girlinflorence

5 questions expats in Italy hate being asked

girlinflorence

Without trying to be like a teenage emo kid listening to a spotify indie music playlist, I thought I would write a more personal post for a change. When I started this little baby of a blog of mine, I was very unsure about how much personal info I wanted to share. I thought about keeping it strictly events/news and the like but everyone once in a while I like sharing a bit more since after all there are so many of us in the same boat in Italy and it can be comforting to read other’s {real} experiences. Since I have been in Florence full-time since 2007, you can imagine the sorts of questions that get thrown at you that can make you slightly uncomfortable, which is why I am sharing these 5 ‘fun’ ones with you today. Keep in mind this is 100% my opinion, and please comment and add what you don’t like being asked, I’m curious!

Obviously I know that the people asking these questions mean no wrong but I am huge believer in the wonderful – tact. As my favorite Urban Dictionary quotes states: Tact is a quality respect, because being an asshole and acting negatively towards others is 100 times easier than making a positive contribution.

1. When are you going home?

 I touched on what my idea of’ home was in a previous post, this question can be tricky to answer the longer you live here. Why? Maybe you feel like you have no home and the question brings about a feeling of loss or something you no longer have – or in my case perhaps you have two! It can be hard for people to understand that concept who haven’t done the same long-term transition. Most people associate home with where they were born and raised. I remember when I first started working in Italy, my American colleague would yell at me when I referred to America as ‘home’. “You live in Italy now Georgette, THIS is your home!”. At that moment everything was still scary and new and unsure so I have now decided that ‘home’ is wherever the hell I feel like it should be.

2. Did you move because of love?

I get that this question comes from good intentions. People read a book about a girl meeting a seductive man with an accent, falls in love,  and then gets whisked away to another country for a life of bliss and picking fruit in the countryside. 5 years later you see her book on amazon.com.uk to entice others to do the same. Well, quite frankly life can be a little more complicated than that. Without getting too personal, my own life has undergone quite a few serious changes this year and the ‘how did you end up in Italy’ question has gotten a tad bit more complicated to answer. Maybe you did come for love and it didn’t work out? Or maybe you did, it did work out but you don’t want to seem like that girl who leaves everything behind for a man {or woman}? The point here being that recounting these details to people you don’t really know can be a little awkward.

3. How much money do you need to make in order to live in Italy? 

This is one of those questions that I rarely answer because it is impossible too! I mean honestly, everyone spends their money differently. Some people like to go out a lot, some are homebodies, some travel, some don’t. I think you get the picture! Italy is by no means an easy country to make a living and support yourself, I cannot stress that enough. Besides being an expensive country to live, good jobs are hard to find. I started off as a nanny and worked {and still} a variety of jobs to support myself and it’s still a struggle. Much different than someone who comes via a work transfer from another country.  I wrote a post about what not to expect when moving to Italy for more tips on this subject.

4. Can you help me get a work visa? 

The work visa – the word itself makes me cringe. The somewhat-fabled document that allows you to work {and perhaps live somehow} in Italy. I think I know one other person that actually has this type of visa while every other immigrant I know is married to an Italian or is a lucky bastard with dual citizenship. I love to help people, that’s why I started this blog, but when it comes to the nitty, gritty details of the work visa – you need to either pay someone to help you collect your documents or better yet hire an immigration lawyer. You can read about my own permesso di soggiorno experience here.

5. Don’t you miss your family back home? 

The answer to that question is yes! I do miss my family and thank you for reminding me of that fact. Ok, ok it’s not  that bad of a question but everyone who lives abroad but is close to their family has an internal battle with themselves about living so far away. As your parents get older, your friends and cousins and brothers and sisters start having kids, it is only natural that you don’t want to miss out. Which is why a lot of people don’t make that permanent move abroad and fair enough! When I go home, my family and close friends get 100% of my attention and via skype, whatsapp and technology in general, I try to keep in touch as much as possible. Someone once told me with a look of incredulity after hearing I had been here for so long {by choice} and commented that they could never live so far away from ‘home’ to which I answered ‘great! you don’t have too!’ ciao! 

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  1. Jill

    Great post and I can very much relate…especially since I had a work visa and that seems to qualify me as the expert on them (not!) The question that annoys me the most is when people ask if I speak Italian! What?! I have been in Italy since 1996 and this is home, of course I speak Italian…otherwise how would I function at 100%? I realize that this comes from people who do not speak another language and could never imagine living here, but seriously I want to tell them to think just a little bit when I am asked this.

    • ggnitaly84

      I was going to add the ‘do you speak italian’ but i left it out since it depends on how long you have been here. I am always shocked at that question or when people are surprised that I work in Italian.. um yes, how else would I?

  2. Jill

    Hi Georgette…now I see the first comment, it did not show up as awaiting moderation before….you can delete my second comment and this one! Loved your post, brava!!

  3. Sam Webster

    1. Never
    2. I do everything for love of something, but not always of a person
    3. Enough for a pasta meal every day + rent.
    4. What’s a work visa?
    5. Always, but time is too limited to be bound by such things 24/7.

  4. Suzi Jenkins

    “Home”. Have you noticed that there is no such word in Italian. Casa is just not the same. “My house, your house …” just isn’t the same as “home”. As a person who has travelled enormously and lived out of a suitcase extensively, changed house frequently (I just counted quickly in my head and I am at 20, probably having forgotten a few along the way), home, just as you say, is wherever the hell I feel it is at any one time. I loved a few years ago being on holiday with my son in North America, and one evening saying,”you look tired, let’s go home” to which he replied “yes, I want to go home now”. And we both meant a hotel room we had been in less than 48 hours in New York.

  5. Sara White

    Ah, I’m always getting asked #1 and it drives me insane! I truly think of Rome as my home now! My standard sarcastic reply is now to give the person asking the question a blank look and say something like “Well, after dinner I’m walking back to my apartment, obviously…”

    #3 has edged way too far into personal territory a lot of times when people say something like, “Well, just tell me how much you make and what your rent is, and then I can guess at how much a person needs to be able to live in Italy”… Um, no.

  6. Jennifer Avventura

    Awesome post! I’ve never been asked your first question but I get “Don’t you miss your family?” very, very often!
    I used to get asked #2 a lot but it has now changed to “Why are you here?”
    #3 comes to me in various ways like: How much was your husbands new jeep? Did you make money in Cayman? To more personal ones for which I respond “Devi parlare con il mio marito.” It’s interesting to see their faces change when I say this to them, they haven’t the balls to ask my marito.
    I’ve also never been asked if I could get someone a work visa and my advice to anyone wanting to live in Italy … just marry an Italian, it’s easier.
    #5 see number #1.

    It’s nice to see this kind of post from you, a little away from the news slant. Thank you. :)

  7. Kate Bailward

    Haha – related to #1 I’ve just remembered something amusing that happened late last night. I was taking my make-up off and getting ready for bed as one of my flatmates came back after a night out with our neighbour, L. L is a sweetie, but a motormouth, and I have to concentrate hard with her because her brain works at a million miles an hour and she flits from subject to subject at the speed of lightning so I often lose the thread of what she’s saying.

    Anyway, she’s chattering away and I’m listening to what she’s saying, and suddenly she says, out of the blue, “dove vivi?” I just look at her blankly, thinking in my head that I’ve misheard, because she knows where I live: about three doors down from her – and we’re standing in my kitchen! Anyway, she repeats, and I’ve heard correctly, but I can’t for the life of me work out what on earth she’s actually trying to ask me. Luckily my flatmate’s more on the ball: she starts laughing and replies, “Ora, Catania!” Finally I click – L’s asking where I live *in England*.

    I’m going slightly off on a tangent because this is from the point of view of Italians, rather than wannabe expats, asking me the same questions all the time, but I think #1 is so much to do with the old saying, ‘home is where the heart is’. And for me, my heart is here. It confuses the hell out of people who ask me where I’m from when I reply, ‘Catania’, but I’ve been here nearly two years and have no plans to move on. So yes, it’s where I’m from. Maybe not originally, but me? I’m all about the now, baby. :)

  8. Kate Bailward

    Haha – related to #1 I’ve just remembered something amusing that happened late last night. I was taking my make-up off and getting ready for bed as one of my flatmates came back after a night out with our neighbour, L. L is a sweetie, but a motormouth, and I have to concentrate hard with her because her brain works at a million miles an hour and she flits from subject to subject at the speed of lightning so I often lose the thread of what she’s saying.

    Anyway, she’s chattering away and I’m listening to what she’s saying, and suddenly she says, out of the blue, “dove vivi?” I just look at her blankly, thinking in my head that I’ve misheard, because she knows where I live: about three doors down from her – and we’re standing in my kitchen! Anyway, she repeats, and I’ve heard correctly, but I can’t for the life of me work out what on earth she’s actually trying to ask me. Luckily my flatmate’s more on the ball: she starts laughing and replies, “Ora, Catania!” Finally I click – L’s asking where I live *in England*.

    I’m going slightly off on a tangent because this is from the point of view of Italians, rather than wannabe expats, asking me the same questions all the time, but I think #1 is so much to do with the old saying, ‘home is where the heart is’. And for me, my heart is here. It confuses the hell out of people who ask me where I’m from when I reply, ‘Catania’, but I’ve been here nearly two years and have no plans to move on. So yes, it’s where I’m from. Maybe not originally, but me? I’m all about the now, baby.

    • ggnitaly84

      Wow kate! Thank you for sharing that sweet story. I have gotten the same question from a number of Italians and I understand that it can be hard for someone who has “never left” to understand how you could truly feel like you have two homes…

  9. D

    I use “home” for the US, and when in the US, call Florence “home.” For me, my ‘home’ is where I now visit….the home where I grew up. However, back there, people always ask me “so when are you going back home?” (Florence.) So, I have a few places I like to call home. ;) As they say, it’s where the heart is. Mine’s in two places. :) And I totally agree with the feeling it’s a bit rude (even if not intentional) when people comment ‘they could never….’ ‘don’t you miss…?’ etc etc

    I hate money questions, too.Relating to said money questions…. I also hate “oh wow, you live here? Pffft that’s nice. I wish I could do that but I have bills/life/blah blah blah.” That grinds my gears for a lot of reasons, since anyone *could* live here…..it’s just about personal sacrifice and what people are willing, or not willing, to accept.

    I also dislike “So are you tired of pasta yet?” No. Because there are actually other things to eat in Italy….like meat, fish, salads….lol

    I am sure there are a few more questions I’m forgetting, too!

    • ggnitaly84

      Yes the whole money thing is always a touchy subject because people’s situations really do vary wildly! I am not rich … at ALL its pretty sad actually, but I love my life! However someone else might want that car, big house etc. It just depends on the person and those are such personal questions, ya know? As for pasta, don’t even get me started. I try to post as many food pics as possible to give people a more natural look at the variety of food this country has to offer.

  10. Penny

    My pet hates:
    1. “But what do you do here?” – Doh – work!
    2. “Do you get to go home much?” – This is my home. My daughter was born here and is as much Italian as English and we’ve lived here for almost 10 years.
    3. “How do you earn a living?” – I understand that one is usually because they mean “how would I earn a living” but frankly it is none of your beeswax!
    4. “Do you speak Italian?” – It would be pretty hard to do number 1 without speaking Italian!
    The last one is less of a question and more a general conversation topic that irritates me. Many people seem to have the opinion that either Italy is a third-world country run by Don Corleones or about to implode financially. They look incredulously when you point out it is Europes third largest economy / a net contributor to the EU and has a reasonably stable banking system (due to conservative lending practices) and low levels of personal debt that both the US and the UK would be very, very happy to have.

    That’s been very therapeutic :-) Thank you.

    • ggnitaly84

      hahaha I hear! Honestly i wrote this because I needed to vent after a few ill-mannered experiences lately. I should have added the ‘do you speak Italian question’ because that shocks me when they KNOW I have lived here for seven years. I can’t imagine living in a country that long and not speaking in the same language!!! And I have to admit that when people grill me about my work it can be a little uncomfortable. I get that jobs are hard to find but buy me a drink first before you ask me all the nitty gritty details about my work life.

  11. uccellina03

    That 2nd one… yes. I have an Italian boyfriend and although he may have accelerated my move here, he certainly isn’t the only reason I live in Italy. If things were to change between us (hope not!), I would still want to be here long-term. I do really struggle with getting that across to people when they ask me this question. I seem to say it all really fast so that they don’t have time to make up their mind and look at me like “OH, you’re that kind of girl.”

    • ggnitaly84

      People move for work, people move for family, people move because they saw a movie and want to be the person in that movie. Who the hell cares if you DID move for love? People’s situations can change and I find it harder to answer this question because the answer isn’t so simple anymore. I have a few answers I tend to use on rotation. If someone gets REALLY personal, I try and answer with something as equally uncomfortable like “well.. i did come for love but now everything is just so… lost, i don’t know what to do, what do you think?” that usually keeps people quiet and sorry they asked! ;-).

  12. Lori

    Hello Georgette, I have moved almost every three to four years due to the work my husband does, traveling between Europe and the states. Home is where you make it…and I am truly happy with the choices we have made. We have raised two well adjusted children who also share our love for meeting new people and living out of a suitcase. I still am very connected to my family and loved ones, thanks to technology. I say follow your dreams and life is too short to dwell on silly inquires from other people, it may sting for a moment but look at what we get to see and do in our everyday lives.
    Thank you for your wonderful insights, I truly enjoy reading your posts. I hope to meet you in Florence someday.

    • ggnitaly84

      Hello Lori! I have met many people like you who move every few years and those are some of the most well adjusted, open-minded people {and kids that I babysat} that I have ever met! I agree that life is too short to simplify in one person’s observations. You have to do what is right for YOU and noone else. That’s how I try to live my life and try to leave judgement at the door. Thank you so much for reading my blog :-). Ci Vediamo a firenze!

  13. Sara Amrhein

    You definitely hit the nail on the head with this post! Really great and so very true 5x’s over. When I was working with tourists I used to get asked how much I pay for rent, I would never dream of asking someone this question no matter where they lived! I also refer to the US as ‘home’ but I also refer to Florence as home too. For me it’s nice to know that I have more than one place I feel comfortable. It is incredibly difficult to explain what it’s like to be an expat to someone who has never done it. Good thing we have each other to understand! Great post! Thanks for getting personal, it definitely helps!

    • ggnitaly84

      Yeah I have gotten the rent question so many times and I thought that everyone would know not to ask $ questions. Sometimes I like to mess with people and say,” ahhh it varies month to month” – I like to keep people guessing. As for the discorso oh ‘home’ why not have two places to call home! I call that having the best of both worlds!

  14. Anna

    The question I get asked most and which I absolutely hate because it is impossible to answer is “Which country do you like best? Canada or Italy?”

  15. Temple

    The one that invariably gets me is: How do you manage in such a crazy place? This is followed by: nothing works, people are lazy, nobody speaks English (my all time fave that), how come I have to/why can’t I…fill in the blank. I’ve stopped answering frankly, I give a blank look like I don’t speak English either and move on.

    • ggnitaly84

      Ugh Temple, that kind of talks instantly turns me off. obviously it is a CHOICE to be here and the good outweighs the bad {we would like to hope}. I like the idea of the blank look.. I need to try that sometime ;-)

    • D

      On the flip side of this, I HATE people that assume living in Italy is just like in films! “Wow, you get to walk around looking at art, taking a 2 hour lunch, and eating gelato every day.” Or once, I really wanted to scream when I was venting about some “Italian things” and an acquaintance of mine responded “How hard can it be? You live in Italy, any problem isn’t half as bad as ours.” Say what? I am unfortunately not one of those rich expats who actually can traipse around all day doing nothing and I always get riled when people ASSume a “vacation” is the same as “living”, and il bel paese without worry or stress.
      That said, I also hate when people ASSume all Italians are lazy, too.

  16. Catherine Bolton

    Totally agree. I get question 2 all the time … and I’ve been here 30 years. Yes, I moved for love: because I was (and still am) in love with Italy, despite all its problems. After I moved, THEN I met someone.
    My first permesso actually was for work, and even the Italian consulate in DC called it a “mosca bianca”. Then I got my carta because I’m the mother of an Italian … got me through the system faster!
    Anyway, thanks for a great post!

  17. Sarah May (@AntiquaTours)

    when my clients (while I am WORKING) ask me if I have a real job. I am a guide with a background in art history and lead food and wine tour in Rome because I actually studied wine and food and am a sommelier. This IS my job. Also people from abroad, like friends and family, seem to think that when they visit i have all the time in the world to show them around. Um, I have to work to barely get by. Life ain’t cheap and I don’t have a rich husband like a lot of my expat collegues.

  18. saretta

    I have had lots of questions that drive me nuts, but two of the most common and most irritating are:
    1. Which is better, Italy or America? (Better in what way? Depends on my mood !)
    2. Don’t you ever go to the beach? (Since I live on Adriatic coast, I do go to the beach, almost every day all summer long…however, I don’t turn brown thanks to my pale freckley complexion.)

  19. Howard

    About the why did you come here and was it for love ? Just look at them with an angry face or big clown OTT sitcom face and say…

    “Look ! Everyone back in my hometown in the States knew about my sexually transmitted vaginal infection…so I thought…why not move to Florence ? That way I could fuck anyone I wanted and spread my condition around with a new fresh unknowing crowd !”

    Wait a few minutes as they start to look at you with utter horror and then you tell them…

    “And you know what the most stupid thing of all is ? !! That you actually believe that ! “

  20. newmexicotoitaly

    Funny, I never mind the questions, I kinda feel flattered anyone’s interested. Usually people ask how long I’m staying and why am I here. As for the money issue, I appreciate when people are willing to be candid – it’s how I made friends with the folks from goal42 blog – they are constantly posting / updating their daily spending for an entire 2 year trip ( which began here in Italy). I found that amazingly open!

    • ggnitaly84

      I see your point! I am all for questions just depends on the person and the situation. It’s interesting to see how after so many years in another country you can think so totally different. Evolution of a long-term expat ;-)

  21. Kaley

    For some reason, I never get the “Do you speak Spanish?” question, and my guess is that Spanish is not as different as Italian; most high schools teach it and there are a lot of Latinos in the US.

    • ggnitaly84

      That’s really interesting! I think it also depends what area of Italy you are in. Being in Florence, there are so many American students and tourists and many never learn Italian so I think locals are impressed when they learn you actually CAN speak ;-)


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