have tried to combine the best traditions from both cultures. We celebrate all the Italian holidays, plus as many American ones as possible. We usually have both a Halloween party and a Carnival party. We open gifts from family members on Christmas eve in the Italian tradition, but then Santa Claus comes during the night, American-style. On December 6, San Nicola leaves gifts for my children and the Befana leaves them candies on the night of January 6. At Easter we participate in all of the Italian church activities and processions, but we also paint Easter eggs and leave them in baskets for the Easter Bunny to hide during the night. You could say that we do it all!

4. What do you miss the most from home-besides family and friends, of course?

I first came to Italy in 1990 and then returned definitively in 1992, so while I’ll always be American in my heart, southern Italy has become my “normal.” This is where I have my home and where I feel “at home.” I don’t really miss life in the USA much, to be honest. But, there are some things… For one, I miss US TV. I’m not a big TV watcher, but I wish I could see the new shows as they come out each year.

Another thing I miss is access to a variety of ethnic foods. Italian food is great (as any Italian will be quick to tell you!), but I miss Thai, Japanese, Mexican, barbeque… These things may even be available in the distant north part of Italy (for me that includes Rome!), but in the deep south such things can only be dreamed of!

And the main thing I miss is the abundant choice that is available in the US. Choice in everything: foods, household goods, educational options, sports, clothes, you name it. When I go back to the States I always want to stock up on so many products that I can’t get around here. I limit myself to Tollhouse chocolate chips, vanilla flavouring and Ziplock bags, otherwise my suitcase would be way over my weight limit!

5. What is your favorite thing about Puglia?

Puglia is a beautiful region. We have miles and miles and miles of beautiful coastline along the Adriatic Sea. There are many lovely little towns with historical centers well-worth visiting. There are castles, archaeological sites, nature preserves. The local food is simple but delicious. It’s a great area!

Thank you, Sara! You can learn more about Sara and Puglia by visiting her blogs Amid the Olive Trees and Molfetta Daily Photos.

Cherrye Moore is an American freelance writer living in southern Italy. In addition to AffordableCallingCards.net, she writes about living and traveling in Calabria on her site, My Bella Vita. Comments and messages are welcome on both sites. All photos by Sara of Molfetta Daily Photo.

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