22 November 2016

Stef Smulders - Expat in Italy

Stef Smulders - Expat in Italy

We’ve had the chance to talk to Stef Smulders, 56, a Dutch expat who has moved to Italy with his partner. Mr. Smulders who has been living there for eight years, now works as a writer.

Read more about his experiences in the full interview below.


Q: Where are you from originally?

A: The Netherlands.


Q: What made you move out of the Netherlands?

A: We wanted to start a new life and type of living.


Q: Where are you living now? How did you come to choose this new country of residence?

A: Italy, in the Oltrepo Pavese wine region south of Milan. As we wanted to start a bed and breakfast in the tourist business, Italy seemed a good choice and the region in particular as it was/is still unknown, non-touristy.


Q: How long have you been living in Italy?

A: Since 2008.


Q: Are you living alone or with your family? If yes, how are they adjusting to the Expat Lifestyle?

A: Yes, we are a married gay couple. As we both function as hosts of our B&B we adjust in the same way, i.e. excellently. We love welcoming guests and helping them to experience a wonderful time.


Q: Do you miss home and family sometimes? How do you cope with homesickness?

A: No homesickness, fortunately. Friends and family come over frequently (not too frequently.


Q: What do you think about the locals?

A: Friendly but withdrawn at first, but very welcoming once you get to know them better.


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: Not very easy, but as you have many guests during the year this isn’t really a problem. Through leisurely activities, pilates, singing, you do get to know people more intimately.


Q: How does the cost of living in Italy compare to your home?

  • Q: How much is a cup of coffee?

A: €1, by law!

  • Q: How much is a meal in an inexpensive restaurant?

A: €25.

  • Q: How much is a meal in an expensive restaurant?

A: €50.

  • Q: How much is a bottle of wine? How about a pack of cigarettes?

A: €2, 50, cigarettes I do not know, don’t smoke!


Q: Do you have any tips for future expats when it comes to opening a bank account in Italy?

A: Start early and be prepared for a lot of paperwork. Look at banks website first, for instructions.


Q: How will you describe your experience with government paperwork such as applications for Visa and work permits? Why is that so?

A: Not applicable in our case as we moved within the EU.


Q: Would you say that healthcare in Italy is reliable? Any preferred clinics or advice for expats?

A: There are a lot of bad stories circulating about Italy’s National Health Service but our experiences are good. There may be long waiting times, though, in which case you may prefer to go to a private clinic.


Q: Did you secure a health insurance in the Netherlands or Italy? What should be the essentials in the coverage for expats, in your opinion?

A: Host country. Standard coverage for everyone. I think there are insurances for treatment in private clinics, but am not sure.


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: That we grossly underestimated the volume of our stuff to be transported! Luckily we hired a specialist in international moving who knew how to pack very efficiently. Excellent experienced.


Q: What is the biggest challenge that you have faced as a new expat?

A: Surviving the house reconstruction stage. You can read and laugh about our horror experiences with the Italian real estate agent and builders in my book Living in Italy: the Real Deal.


Q: What do you think are the positive and negative sides of living in Italy?

A: Positive are: living environment (quiet, spacious), climate, gastronomy, people. Negative: bureaucracy (luckily for bed and breakfasts there is very little of this), doing business (people never do what they promise to do), maintenance of public domain (streets crumbling, bridges collapsing, illegal dumping).


Q: What are the best things to do in the area? Any particular recommendations for future expats?

A: Enjoying the views, touring, visiting small authentic villages, walking and cycling, wine tasting, eating out, cooking lessons.


Q: Do you have plans to move to a different country or back home in the future?

A: Not at the moment, no.


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

A: Expats already living here? Dunno. Visit different regions of the country now that you are living here. We already visited Sardinia, Amalfi, Le Marche, Puglia.


Q: Do you have favourite websites or blogs about Italy?

A: Underdeveloped touristwise as the Oltrepo Pavese is, there isnt a good website available in English unfortunately. We do give a fairly extensive overview on our own website at Taal UK Bed and Breakfast Italy and Living in Italy: the Real Deal.