Moving to Italy from the UK – is it easier for Europeans?
I often get asked how difficult it was moving (or emigrating) to Italy from the UK and my initial thought is that it is probably significantly easier for a European than a non-European (Americans for example). I put that down to the freedom of movement we experience in Europe. I would say straight off the bat that that ’emigrating to Italy’ sounds like a massive upheaval (’emigration’ sounds so big and final). Our family emigrated from Scotland to South Africa in 1982 and in those days that was a massive step; in those days there was no email and so a letter took 3 weeks and if whoever sent the letter wanted a response or a questions answered then they had to wait 6 weeks in total.
Lets get back to Italy…because we had holidayed in Italy for so many years before the move and read some great books on the subject we had certain expectations already about Italy and the Italians. Although their workmanship and quality of product is world-renowned (and envied) we had learnt that when it came to arranging anything of importance it generally took longer than we are used to in other countries, so when it came to arranging utilities or basic services or, in fact, anything associated with ‘admin’ it was going to take an age. So we had psyched ourselves up for a lengthy wait for phone, mobiles (cell phones), internet, gas electricity and water when we first arrived and then even longer for identity cards, bank accounts, permits/working visas and the such-like. I wish I had written down the exact dates of applying for each of these and when they were delivered because you are never going to believe me. I must give some credit to the estate agent we used particularly with regard to the utilities but the rest we pretty much arranged ourselves. How did we do this? (Refer to a previous post around waving money in the air and seeing how quickly you are understood!)
I think it goes without say that we were pleasantly surprised with the speed of delivery of each of these services. In fact, if the truth be told I had pre-prepared a couple of arguments in Italian and was quite disappointed that I never got to use them! As much as I read to the contrary, Italy is indeed a first world country and most things do work, and people do go to work on time and services are delivered.
Once we decided to go then the planning was relatively straight-forward. Sure there were concerns and worries but ‘what was the worst that could happen?’. We were all adults at the end of the day and Italians understand the concept of family life so they weren’t about to watch us suffer unnecessarily and so offered assistance where needed. When I say ‘What is the worst that can happen ?’, excluding such things as natural disasters it wasn’t as if we were about have our application for residency or immigration visa refused or one of our permits rescinded (we are European for goodness sake!). At the outset I said that I think its easier for a European rather than a non-European because in Europe we have this freedom of movement and to be honest our outlook is similar. Throughout Europe we experience the same seasons (I daren’t mention ‘the same weather’ as this is pretty far from the truth!), we dress relatively similarly (although the Brits and Germans are thought to dress like shit by the French and Italians) and we all used to jumping across the borders quite frequently to experience other cultures and foods and coming into contact with those that don’t speak our native tongue.
Back to the Plan
Again, once we had decided to go the plan was to rent for a year to make sure that it was as we thought, although we did go with the mentality that ‘it would work no matter what’ and that we weren’t coming back unless something horrific occurred (I think this is very important) and also to make sure that we were in the right area. What is it they say about ‘the best laid plans of mice and men oft go astray’…by month 5 we knew that we had made the right choice, we knew we were staying and a fantastic little house with a pool came up for sale. The one thing I will say is prepare for all eventualities, I had a vision of buying a ‘remotish’ villa with some land with a few olive trees and vines, a horse or two, a couple of chickens and maybe a pig for my salami. I had no intentions whatsoever of staying in a village, but guess what?? One forgets that kids need interaction and someone to play with every now and then and being a few miles from anywhere or anyone is not the best idea in the world. Our ‘rental’ property was exactly what I wanted but I soon realised that dropping off and picking up 2 kids (separately) every other day was going to be a huge pain in the arse! So village life it is and again it’s not what I thought. I know the neighbours probably think we are strange (we actually go out in the rain; we sometimes have salad as a starter and we don’t wait 3 hours after eating before get into the pool!) and I’m sure they probably talk about us behind out backs from time to time but after 2 years there have been no wars and I think everyone is still talking to us.
Throughout this blog we will elaborate on certain subjects and give guidance on what we did when it came to arranging for utilities, permits, schools, etc. but in summary I wanted to be brutally honest about how simplistic the process was for us. Be this down to a good plan or that fact that we don’t give Italians enough credit for being as organised as they are; I don’t know but the experience definitely didn’t meet our expectations…in a good way.
I think emigrating to South Africa in the early 80’s and then back to the UK again in 2000 was difficult and seemed like a huge decision/event at the time but maybe due to the availability of the internet and having researched such a move and arranging certain things in advance has made this a (I won’t say comfortable) but a manageable and less stressful experience than we first thought.