2 November 2017

Jasmine Mah - Expat in Italy

Jasmine Mah - Expat in Italy

We’ve had the chance to talk to Jasmine Mah, 28, a Canadian expat who has moved to Italy with her husband. Mrs Mah, who has been living there for two years, now works as a teacher/translator. Read more about her experiences in the full interview below.

Q: Where are you from originally?
A: Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.

Q: What made you move out of Canada?
A: Love.

Q: Where are you living now? How did you come to choose this new country of residence?
A: Bergamo, Italy. This is my husband’s hometown, and we decided to move back.

Q: How long have you been living in Italy?
A: 2 years.

Q: Are you living alone or with your family? If yes, how are they adjusting to the Expat Lifestyle?
A: It’s just my husband and me.

Q: Do you miss home and family sometimes? How do you cope with homesickness?
A: Of course I miss home and family sometimes. Canada will always be home for me, I’ve just been fortunate also to be able to call Italy home. When I fell homesick, I will call friends or family and have a chat over Skype or Facetime, or make a favourite meal that I would typically have in Canada.

Q: What do you think about the locals?
A: The Italians are lovely. They are wonderful and extremely welcoming although they can be hard to get to know in the beginning. Where I am, in Northern Italy, the locals can be a little bit wary of foreigners.

Q: Was it easy making friends and meeting people? Do you mainly socialise with other expats in Italy? How did you manage to find a social circle there?   
A: It was easy because I’m extremely social person, I think it would be more challenging if you are an introvert. You have to make an effort to go out and meet people, often by using social media to find other expats or going to MeetUps based on your interests. I socialize with both expats and locals. However, I can appreciate that it’s not always easy to make local friends until you have a good grasp of the language and culture. I found my social circle via the internet, by subscribing to different Facebook groups for expats living in my city and by attending MeetUps for English speakers. I also write a blog which has helped other expats find me!

Q: How does the cost of living in Italy compare to your home?
A: I would say in the grand scheme of things, it’s similar.

Q: How much is a cup of coffee?
A: 50 cents (for an espresso).

Q: How much is a meal in an inexpensive restaurant?
A: 10 euro.

Q: How much is a meal in an expensive restaurant?
A: 50  - 80 euro.

Q: How much is a bottle of wine? How about a pack of cigarettes?
A: As low as 1-2 euro for the wine, not sure about cigarettes.

Q: Do you have any tips for future expats when it comes to opening a bank account in Italy?
A: You typically need to get all your legal documents in order before going to open a bank account. You will need to show your fiscal code, your residence card etc.

Q: How will you describe your experience with government paperwork such as applications for Visa and work permits? Why is that so?
A: It’s a nightmare in Italy, but I think that is well-known for everyone due to their love of bureaucracy and disorganization. It can be difficult to get a straight answer, and you have to be prepared for this if you’re intent on living in Italy.

Q: Would you say that healthcare in Italy is reliable? Any preferred clinics or advice for expats?
A: Yes, healthcare is reliable. My only advice is to work on your language skills. It’s a headache looking for or being restricted to only seeing English speaking healthcare professionals.

Q: Did you secure a health insurance in Canada or Italy?  What should be the essentials in the coverage for expats, in your opinion?
A: Health insurance is universal, and if you’re a resident of Italy, you will be given health insurance. Dental is not included.
Q: What was the most memorable about the packing and moving process to Italy? Which was the mover you chose and how was your experience with them?
A: The most memorable thing about moving had to downsize and decide what was most important to take with me. We shipped a container by sea for our non-essentials and bigger items (skis, golf clubs etc.).

Q: What is the biggest challenge that you have faced as a new expat?
A: The biggest challenge I’ve faced is the bureaucracy. It is the most frustrating aspect of Italy and difficult to get used to coming from a country like Canada.

Q: What do you think are the positive and negative sides of living in Italy?
A: The negative side is still the bureaucracy and sometimes, close-mindedness towards non-Italians although this applies more if you’re in a small town as opposed to a big, metropolitan city like Milan or Rome. The positives are endless and include the stunning scenery, the food, the way of life, and the ability to travel throughout Italy and Europe inexpensively.

Q: What are the best things to do in the area? Any particular recommendations for future expats?
A:  Bergamo is situated extremely strategically as it is just an hour drive from Milan but offers city life with a small town feel. It is also within driving distance of all the most famous Northern lakes including Lake Como and Lake Garda, so one of our favourite weekend activities in summer is to spend time at the lakes.

Q: Do you have plans to move to a different country or back home in the future?
A: No.

Q: What tips will you give to expats living in the country?

Q: Do you have favourite websites or blogs about Italy?
A: Mine! I blog at www.questadolcevita.com but there are countless blogs and websites about Italy, too many to list here.  A simple Google search will bring them up; there is a whole online community of expats in Italy.