From Colombia to Italy: 14 years in the United States

Colombian-born Beatriz may find the cost of living to be high in Italy, but the experience for her is priceless. As she says, "I am very happy here." Living as an expat in Italy is an answer to the change she and her husband had been craving while they were in the USA, and here she shares some of her thoughts about living in Italy.
 

Beatriz Macias

-Where were you born?

I was born in Colombia. I grew up in Popayán, a gorgeous colonial town in the southwest of the country, and later I moved to Bogotá to study architecture.

-In which country and city are you living now?

I live in Azzate, Italy, northwest of Milan, in the lake region of Lombardy.

-Are you living alone or with your family?

I live here with my Colombian husband, our American born son, and our brown dog. 

-How long have you been living in Italy?

A year and 3 days.

-What is your age? 

41 

-When did you come up with the idea of living in Italy?

We were living happily in California, but we were craving change. My husband had been traveling to Europe for work, everything fell into place when he was offered a position here with the same company. We jumped at the chance!

-Was it hard to get a visa or a working permit?

It IS hard. We had to wait a long time to get the Nulla Osta (or work permit) while in the States. I used to say that I was going to print a sign that stated: "NOT YET" as a response to the frequent question of: "When are you moving?"

I arrived with a regular tourist visa (as I am a Colombian national) and applied for a Permesso di Soggiorno (permit to stay) as soon as I landed in Italy. Neither my husband, nor I have our Permesso yet! It is a bureaucratic nightmare. I will be allowed to work once I have the permit, as I came here as a wife of someone with a work permit. 

-Do you have other plans for the future?

My husband's work contract is for 3 years. After that we will go back to California. That is the plan for now, but anything can happen.

-What about housing, have you bought, or are you renting a home? How much do you pay for it?

We are renting a small house here, and we pay 1,700 Euro a month on rent. Water, gas, electricity, garbage collection, and everything else is additional and more expensive than back in California.

-What is the cost of living in Italy?

HIGH. Everything costs more here, from gas for your car, to dining out, to clothes, etc. But as the TV commercial says: "Priceless."

-What do you think about the Italians?

Italians are wonderful people. They are warm, friendly, outgoing, helpful. They will go out of their way to make you feel comfortable in Italy. They will share their knowledge of good food, good wine, music and history with everyone. When you are a guest at an Italian household, you are treated like royalty.

On the other hand, I think it is difficult to be a part of their social circle, their friendliness stops at the point where their family begins. Italians are very rooted to their place and family and it is very difficult to permeate this established circle. 

-What are the positive and negative aspects of living in Italy?

I am very happy here. Living in Italy fits our lifestyle. Beauty, history, and good food are present everywhere. We also love to travel, and the rest of Europe is at our doorstep.

The big negative for me is bureaucracy. There is always an employee that is not a his/her desk, there is always a stamp missing, or a permit required. There is no reliable public service, from the post to the trains. This is more than just an inconvenience, it is what keeps Italy from advancing like other European countries. It is a shame, really.

-Do you have any tips for our readers about living in Italy?

Yes, before you move for good here, come and stay an extended period of time. Live like the locals do, rent a place, take the bus, the train, go to the bank, the post office, the market. Do your homework, read expat forums, learn from fellow travelers' experience. Also, do the numbers, figure out the cost of living, and the income you will have. Research job opportunities, and immigration requirements. It is beautiful here, but it is different and it is no vacation under the Tuscan sun...

-Do you have any favorite Web sites or blogs about Italy?

My own blog: http://suitcase-contents.blogspot.com

Expats in Italy: http://www.expatsinitaly.com

Expat talk, the forum for Expats in Italy: http://www.expattalk.com

Italy from the inside: http://www.italyfromtheinside.com

Expat blog: http://www.expat-blog.com

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Amber Kelps's picture

Hello everyone...looking forward to using this site!