Posts Tagged ‘living abroad’

Moving Abroad: Finding Ways To Do It

Tina Ferrari
  • By Tina Ferrari
  • October 27th, 2010

One thing I have learned through the years is that to live abroad, you absolutely must not limit yourself to thinking *inside* the box in terms of figuring out how to do it.  I grew up with a desire to live abroad, and while in my very young years I was probably little bit unrealistic in my fantasies (if I were to talk to the Tina Ferrari from 15 years ago, I’d say no, you may not just show up without a plan, papers, etc.), it was a positive time for me.  As I grew up and got more realistic, however, I began thinking it was less and less possible to live abroad.

I didn’t have exciting grades or tons of university credits.  I didn’t have money; in fact, I had some debt.  I didn’t have any sort of prospect for a regular work visa. I thought overseas assignments were just for executives making the big bucks.  There were times when I was downright sad that I couldn’t figure out a way to get over the pond and have my adventures.  The truth is, however, that no two expat stories are the same. In my travels, I have learned some ways to be creative in living abroad.

1. Au pair in Switzerland. Now, I say Switzerland and not Europe because as far as I know, no EU countries have an actual “au pair” visa (in fact, I hear they convince you to get a student visa to be allowed to stay as an au pair).  I, on the other hand, lived in Swizerland for 8 months, in 2002.  I found a family through an au pair agency, they took care of getting me the proper domestic worker visa, and I was on my way.  What is an au pair, you ask? It’s a young adult who lives with a family and helps with the children part-time in exchange for a small stipend, room and board.  There is the chance that upon arrival you find yourself working more as a maid and teaching the child English instead of learning the local language, but there you go.  Being an au pair.  While there were a lot of things I didn’t like about it, it was a great way to get my feet wet in Europe and immerse myself in another culture.  I fell in love with the beauty of Switzerland, was just a couple hours from Italy, and, most importantly, I was legal.

2.  As a student. Well, in Italy if you want to enroll in a University as a regular student it’s not so easy.  You have to have somewhere around a zillion college credits, and when you move over there you start from the bottom. If you enroll in several months at a language school, it is rarely possible, as the school must be recognized by the Italian education ministry.  But, there are a few which are recognized.  In my case, in 2006, this was the University for Foreigners of Perugia.  I enrolled for six months, took the program on language and translation, and off I went.  The classes were boring but I had my way into Italy.

3. Citizenship. Okay, this isn’t always available to everyone.  But in my case I qualified for Italian citizenship because of a direct line to my great-grandfather who never renounced his citizenship.  It took a long time and was frustrating at some points, but in the end it happened.  It’s worth it to look into your family history and see if you may have a blood connection to another country, and see what your options are.  (If you’re looking into Argentina, your options for residing permanently are, if I remember correctly: marry an Argentine, be born to an Argentine, or give birth to an Argentine.)

How did you find a way to move abroad legally?

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

Expat Contracts: What to Expect

Chantal Panozzo
  • By Chantal Panozzo
  • October 19th, 2010

By Chantal Panozzo

Aim High, Ask for Expat Benefits

Aim High, Ask for Expat Benefits

Thinking of moving abroad? Below are five things to consider before signing a contract.

One: Housing Stipend

Many limited-contract expat packages offer housing stipends. In essence, this is so that it’s possible to live abroad but still maintain a house back home. Whether you intend to do this or not, it’s important to check that you’ll receive some kind of housing allowance, especially if the cost of living is significantly higher abroad but the salary you’re being offered is not.

Two: Language Training

Does the package include language training for both the employee and their spouse? If you’re moving to a country where they speak something other than English, the language training is just as important for the spouse as the employee. If this is not included, it’s something to bargain for. Up to 150 hours of paid language training is not unreasonable to request.

Three: Transportation

If you’ll be using public transport in your new country, will the company give you and your family free transport passes? Or if you’ll be driving will they pay for a company car? Will they help with the leasing of a car? If they are not moving your vehicle abroad, this is something that should be considered in the contract.

Four: Flights home

Will the company pay for one flight back home per year per family member? If not, this is also something that can be negotiated.

Five: Relocation Agent Services

It’s hard enough to find an apartment in a place like New York City. Throw in another language, the fact that housing discrimination is legal (and practiced) in many countries, and you will want the services of a relocation agent abroad. These people speak the local language, know the safest neighborhoods, know the market, and can help you translate leases and/or mortgages. Some will even go so far as to introduce you to the neighbors.

What do you look for in an expat contract?

Chantal Panozzo is a writer in Switzerland who has written for a variety of publications on two continents. She’s the author of One Big Yodel, a blog about life in Switzerland and moving abroad, and also discusses living abroad as a freelancer at Writer Abroad.


An Old Man and His (Italian) Food

Cherrye Moore
  • By Cherrye Moore
  • September 27th, 2010

By: Cherrye Moore

I’ve written a great deal over the last four years about my adorable-yet, somewhat food-obsessed, Calabrese father-in-law. It seems no matter how much he makes-and piles into my plate-or how much I finish … he’s just never satisfied.

He’s blamed me for my husband’s decline (his words, not mine) in appetite and tries to urge the fork forward with promises of delicious bites of Italian delicacies.

So, really … I should have this coming.

A few weeks ago, we were at our daily lunch meet-up-yes, he cooks for us every day-and I noticed he had a special new glass, fully decorated and colored with sparkling, flying Winks fairies. I just couldn’t resist.

expat life in italy: nutella cups

“Nice glass, Nino.” I tell him with a grin, wondering if he realizes his glass is the envy of every 12-year-old girl on the street. “Where’d you get it?”

“Hrmph!” He cut his eyes at me, perhaps sensing my glee.

Not willing to let it go, I persisted.

“But it is so cute,” I told him. “I’m jealous. I want my very own glass, too.”

He ignored my last remark, my husband called me a mafiosa and we finished our meal.

A couple of days later, that conversation forgotten by almost everyone, he showed up with a surprise.

I was standing at the door to our bed and breakfast when he grunted and pushed a small, Nutella-filled glass in my hands.

“There you go,” he told me.

“You eat the Nutella … you get your own glass. Then,” he said pointing to the colored blue and white decoration on the glass, “you will be a champion!”

I looked down and noticed that yes, it was indeed a glass of champions, decorated with bright blue and white drawings in anticipation of the 2010 World Cup Soccer match that Italy bombed.

I laughed. Loudly.

“Thank you,” I told him.

He shook his head at me. “Tisk. You eat all of the Nutella first. Then, you you’ll have your own glass … and then you can say thank you.”

I don’t know why it should surprise me that he jumped at the chance to have me independently eat 200 grams of soft, creamy, chocolate and hazelnut Nutella, but that little present kinda made my day. Yes, two weeks have passed and the would-be world champs are still sitting in my cupboard, 2/3 full of their creamy deliciousness.

But, I’m working on it.

Until then, I thought about sneaking his glass when he wasn’t looking, but there is just something about my 78-year-old father-in-law, drinking his daily Pepsi in that pink and orange fairy glass, that I just can’t destroy.

So, I guess I’ll have to wait … and really, what better excuse is there for finishing off your very own jar of world champion Nutella?

Cherrye Moore is an American freelance writer and Calabria group tour consultant living in southern Italy. You can read more about living and traveling in Calabria at her site, My Bella Vita or visit her in person at her B&B in Catanzaro, Italy.

Photo: Blondie and Brownie

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What I Wish the Locals Understood About Me

Tina Ferrari
  • By Tina Ferrari
  • September 22nd, 2010

by Tina Ferrari

photo by Sergio Stellato

photo © 2010 by Sergio Stellato

Though I speak the local language and have no problem adapting to any given culture and finding my niche, at times I wonder if the locals really “get” me.  Here are my top 3 things I wish people in my adopted country, Italy, would understand about me.

This isn’t my first language.  Some of my friends here must think I’m obsessive compulsive in the way that I repeat myself so many times in Italian.  It’s just that I feel paranoid at times that I haven’t said something right (and sometimes it really is the case and they think I’ve said something totally different) so I tend to say the same thing in five different ways to make sure I said it right so they understand.  I also find that I don’t understand what people say if they talk with their mouths full of food (something I notice a lot here).  I’m always making people finish chewing first, not because I’m fussy about manners, but because I simply would like to understand what they’re saying!

It’s not as easy for me as it is for them.  Okay, nobody said life in Italy was that easy for anyone.  But there are some things that are a little harder for those of us who weren’t born here and had to learn the language from scratch.  Take just about any bureaucratic process at all, such as residency, and they’ll say, “Oh, easy! Just go here, say this, and there you have it!”  Either they’re kidding themselves or they don’t realize that those of use who don’t already have a paper trail in Italy have a little more work cut out for us.

I don’t know that many people because I am not from here.  I have a few really awesome Italian friends who have gone out of their way to get to know me and provide some great company.  But a lot of times I wonder if people really understand that I don’t really know that many people.  A lot of folks, particularly in a small town like Lecce, have the friends they grew up with and run in the same circles they’ve run in for a while now.  They have their dinner parties, etc.,  and probably assume that I already have plans with my group of friends.  Thing is, I don’t have a group of friends yet.  While I do have a number of priceless friends Italy, it will be a while before I have a “group”  that I run with, as I’m not settled yet.  This makes for nights at home alone – which isn’t so bad, considering it’s a chance to get work done and catch up with friends and family.  Plus, there is tango – the perfect excuse to dress up and get out  of the house!

What do you wish locals understood about you in your adopted country?

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

Marrying a Foreigner, Part II: Logistics and Practicality

Cherrye Moore
  • By Cherrye Moore
  • September 7th, 2010

By: Cherrye Moore

Earlier this week I noted some tips and hints for adjusting to life when you are married to a foreigner, and many of my expat friends weighed in with their own experiences. While adjusting to your new life and learning to merge your cultures is always a good thing, getting to that point might not be easy.

No, I’m not talking about falling in love and the inevitable, if only temporary, long-distance relationship, I’m talking about the practical side of marrying someone from another country.

While the rules and regulations vary widely depending on each person’s nationality, where you get married and where you decide to live, the following sites should get you started. Note: I am an American woman married to an Italian man, therefore, most of the following examples are based on my experiences with these countries.

Marrying a Foreigner

1. Websites

Official (and well-researched unofficial) websites are a prime source of information for people wishing to marry an Italian. Here are few sites you might find helpful.

UK in Italy

US Department of State Naples: Marriage of a US Citizen

Travel.State.Gov: Marriage in Italy

ItaliaAmerica.org: Italian Dual Citizenship

ImmiGroup.com: Marrying and Sponsoring an Italian

2. Forums

While official websites are a great source of logistical information, forums are usually visited by people who’ve been there and offer a great combination of practical know-how and useful tips. Some helpful forums and topics include:

Expat Forum: Marrying an Italian

Expat Forum: Marrying an American

Immigration Boards.com: Marrying an Italian

Expats in Italy: Getting Married Forum

Expats in Italy: Atto Notorio

3. Blogs

While many bloggers visit forums and talk about their experiences marrying a foreigner there, they also write blog posts and articles on their sites. Some particularly helpful expats I’ve come across include:

Ms. Adventures in Italy (My personal go-to expat when I was marrying my own Italian in 2007.)

From Australia to Italy (My Calabria-based counterpart who is chronicling  her marriage to an Italian.)

ReallyRome (A Really great resource on, among other things, marrying an Italian.)

Moving2Italy2 (Extensive resource on moving to Italy, with a section on marrying an Italian.)

It is important to note that each case is unique and there is no one size fits all when it comes to marrying someone from another country. Additionally, laws can change from year to year and Italian consulates, at least in the US, seem to have varying procedures, as well. It is always important to contact your local embassy or consulate before proceeding and get a detailed list of what you need to do before the Big Day. As in most cases when dealing with bureaucratic situations, it is a good idea to allow yourself plenty of time and an even better opportunity for you to practice your patience.

In bocca al lupo!

Do you know any other useful sites, forums or blogs for people wanting to marry a foreigner? If so, please leave them in the comments!

Cherrye Moore is an American freelance writer and Calabria tour consultant living in southern Italy. You can read more about living and traveling in Calabria at her site, My Bella Vita or visit her in person at her B&B in Catanzaro, Italy.

Photo: Life 123

Ways to Keep in Touch When Living Abroad

Chantal Panozzo
  • By Chantal Panozzo
  • August 31st, 2010

By Chantal Panozzo

Flying home isnt always a solution

Flying home isn't always a solution

One of the hardest parts about living abroad is being far from friends and family. Mothers moan that they’ll never see their grandkids (never mind if they don’t even have grandkids). Fathers say that your mother misses you (after all, they would never admit missing you themselves). And you can barely keep up with all your family members, not to mention maintain your old friendships. So what’s an expat to do? Here are ways of keeping in touch that have worked for me.

One: Keep a blog

Many expats (i.e. moi) start blogs because they can no longer keep up with their email. A blog can be a great way to let friends and family know what you are up to. And if you don’t want the rest of the world to know it as well, it’s easy to password-protect your blog so only your intended audience reads it. To set up a blog, visit blogger.com or wordpress.com.

Two: Make time to talk

I try to call my family regularly. While we don’t set up actual times and dates, we usually talk about the same time each week. Often, local phone companies don’t offer competitive rates to foreign countries, but other methods, such as using calling cards or Skype, can make calling an affordable option for staying in touch. For calling cards, you’re already on the right site, For Skype, visit skype.com.

Three: Join a networking site

This goes without saying, since millions of people are already on Facebook. But if you want to know what your friends and family are up to and vice versa, Facebook can be a powerful tool. Just don’t expect it to take the place of personal visits, calls, and emails. Sometimes I find that being friends with someone on Facebook means I’ll actually forgo the personal updates for something much more generic.

Another way to stay in touch is to create your own custom social network by using Ning. www.facebook.com or www.ning.com.

How do you stay in touch while living abroad?

Chantal Panozzo is a writer in Switzerland who has written for a variety of publications on two continents. She’s the author of One Big Yodel, a blog about life in Switzerland and moving abroad, and also discusses living abroad as a freelancer at Writer Abroad.

Learning to Love Less

Cherrye Moore
  • By Cherrye Moore
  • August 17th, 2010

By: Cherrye Moore

I was visiting good friends last summer in Texas-we were sitting at one of our favorite Mexican cantinas, sipping on frozen lime margaritas, talking about the good ‘ole days and catching up on the last few years.

“I just love Italy,” one of my peppy ex-Sorority sisters gushed. “I could soooo see myself living there.”

I smiled as she gazed dreamily out the window, no doubt imagining herself strolling to the weekly market each Monday, sipping on stout Italian wine in the evenings, spending her days-riding on a Gondola or dining outside the Colosseum. She exhaled, “It’s just such a beautiful country.”

Not wanting to burst her idealized bubble of the life I’m leading, I politely agreed-because it is true, Italy is a beautiful country-and kept quiet. But secretly I wondered … could she really live here?

As my southern Italian counterpart pointed out last week, you can’t uproot your life back home and replant that baby here in Italy. It is a whole new country world and while we love it here, we’ve definitely learned to live without some of the luxuries of our American lifestyles.

Here are three things I’ve learned to love less here in Calabria.expat life-starbucks

1. Variety

You often hear people say, “Italians love food,” when in fact, what they mean is, “Italians love Italian food.” Especially here in Calabria, diversity, restaurant variety-heck, even a foreign food shelf-are had to come by. I’ve learned to live with this by importing my must-haves, like Velveeta cheese and Starbuck’s vanilla syrup, kicking up my personal non-Italian food recipe list and creating variety in the Italian food we eat and love.

2. Instant Access

One of the hardest things for me to get used to-if one could say I’ve gotten used to it-is learning to live without the instant access we are accustomed to in the US. There are no 24-hour pharmacies-actually, even finding an open pharmacy on Saturday or Sunday is a challenge, customer service calls regularly go un-answered-even during “working” hours and paperwork can take years to get approved.

Still, I believe I can learn something from these would-be frustrating experiences-and that, my friends, is patience. Italy has taught me patience in a way I never could have learned in the United States … and for that, I’m thankful.

expat life-gadgets

3. The Latest Greatest

No doubt if I lived in the US, I’d be on the i(insert latest gadget here) bandwagon. Being in southern Italy, far from the peer pressure that comes with having an office job and well-paid friends, I’m sheltered, in a way, from needing to have the latest, greatest gadget. Many expats in Italy have other priorities and luckily, keeping up with Rossis, isn’t one of them.

Tina and I have weighed in-now it is your turn. What have you learned to live without in your expat adventures?

Cherrye Moore is an American freelance writer and Calabria tour consultant living in southern Italy. You can read more about living and traveling in Calabria at her site, My Bella Vita or visit her in person at her B&B in Catanzaro, Italy.

Photos: CarbonNYC and Ivyfield via Flickr

Am I the Expat Type?

Kristi Remick
  • By Kristi Remick
  • June 28th, 2010

Only in my dreams were bus stops named after giant chocolate factories.  Now I live the dream!

Only in my dreams were bus stops named after giant chocolate factories. Now I live the dream!

If you are reading Expat blogs, you are likely thinking about becoming an Expat or have the very attractive opportunity to become one.  If you are anything like me, you have found yourself scouring the web in an effort to find answers to one of the most unanswerable questions – “Am I the Expat type?”.  This frantic period of time for an Expat is much like what expectant parents must go through when they try to answer the most unanswerable of all unanswerable questions – “Will I make a good parent?”.  Funny enough, while there are no answers to these and many other questions, we still go for it in the face of potential failure.

This “go for it attitude” is probably the biggest indicator that you are in fact the right type.  By now you have listed all the reasons not to take the plunge and many times this list is longer than the list to become an Expat, but you still go for it.  You persevere in the face of fear and the unknown, much like a baby does when they take their first breath, mouthful of pureed peas (blech), steps…first anything.

I thought about listing certain characteristics of successful Expats in an effort to allay you fears, a cyber hug if you will, but at the end of the day…there isn’t a finite list of human characteristics that will determine your success as I have met too many different types of people who have chosen this path.  I have met shy people, outgoing people, people with kids, people without kids, people who like milk chocolate and people who like dark chocolate.  The one thing they do share in common is the love for their Expat adventure.

I am in no way saying take the decision lightly,  but if you think you have to have: an adventurous spirit, flexibility in the light of challenges, love for travel, etc…well then you could be passing up on the opportunity to learn these qualities.  I wasn’t always adventurous and  I continue to amaze myself through this process because I keep getting better at things I didn’t always innately possess.

At the end of the day you have two choices:

1. Stay in the comfort of your current location or “womb”

or

2. Get the hell out of that womb and do what a little baby does when they are born…live.

When I am not busy stuffing my face with chocolate, you can find me over at From A to Z blogging about my life in Zurich Switzerland.

Three Things I’d Take with Me if I Left Italy

Cherrye Moore
  • By Cherrye Moore
  • June 22nd, 2010

By: Cherrye Moore

I’ve written a lot over the last few weeks about the things expats miss about home. As an expat in Italy, I always stock up on my American supplies … Velveeta, Ziploc bags, Big Red gum. But I’d know I’d miss Italy if I wasn’t here.

In fact, just last week I wrote about the things my husband and I would miss most about the bel paese if we left. But we’d also stock up.

Here are the top things we’d pack in our bags and take back with us if we lived in the US instead of Italy.

Divella Pasta

Yes, yes, yes … they sell pasta in America, but once you’ve tasted the real deal, and by that I don’t mean homemade pasta, but the dry pasta they sell in Italy, you wouldn’t settle for less, either.

Lately, we have been addicted to Divella pasta, a Pugliese brand pasta that keeps its al dente texture and tastes great with a variety of sauces.

We’d most definitely pack a bag full of assorted shapes and sizes to use in the US and to share with our American friends.

Aiello Coffee

We test-drove every Italian coffee imaginable when we opened our B&B, from Lavazza to Illy to Catanzaro’s own Guglielmo, but the winner was Cosenza-made (Calabrese) Aiello.

There is just something about that bright red bag and strong, robust flavor that keeps us coming back for more … and more … and more … .

And we’d definitely pack it up and take it with us if we ever left.

Kinder Surprise Eggs

While I could certainly live without the Kinder Sorpresa eggs that leave crying kids all over Italian supermarkets, my nine year old nephew couldn’t, so we’d have to pack a few boxes to hold him over until our next trip to Italy.

In fact, it is the one thing he requests each time we visit.

Hey, expats, what would you take back with you to the US if you no longer lived in your adopted country?

Cherrye Moore is a freelance writer and travel consultant living in Calabria, Italy. She can organize a group Calabria tour or help you plan a custom itinerary for your family from her website, My Bella Vita.

Photo: Continental Food UK, Wikipedia Commons and Sweets 2 UK

10 Ways You Know You’re a Perpetual Expatriate

Chantal Panozzo
  • By Chantal Panozzo
  • May 4th, 2010

by Chantal Panozzo

Living in a new place is challenging and exciting.

So you’ve lived abroad for a good amount of time. Maybe for a year, maybe for three, maybe for ten. But how do you know when you’ve reached the point of no return? In other words, when do you know you’ve become addicted to expatriate life?

Actually, it’s not that hard to tell. Here are 10 Ways You Know You’re a Perpetual Expat:

-People ask where you’re from and you finally have an answer. You say, “It’s complicated.” And you like it that way.

-The thought of moving back to your home country makes you cringe because that would be boring.

-You no longer talk about what’s bad about your adopted country, you focus on what’s bad about your home country.

-The thought of going on a “permanent contract” no longer scares you. It just means you’ll have to find another place to live.

-You think it would be great to have multi-cultural and multi-lingual children.

-You enjoy the challenge of figuring things out and feel that you would be bored otherwise. A country with four official languages and many more dialects, bring it on!

-You enjoy your status of being different. It makes you feel special.

-You feel like you are leading an exciting life even if the reality is lots of packing and unpacking.

-You are addicted to travel. You travel more in one year than most of your friends back home do in a lifetime.

-You feel a thrill thinking about where you could go next. And it never includes the place you came from before.

-You want to read more about this topic. Andrea Martins, co-founder of ExpatWomen, wrote an article for the Telegraph about why some of us become addicted to the overseas lifestyle. Enjoy.

Are you addicted to living abroad? Why or why not?

Chantal Panozzo is a writer in Switzerland who has written for a variety of publications on two continents. She’s the author of One Big Yodel, a blog about life in Switzerland and moving abroad, and also discusses living abroad as a freelancer at Writer Abroad.

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