The Ferrari Wives of Modena & Newcomer Survival Tips

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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.

 

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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?

 

 

Choice.

 

At the meeting it became clear that not everyone was super excited about actually being in Italy. There are problems that expats face like:

  1. not speaking the language
  2. not having a job
  3. not being able to drive (I’ll get to this)
  4. 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.

 

 

Ghettoization

 

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

 

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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!

Top tips:

 

  • Get out of the house everyday
  • Take a class (dance class, gym class, cooking class) taught in Italia
  • Volunteer

 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!

 

Here’s the link for the bus system in Modena and the train schedule is found here.

  • Try to speak the language every chance you get

 

 

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!

 

Grab button for REASONS TO DRESS

 

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& her blog : A Pocketful of Polkadots

 

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Now it’s your turn!  #Reasonstodress

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  • http://www.poutinginheels.com/ Pouting In Heels

    Thank you so much for including me (and the ladies!) in your fabulous five. How wonderful! (And very kind of you!) x

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    • http://reasonstodress.com Reasons to Dress

      It is my pleasure. The whole point of the real mom street style series and this linkup is to focus on other beautiful women and mom’s looking good!

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  • http://unlockingkiki.com/ Kaelene @ Unlocking Kiki

    These are such great tips for newcomers in any country. I find the same issues are brought up when I meet international women as well. Although I have many friends that are native English speakers I also work in an all Icelandic office which has really helped me integrate and learn more of the language.

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    • http://reasonstodress.com Reasons to Dress

      Working is so key to learning a language I find….like really working…and responding to calls and writing emails! Actually once I started office work in Italy I had a really hard time dealing with the sensation of being viewed as dumb. Do many people in Iceland speak / write English? Or do you find that there are times when you really can’t use it?

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      • http://unlockingkiki.com/ Kaelene @ Unlocking Kiki

        Actually most Icelanders are fluent in English, they start learning in school when they are really young and many of the tv shows and movies they watch are all in English. So in my job it really is never an issue and I could always get away with not speaking Icelandic, which makes it difficult when you are learning. Hearing the language everyday at work has really helped me though, even if my pronunciation is terrible! And I so understand what you mean about the sensation of being viewed as dumb, I get that often especially when I am asked if I speak Icelandic or when I don’t understand a conversation, not my favorite feeling that is for sure.

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  • Porcelina

    Really good tips, I hope people find them useful! I’m too much of a scaredy-cat to ever think of living in a non-English speaking country. I love living here in Wales and couldn’t imagine being anywhere else now, as I did lots of travelling when I was younger and ‘got it out of my system’!

    Thanks for hosting the linkup, another fab five picks from last time. x

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    • http://reasonstodress.com Reasons to Dress

      I think doing a lot of traveling when your young is really important. After university I went right to work and it was only in my mid 20s that I started traveling…and to be honest I still feel like I haven’t gotten it out of my system!

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  • http://www.alovelylifeindeed.com/ Kelly @ A Lovely Life, Indeed

    This is a powerful post. Being an expat is tough, especially if you’re not 100% on board. Communication is survival. If you don’t know the language, there’s a sense of desperation whenever you think you hear someone who speaks your language. Fluency takes SO long…having 2nd language friends who are gentle with you as you learn is key.

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    • http://reasonstodress.com Reasons to Dress

      Exactly! And there are people who are gentle. You know what is funny, whenever I hear recordings of myself speaking Italian from those first two years or so I now find it UNBEARABLE!! I think “how did my friends understand a word I was saying”….but they listened anyway! And I improved!

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  • Katie @ Loverly She

    I know little bits and pieces of Italian… primarily musical terms and phrases from my classical training. I don’t suppose “forte” “ritardando” and “pianissimo” would get me very far though…. 😉 hahaha. Great post!

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    • http://reasonstodress.com Reasons to Dress

      hehehe all I could think was “its a good thing your man speaks English” !

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  • http://luyoutravel.blogspot.com/ Elizabeth Georgian

    Those are great tips for getting out there when you move somewhere new. I so wish that Lithuania offered free language classes.

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    • http://reasonstodress.com Reasons to Dress

      i just tried looking for free Lithuanian classes in your city…can’t find ANYTHING!! wow.

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      • http://luyoutravel.blogspot.com/ Elizabeth Georgian

        Thanks for checking! Lithuania tends to be a bit closed to outsiders, so at times it can be a challenging place to live.

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  • http://reasonstodress.com Reasons to Dress

    your welcome Rebecca! The whole reason I started this linkup was to give more space to other bloggers here, so I really do love promoting and putting on display your outfits!

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  • Erin

    If my husband had a job that would allow us to live in Italy my firstt question would be when do we leave? The second would be do we have to come back?

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    • http://reasonstodress.com Reasons to Dress

      Erin I thought about you while I was writing this!! Honestly! I kept thinking, that there are people out there who would love to come to Italy for a few years! I guess part of the problem for these international women is when they get here an their expectations are not fulfilled. I’m not sure if you get this response directly to your inbox, I’ll email you this week anyway ! Would love an update on the laundromat!

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  • Ashley

    I definitely agree! The most important thing is to put yourself out there in a new language and a new place, by no means did my Spanish improve my staying at home. Great tips for getting involved and learning the new language!

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    • http://reasonstodress.com Reasons to Dress

      how is your Spanish now!! I just read your other comment about how you met your man…we need to talk! Do you have Spanish friends? Which part of Spain are you in, a bigger city or a smaller town?

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      • Ashley

        I can definitely communicate, I feel comfortable most of the time! It’s taken me 2 years or so though, the first time I lived in Spain (2012) I was afraid to go get a coffee alone.

        You’re too kind! I’m definitely working on it! We’ve moved back and forth so much that it’s hard to make friends in the beginning, but we’ve actually just been invited to dinner tonight! And I’ve started a language exchange here with an American friend in a local bar and people are slowly warming up to us and asking us to do things with them! I’m in the north, in Castro-Urdiales (pop. ~30 000), many people just use this city as a place to ‘live’ while they work in one of the bigger cities, so it’s often difficult to find people who are around during the day/on weekends.

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  • Tracy Miller

    You always have the most interesting stories. I was wondering if you spoke Italian and if you knew it before you moved (I read your back story post). You are so brave! I guess we go above and beyond things for love :-) Yet again, another cool mom featured. And, it’s so interesting how people adapt (or not) to their circumstances. I think back to my ancestors -specifically my grandmother who my daughter, Laila, is named after. Her parents immigrated from Finland to Michigan and had 14(!) kids and lived in a 2 bedroom farm house. My grandmother knew no English when she enrolled in kindergarten. They had to do this to survive. She ended up being an RN. Yes, an expat wife that is living in Italy for only 3 years isn’t in the same situation, but why not immerse yourself and make the most of it? I say that yet I wonder how I what I would do. Sometimes I think we have it too good today. We are trying to encourage our kids to learn another language. I think it is so important today.

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    • http://reasonstodress.com Reasons to Dress

      CAN YOU IMAGINE….14 KIDS and immigrating?? Probably with a boat that took 40 days on rough water. Honestly the women of one time are really to be admired for their sacrifices. I am so proud of your grandmother for even becoming EDUCATED and working as a nurse, that is a huge accomplishment. Everytime my husband and I argue and I think “where is my perfect stress free life?!” I take a moment to reflect on other women and their hardships…and then I thank my lucky stars I am where I am! Thank you so much for commenting!

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  • http://gnomelover.com/ Gnome Lover

    What a neat get together. I am so shy, I would probably have melted into the wall there. I like the adventure in theory , but in reality I am such a chicken, I do not know if I could do it. I love Jennifer’s style and her coat is gorgeous. Thank you so much for hosting and for the informative post! It was really interesting. I cannot wait to read about your first few years in Italy.

    Jenni

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    • http://reasonstodress.com Reasons to Dress

      Shy!? Really? I would have never thought that you were shy based on your blog!

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  • Zaz

    Great organisation to be part of, and sure you can contribute a lot to these ladies with your positivity and experience. Thanks for hosting! Xx

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    • http://reasonstodress.com Reasons to Dress

      I hope so. Honestly my first reaction wasn’t that positive, because I wasn’t sure what the real scope was behind the group. But now I think it can be a very useful association for everyone involved.

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  • http://www.californianmuminlondon.com/ Californian Mum

    Great tips. I’m quite lucky in not having to worry (much) about a language difference. But it is important to make friends with the natives. :)

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    • http://reasonstodress.com Reasons to Dress

      Well….but isn’t it interesting how there IS a bit of a difference!! Trousers / pants Rubber / eraser !! And so many other things I’m learning now as I’ve met a lot of England moms. Thank you so much for linking up!

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  • http://reasonstodress.com Reasons to Dress

    Surprisingly I really didn’t like living in Milan at the time. Maybe I was looking a gifthorse in the mouth. There is a lot to do, see and eat but it just wasn’t Italy for me!! Thank you so much for coming by Nora and I hope you had a lovely thanksgiving.

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  • http://reasonstodress.com Reasons to Dress

    Thank you. I know these kinds of articles don’t really apply to everyone, but since I now know that a lot of expats read my blog I really felt that expressing a few thoughts dedicated to moving abroad. Thank you Jill for coming by and commenting it is always really appreciated!

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  • http://www.lifeaccordingtokenzblog.com/ Kenz @ Life According to Kenz

    I love that leather jacket and the ruffled detailing! Awesome outfit!

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