|A sense of belonging is what Leanne of Australia felt during her first visit to Italy. Now she's taking steps to realize her goal of truly calling Italy home. Read Leanne's account of how she got a job and aspects of her expat life in Taormina, Sicily, and why learning to speak Italian is such an important thing to do.
-Where were you born?
-In which country and city are you living now?
Taormina, Sicily - Italy
-Are you living alone or with your family?
-How long have you been living in Italy?
I have been living in Italy since April 2006, spending my first year living and working in Rome. Since then I have moved further south to the beautiful island of Sicily where I have been living and working for 5 months.
-What is your age?
-When did you come up with the idea of living in Italy?
Although my family is Italian, I had never spoken the language, never been to the country and had no deisre to go anywhere outside of Australia. I was 22 years old when I thought this and then I turned 23 and things changed. I left Australia in 2002 to go backpacking with my twin sister and her husband for 3 months around Europe as - to be honest - I had nothing better to do so I thought a holiday would be nice!
Our first stop on the Euro trip was Rome, and as soon as I set my foot down on the ground at the airport, I knew something had changed, although I could not yet pinpoint exactly what it was. We spent a month in Italy, with a bit of that time in my grandparents' village in Puglia and it was then I realised what had changed: It was the realisation that I felt at home in this country, and that the people were just like me! (minus the language of course.)
It was however not all fairytale and roses after that. I knew that I wanted to live in Italy; however, it was not the right time so I went on to live in the UK for over 2 years, then I went back to Australia for 8 months, then back to UK for 6 months and each day the pull to come to Italy was getting stronger and stronger until that was all I could think and dream about!
So enough was enough, I landed a job via a company in the UK and in April 2006 my new Italian life began.
-Was it hard to get a visa or a working permit?
No, I am very lucky to automatically be entitled to an Italian passport as my father was born here.
-Was it difficult for you to get medical insurance before you went there or when you first arrived?
No, through my job I get insurance, and if you are Australian (I think) you get to use the health care as there is an agreement between our two countries.
-How do you make your living in Italy? Do you have any type of income generated?
I am very lucky, and I will always say this. I found a job whilst living in London, working with a large UK tour operator. I applied to work in their specilist Italian division, and got the job and was placed in Rome for the first season. To find this job, a friend recommended a company; however, I did a google search and found many international jobs.
I loved Rome but asked to be transfered down to Taormina, Sicily for something different and to live a summer by the sea. Now I am thinking I would like to return to Rome again, although we have placements all over Italy.
-Do you speak Italian and do you think it's important to speak the local language?
No - non proprio! No - not really! I came to Italy with a few basic words and phrases but found learning the language hard as I had no one to practice with. I work for an English company so speak to English guests all day, and with English staff in the office. My colleague was also an English girl and it was her first time in Italy so no Italian there. Also as we made friends they all wanted to learn English and would not speak Italian...same as the hotels I work with.
It was not until I met my boyfriend, and then began working with a new Italian colleague in the winter that my Italian started to improve. I am so lucky that my language is improving as down here in Sicily it is much harder to get by. Also people are so friendly when you try. Now all my friends correct me when I make mistakes, and the hotels here also help me with my language.
I learnt not be be shy and timid with my language learning. At first I could not bear the thought of opening my mouth as I spoke like a baby, but I look Italian so I was sure people thought I was a little slow or something...
Piano, piano...slowly, slowly, as they say. I would say it is ESSENTIAL to learn the langauge. I work with a lot of English people who have lived here for years and STILL do not speak any Italian. The locals think this is rude (and I agree). If you decided to live in a new country you should adapt to their ways.
-Do you miss home and family sometimes?
Yes, but I went back for 3 months at the start of this year (2007) with my boyfriend and so we could have a double summer. Since then this year my brother and my aunty have visited so I am ok. I would like to go back every year or so, but Australia is very far away and expensive to fly to.
So here is to hoping some more family and friends will fly over and visit me!
-Do you have other plans for the future?
I hope to work in a foreign country such as Egypt for 3 months this winter. Then I hope to be transferred back to Rome and, fingers crossed, my boyfriend can get a job with my company so we can live and work together. I also am going to apply for residency which should be easy enough.
-What about housing, have you bought, or are you renting a home? How much do you pay for it?
Once again the gods are with me as with my job they supply me with an apartment and pay all rent and bills, etc...
-What is the cost of living in Italy?
I just pay for food and going out, which is not so expensive, especially after living in London for so long.
-What do you think about the Italians?
The locals...depends where you are really. Here in Taormina the locals are so friendly. It is a very touristy town here, and once the locals know you are here to work with them they will open their arms to you.
I make a big effort with trying to speak Italian, and being friendly and polite and they respect this, and in turn are kind to me. I have found here (compared to some other English-speaking colleagues) that the reason I am liked perhaps more than others is that I try to speak the language. I cannot stress how important that is.
-What are the positive and negative aspects of living in Italy?
For me the positive is that I am living my dream, and that I have found a place I adore and hope to call home.
Negative is the poor customer service and that it is really who you know. If you have a friend in the council or a bank for example, life is easy...if you however need some paperwork done and know no one, then...be prepared to wait.
On this note however, I am starting to get to know some people so perhaps this is positive after all!
-Do you have any favorite Web sites or blogs about Italy?
I have just created this blog site, so it's not so good yet...but give me time! http://australiatoitaly.blogspot.com