I’m having some big realizations this week about life and living in Italy. Here’s the thing. Not everyone actually WANTS to be here.
You may not know this but Modena and the surrounding area are home to some of the world’s biggest companies and industries. In the auto/moto industry, this is the land of the Ferrari, Maserati, Ducati, Lamborghini and Pagani!! Not bad eh?!
What this means, is that these massive, international companies hire engineers from all over the world to come and work on special projects. Most engineers get offered a package including a 3 year contract, relocation services, English schooling for their kids, temporary housing to get them started and high enough wages to keep their house back home and live comfortably here.
Let’s say that 90% of these engineers are men with families whose wives follow them with their kids.
Who are these wives?
Last week I was supposed to go to Carpi (another beautiful historic town near Modena, and home to Italy’s largest Piazza!) on a field trip with my son’s play group. After a series of mishaps involving the Italian transportation system we decided to forget about Carpi and do something else!! (ah Italy!)
I had heard about a meeting for a new association that is just starting up in Modena. More than a “mom’s club”, it will be an official association dedicated to providing services to the International Women of Modena.
MANY of the women at the meeting are wives to engineers of the big companies, but not all, many, like me are here because their men are Modenese (what were we thinking?!!)
The thing that shocked me the most was that almost all of them were PROFESSIONALS and EXECUTIVES! They left high profile careers to follow their men on a new adventure, bringing their kids with them!
Would you do it?
What would you do, if your family was offered the chance to make good money and live in Italy for a few years?
At the meeting it became clear that not everyone was super excited about actually being in Italy. There are problems that expats face like:
- not speaking the language
- not having a job
- not being able to drive (I’ll get to this)
- having no friends / family / community
My own immigration story is nothing like these women’s experience. I wanted to be in Italy at all costs and found my way, but these women, even if they have access to a lot of assistance were “dragged” here in many ways!
December marks my 7 year anniversary in Italy and I feel like writing a few stories about what life was like those first few months.
Life was hard, fun and involved working in a gay bar! In December I’ll be returning to my Italian “roots” in Milan and sharing a bit about those interesting and rough first few months. To read about how I ended up in Italy in the first place, I wrote about that here.
One of the biggest problems/situations expats in Italy face is that they stick together. Find another English/German/French speaker and you cling to them for dear life.
In Milan I was best friends with the other waiter at the restaurant. He was from India and spoke perfect English. Marco (then boyfriend) told me that every week my Italian was getting WORSE. The more I lived in Italy, the less I knew! I was ghettoizing myself, isolating myself from Italians and the ridicule that comes from speaking like a 2 year old when you are an “educated” individual.
Even though I was working I could get by with the same 7 phrases each day, so I only said what was necessary and spoke English the rest of the time. Once I realized I was actually getting worse at Italian I FORCED myself to start making Italian friends, having conversations and just deal with the embarrassment that comes from making mistakes, not being able to express oneself and NEVER getting a joke!
So my biggest suggestion to any new expat is to MAKE ITALIAN FRIENDS!
And that brings me to Jennifer.
Real Mom Street Style – Get Inspired by Jennifer
Today’s real mom street style post is dedicated to her. I met Jennifer in the park and since then we’ve run into each other again. She is awesome!
I have NEVER met anyone with such an incredibly positive and upbeat attitude about being here, if only for a few years. She is not embarrassed about using her limited Italian, she’s not shy about her pronunciation or making mistakes. She’s brave, full of life and she’s even started studying for her ALL ITALIAN WRITTEN DRIVING EXAM!
Even though we’ve already chatted for hours, I only found out at the International Women’s Association meeting that she is a professional market researcher. Instead of seeing her time in Italy as putting her career on hold she see’s it as a once in a lifetime chance to culturally enrich her and her families lives…..hardships and all. Oh…and doesn’t she have great style!!
I don’t know exactly how I will contribute to the new International Women’s Association of Modena, but I certainly applaud their motivation to put this together.
My own advice to professional new comers would be to get out and start living life like an Italian!
- Get out of the house everyday
- Take a class (dance class, gym class, cooking class) taught in Italia
The Volunteer Association in Modena is found here with info in English!
- Carry a dictionary and USE it when you are trying to express yourself.
- Shop at the market, local business and make friends with the butcher, fruit guy, pharmacist, barista ….anyone!
- Go to the free Italian classes!! You may not realize this but EVERY SINGLE area of Italy has free classes for newcomers! You just need to search and find them!
Here’s a whole list of associations in Modena that offer cheap / free classes. Where you read “gratuite” means the class is free!
- Don’t be afraid of getting lost! Drive, take the train and take the bus, you’d be surprised what you can learn by getting lost!
- Try to speak the language every chance you get
- If you have young kids go to the play groups (wrote about them here)
Now onto some inspiration from other stylish moms with:
#REASONSTODRESS Real Mom Street Style Linkup & Tag Party
Feel free to read all about this linkup here and what it stands for. Every week I will feature looks from the linkup, an instagrammer who has tagged a photo #reasonstodress and a real mom in Italy or in the world! The linkup happens every Tuesday but lasts all week, feel free to join at any time!
This week I’m focusing on beautiful bloggers in skirts and dresses!! It’s not that cold, show off your legs while you still can!
#reasonstodress – Fab Five
Instagrammer : jlsapocketfulofpolkadots
& her blog : A Pocketful of Polkadots
Many beautiful bloggers featured on: Pouting in Heels
Now it’s your turn! #Reasonstodress
Please feel free to tweet this out to help me spread the word of the linkup!