Expat life is hugely appealing and with almost 70 million people living and working abroad there’s growing opportunities available if you wish to relocate. Every country has its own unique selling points and quirks but having advanced knowledge of the challenges and issues you may face will make your move much easier!
Relocating to Italy to enjoy the Dolce Vita will be the beginning of a wonderful new chapter in your life but there are also pitfalls that you need to be aware of in order to make the most of the possibilities that the country has to offer.
It’s easy to get caught up in the romantic ideal of living in Italy while forgetting that although it’s a fantastic country to relocate to, you will still have to deal with the more mundane aspects of life and finances, just like you would anywhere else.
Therefore, it’s absolutely vital to have a good idea of the types of things you will have to deal with so you can make the proper plans and arrangements before you move. This will help you to make the transition to your new life in Italy without the headaches that can accompany an ill thought out relocation.
The following are some of the important things to keep in mind before moving to Italy:
Relocating Is Not The Same As Visiting As A Tourist.
You may well have visited Italy in the past as a tourist and immediately fallen in love with the country! If so, you certainly aren’t alone, although you need to remember that visiting a place as a tourist is very different from relocating there to live as a Expat.
As a tourist you won’t have any of the day to day worries that you will have to overcome if you move to the county more permanently. For instance, you’ll have to pay taxes, arrange long term accommodation and create a new life within the community.
The good news is that Italians are friendly and welcoming and once you learn to navigate the fairly complex bureaucracy you’ll find everything you were looking for and more!
Money, Work And Finances.
If you’re planning to relocate to Italy one of the most important considerations that you’ll have to plan for is your work and financial life. You will need to have enough money to be able to cover all the basic costs of living, at the bare minimum, but on top of this you’ll also need a little extra in savings to cover any unforeseen circumstances that may arise.
As a general rule, if you’re relocating to Italy you should have at least 4 to 6 months of living costs saved up in advance. This can be used to cover any unexpected medical costs when you’re not working or earning enough money to pay the bills.
This may sound like a lot of money to save up but you should keep in mind that the costs of living in Italy are relatively low compared to the rest of Western Europe and America, particularly in rural parts of the country. Therefore, having between $5,000 to $10,000 in savings should be a safe buffer for any unforeseen circumstances.
Of course, ideally you will have a source of income that you can maintain during your move. For example, if you have a remote job which you can continue without a break in your income during your relocation to Italy you’ll have a secure income that you can rely on even if you’re in another country. Alternatively, if you have a job offer in Italy then your finances should also be safe.
If you’re planning to move to Italy and then find a job once you arrive it can be quite tricky! The Italian job market is very sluggish and unemployment is quite high, at over 9%, which can make it difficult for foreigners to quickly find work in the country, especially if you aren’t fluent in Italian.
However, there are job opportunities for foreigners in Italy that include teaching English, working in the tourist industry or with International Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs). Other jobs that are commonly taken up by foreigners in Italy include graphic design, programming and coding.
Visa And Residency Permits.
Before you move to Italy it’s essential that you have all the legal paperwork in order. If you are a non-EU citizen then you need to apply for a long stay Visa and then apply for a residency permit, or ‘Permesso di Soggiorno’, once you are in the country. The application process is fairly simple and once you have a residency permit you will be entitled to all the things that local Italians are entitled to, including healthcare and access to an Italian driving license.
You need to apply for your residency permit within 8 days of arriving in the country. The application is in two parts, one with the Poste Italiane and one with the local police headquarters, called the ‘Questura’.
Don’t forget that your local consulate is always on hand as well if you need some help or advice with your application process or, alternatively, you can even hire a local lawyer to handle the applications on your behalf.
Unlike many other countries in Europe, relatively few Italians speak English at a fluent or near fluent level. Recent estimates suggest that as few as 30% of Italians speak English which means that if you don’t speak any Italian yourself you could find yourself in difficulties at times.
After you’ve relocated to Italy you’ll have to deal with your mail, bills and other official documents in Italian. If you can’t speak Italian then it’s highly advisable to get the documents translated for you by a professional translator or a bilingual lawyer. This is vital to do so that you properly understand any legal documents that you have to sign.
Therefore, it’s a great idea to start learning some Italian if you’re planning to relocate to the country. You don’t need to be fluent but having basic conversational level Italian language skills will make your life infinitely easier. Not only will you be able to ask cashiers and other store assistants questions but so you can also start to meet locals in the cafes and restaurants.
You might be worried or shy about trying out your new Italian language skills but you shouldn’t feel that way because local Italians will be overjoyed that you are making the effort to learn their language; and even if you make a mistake they will be happy to correct and help you out in a friendly way!
When you first arrive though, an extremely useful tool that you can use to translate signs and other notices for free is the Google Translate tool. The translations may not always be perfect but you’ll always be able to understand the general meaning of written Italian.
Friends, Family And Homesickness.
One of the most under-reported aspects of relocating to a foreign country is the feelings of homesickness that will inevitably arise from time to time. It’s only natural that you’ll feel homesick after your move and this can be especially difficult for children who have moved overseas with their parents.
After you’ve relocated to Italy and the initial thrill and excitement starts to wear off it can be easy to start to feel isolated and alone. This is partly because you will be surrounded by a new culture, people and places. So even if you love Italian culture there will still be a part of you that misses apple pie and the day to day customs and routines that you have left behind in your home country.
If you do start to feel homesick, one of the best things you can do is to throw yourself into your new life by joining clubs, taking part in local festivals and really making the most of the opportunities in your area.
Another great way to combat loneliness is to meet and connect with other Expats who will understand the way you’re feeling and be able to support you and give you advice based on their first hand experiences. You can easily find other Expats in your area by searching on social media for Expat groups or by checking the classified ads in your city.
While you are living in Italy you should also set aside time each week to Skype or call your friends and family back home. This is especially important if you have children with you so that they can stay in touch with their relatives and friends back home. You’ll have to remember that there will be differences in the time zones but if you set a fixed time with your family then you can easily fit it into your weekly schedule.
Holidays And Annual Leave Allowances.
Although you’ve decided to relocate to Italy it doesn’t mean that you can’t visit your home country from time to time! If you’re starting a new job then you should find out how much holiday allowance you are entitled to each year.
If you’ve moved to Italy with children you’ll also need to take their school terms into account; but this shouldn’t be a problem because school holidays in Italy are very generous!
Taking annual trips to visit your home country will help to keep you connected with friends and family as well as making you appreciate Italy all the more when you return again.
Planning For Traveling Within Italy.
While you are living in Italy you’d be crazy not to take the opportunity to see as much of the country as you can! Naturally, you will want to explore your new town or city but you should also try to visit the different regions of the country.
Every province and region in Italy has a huge amount of unique experiences, cuisine and sites to see so it’s worth trying to travel as widely as you can while you’re in the country. Also, since you’re already in the European Union, you can take the chance to visit some of the neighboring countries such as France, Spain and Germany.
Each country in Europe has an ancient history and an incredible cultural heritage that you can immerse yourself in during your holidays and free time. Remember, if you have an Italian residency permit you can travel freely throughout the EU without the need for extra Visas or documentation which makes exploring the continent hassle free and fun.
Willingness To Respect The Local Customs And Culture.
Italy is a very religious country and most Italians are fiercely proud of their cultural heritage so you should always try to be as respectful as you can. For example, in many of the major churches and cathedrals you will need to respect the conservative dress code which requires you to cover your shoulders and legs!
However, if you are interested and respectful of the culture, religious or otherwise, you will be welcomed by the locals with open arms. This will allow you to see a really unique side of Italian life which is enriching and even educational. For instance, you can go to church services during the major religious holidays or attend the festivals and cultural events in your region to discover some of the more unusual aspects of Italian life.
Clear Understanding Of The Moving Costs.
A major consideration that you need to take into account when you’re moving to Italy is the cost of the move itself. This will be largely dependent on how much you are planning to take with you. For example, if you want to take your furniture and all of your possessions you will need to hire a shipping company to transport your things to Italy which can be quite costly (Refer to my article about moving companies that will help you relocate to Italy).
Of course, if you’re travelling light then the costs of your move will be far lower. You can easily buy second hand furniture for your new home once you arrive in the country which will probably be necessary because in Italy even rental properties are usually completely unfurnished.
There’s plenty of options when it comes to shipping your items to your new home in Italy. For large shipments you can use an international shipping company such as UPakWeShip which will deliver boxes for you to pack and then ship them to your address in Italy. For smaller shipments of suitcases you can use a company like MyBaggage who will collect your cases and ship them to your new address.
Electrical Items In Italy.
A minor detail that can cause a lot of problems if you overlook it is that the plug sockets in Italy are different to the USA. This is easily solved though by purchasing an international plug converter which can fit any plug from around the world and then convert it to fit the local Italian sockets.
You also need to check the voltage of your electrical items. For example, most voltages in the USA are between 100 and 127 Volt whereas in Europe it’s more common to find 220 to 240 Volt electrical attachments. It’s important to check because if you plug your 127 Volt device into a 240 Volt socket it can blow the internals of your device!
Therefore, you will need an adapter which can convert the plugs and the voltages for your devices before you can use them in Italy.
Relocating To Italy – An Exciting New Chapter In Your Life.
Relocating to another country is bound to be one of the biggest decisions you’ll ever make, however if you are armed with the right knowledge and facts in advance it should be smooth and hassle free.
Moving to Italy will open up a whole new world of opportunities for you but it will also present you with challenges that you’ll have to overcome. This means you should never be afraid of reaching out to ask other Expats for advice or help with things that may come up and also use the wealth of free information on the internet to help guide you safely through your relocation.