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A Single Girl's Guide to Moving To Italy: Know Before You Go

Thirty-five and single. Well, it’s May so let’s make it thirty-six and single. My birthday is in August's thirty-six. Aside from these particulars, age is just a number, right ladies? I think being on your own is hard enough in your home country. How about when you complicate matters and choose to be single in a foreign country.

I have been in Italy twelve years now, so it isn’t so foreign. However, I was raised in Long Branch, New Jersey, in the USA. Of course when I was little, in the 90s, it was a totally different America, but that is for another blog. My personality, mentality, and overall sense of humor is American and many things are and will always be foreign to me.

I digress as usual. So much to say and so little space. So let’s get into it shall we? If you are thinking of taking the plunge ladies and want to come to Italy alone, or, you don’t have a partner and there is no choice; this is the blog for you. Here are my tips of how to make the best of it, plan before you go, and most of all not pull your hair out in the process.

The port of Trani, one of the beautiful towns in Apulia, Italy. (heel of this fabulous boot)

Financial planning before the plunge

So this is a big one. In order to get any kind of visa you need to show that you can support yourself in a foreign country. Frankly speaking, the government doesn’t want more problems than it already has at home. They want to know that you will be able to support yourself and not live on the street. When I started my journey I came as a student when I was twenty-four so I needed to provide my bank information from the states. Basically stating all of the funds I had, where I would be living, and proving I could support myself for the duration of my time at university. I had help from my family, so it might be worth having a talk with the ones you love and see if they would be willing to help out in the first couple, three, or even six months prior to arrival. If you have some savings, talk with a financial advisor to see how far it would go, and if it is financially feasible. You could always come on a holiday visa (90 days) and scope out the scene to get a first hand glimpse of what it would be like in terms of atmosphere and cost. You really understand a place once you live in it. Sending positive vibes...

I'll just get a work visa: NOT.

I’ll just get a work visa: NOT. Work visas are extremely hard to come by. I did read that you can get some kind of visa for working remotely in Italy, but really inform yourself before coming to Italy because the bureaucracy here is not for the faint of heart. The work visas are granted to those who have an extremely special skill that a citizen cannot do, or you need to be so fabulous and unique that they would want you over a citizen. The paper work is immense, and it’s rare that companies would go the extra mile unless, of course, something is in it for them, or as I said, your "wonderfulness" is a huge asset to the company making money and cannot be passed up. Again, be really informed because these rules change what seems like daily.

I'll get a job when I come to Italy.

How many times have I seen this on social media. What job? Teaching English? In an office? Is your Italian good enough to work in the language? These are questions you should think about. I recommend taking an Italian course before you go. It's also a great way to practice and make friends with the locals.

English teaching jobs in Italy, especially in big cities like Rome and Florence, are usually underpaid, and there is a lot of competition. All of the Expats that come really want these jobs to have some source of income. I think these jobs are great as extra money. However, I would recommend remote work maybe from your home country. If you are already working and your company agrees, you could work from abroad. Setting up remote work before coming to Italy is always an option, but it takes being diligent in your application process. If you need any new templates for resumes or cover letters is a great way to do so. (A link has been added to the end of this blog for more information).

Jobs in Italy are hard to come by just coming here and applying. You really have to make do with what you can find and be prepared for the salary to be low. To give you an idea, in the states you would be eligible for welfare. Now, I have been here a long time, I certainly don’t want to moan because there are many positive aspects of being here, however, you need to plan for the difficult and negative so you can better enjoy the positive. I learned these things while being here. My plan was live in Italy at all costs. That really didn’t work in the long term. I was lucky to have a family who helped me, and then I took hold of the reigns myself and got any possible job I could. English teaching, babysitter, English speaking nanny, bilingual secretary, I tried to work for multiple startups, and I had multiple jobs at once. The struggle is real...BUT, then you drink that cappuccino, you don't have to pay high insurance prices, and you can travel to such beautiful places in a short distance, so then you think, "Ok, I'll stay another year."

Eligible for Citizenship? Not My Grandmother's Italy has a blog for that.

The Single Life: AND the questions from your Italian Relatives

Now we get to the nitty-gritty of this blog. The single life. It’s hard being single in a foreign country. I still continue my life here as a singleton because of the wonderful food, gorgeous scenery, I have a means to support myself, and I live in Bari which is way more affordable than Rome. On the other, it can be difficult financially and emotionally. I live in Bari, and a lot of people at my age already have their families and lives and some don’t really need anyone from the outside. I also have relatives here, and that is a rich experience with the interrogation that often follows. If any of you are Italian American with relatives in Italy, and you go to any kind of gathering single; be prepared for the following questions:

  1. You are still single, when are you going to find someone, the clock is ticking?

  2. You need to be more proactive.

  3. You don't have a house yet? What are you waiting for?

  4. What defects do you have that you can’t keep a man let alone find one?

  5. Ah, your ex boyfriend he was a nice fellow, what happened to him?

And the list goes on. The interrogation got so bad once I just told them I was a lesbian (nothing wrong with that I must preface) and they shut up. Of course, there was that judgment in their eyes. Plan for some witty come backs or avoid the torture all together. I think the latter is the best way to go. The witty come backs don’t seem to come out when you are bombarded with very personal and gut-wrenching questions that you, yourself cannot answer. This is also a cultural difference. It comes from a place of trying to help you realize the imperfections in your life. It just so happens that they do it in front of other strangers that look at you with a mix of pity and disgust.

Making Friends

As Bette Midler sang, "You gotta have friends." It’s difficult to make friends abroad, not impossible though. You can join facebook groups and try to really put yourself out there. I would start with taking a personal inventory of what your interests are and research what opportunities are out there to make some friends and enjoy life. It’s important to be open mentally and emotionally to new people and experiences. Not the easiest thing if this is your experience later in life in a foreign country, but I will reiterate that it is not impossible. Research the culture a bit before you go, talk to people who have lived there, really plan ahead. It would also help to take an Italian class before you leave so you can hob knob with the locals. This will help you really immerse yourself into the culture and make the initial months less of a culture shock. Also, perfect those food words, you will need them first thing!

Why stay if it's so difficult?

Why Stay? That is something only you can answer. I can tell you why I have stayed twelve years. The food, the scenery, the culture, did I mention the food? At this point I have become completely bilingual, and I am so used to the culture that when I go back to the states I feel strange. It is reverse culture shock. The more you stay the harder it is to leave. Italy takes a piece of your heart. Wherever you go, it's a part of you. No one said it would be easy, but it's so worth it.

Annamaria Borelli is an English teacher and writer from the USA living in Bari. You can catch her on instagram at Not My Grandmothers_Italy

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