Where are you from, Jasmine, and what are you doing nowadays?
I am a second-generation Canadian from Edmonton, Alberta. Prior to moving to Italy, I studied Pharmacy at the University of Alberta and practiced as a pharmacist for almost two years in the community. Nowadays, I’m in a completely different field, teaching English and doing what I like to call “language consulting”(translations, proofreading, etc.) for different industries in Italy. I’m also an active blogger and I write about all my adventures being an expat here.
Why did you choose to expatriate to Italy?
I chose Italy because my husband is from Bergamo, a city in Northern Italy.
As a Canadian expat, what where the procedures you had to follow to move there?
It is not difficult to move for a year if you are under the age of 35 because Canada is one of the countries that has a Working Holiday option for Italy. This is a visa that is fairly easy to get and lets you live for a year in Italy while giving you the opportunity to work for six months. After this, the options become limited as then I required a work visa to come back. However, if you marry an Italian citizen, you then do not require a visa and are legally allowed to stay and work indefinitely.
How long have you been in the country?
I’ve now been in Italy almost two years.
What has surprised you the most at your arrival?
I have to admit that there were very few surprises left for me as I had been visiting Italy almost every year for the past eight years prior to my official move date.
Was it difficult to find accommodation there? What are the types of accommodation which are available there?
Unfortunately, I can’t speak to this question because we moved right into our own house. I don’t think it would be hard to find accommodation if you were not picky about where, for example, there are lots of apartments and single-family houses available in the “suburbs” or slightly outside of the city-center and the prices are more reasonable.
What are the local labor market's features? Is it easy for an expat to find a job there?
It’s still currently hard even for Italians to find jobs, so it really depends on what you’re bringing to the table as an expat. In smaller cities or towns, teaching English is always going to be an option. It gets more difficult if you’re in a big metropolitan where there are many international students and expats who are also “competing” on the job market. However, I think that if you have a unique skill or education and a good understanding of Italian, you can find a job. It may not be the ideal job, or the field you want, or the pay that you want, but that’s Italy for you!
How do you find the Italian lifestyle?
Fantastic. I mean, there’s a reason people love to come to Italy or dream about living here. The lifestyle emphasizes living and spending time with friends and family. In Northern Italy, work life is still quite demanding and I’d say equivalent if not more so to that of North America despite what people like to speculate. It’s just that once out of work, Italians know how to enjoy their time and the country itself gives you so much to see and do, often for free.
Have you been able to adapt yourself to the country and to its society?
Yes, for the most part, I’ve adapted well to the country and society.
What does your every day life look like in Bergamo?
Every day life in Bergamo looks very similar to every day life in Edmonton with the exception of your surroundings. You are surrounded by history and beautiful, old buildings. For example, I enjoy my commute much more because I go through lovely little towns and pass some very historic churches
What is your opinion on the cost of living in Bergamo? Is it easy for an expat to live there?
Northern Italy, in general, is more expensive than Central or South in terms of everything – rent, eating out, even groceries. I think you could probably stretch your money further if you were to be an expat further south. However, as I’ve never lived there, only travelled, I’m just making an educated guess here.
How do you spend your leisure time?
I usually spend my leisure time travelling with my fiancée or taking day trips on his motorcycle. Bergamo is very strategically placed and we have Lake Iseo, Lake Como, and Lake Garda all nearby, so we often like to visit the small, lakefront towns on the weekends.
Your favorite local dishes?
My favorite local dish is casoncelli. They are a “type” of ravioli in the sense that they are a stuffed pasta, but they are very particular to Bergamo. They are served with a butter and sage sauce that is marvelous.
What do you like the most about Italy?
I love the fact that you don’t have to spend money to enjoy yourself. This is something that Europe, in general, I think offers which is just thanks to its history. Since North American cities are newer, you don’t have the option of going to a castle on a Saturday or having a walk in the historical center. I just found that back home, we end up spending money to do things such as go to the movies or out to a restaurant with friends but here, you can just pop out your front door and find things to do that are free.
What do you miss the most about your home country?
I miss the insane friendliness and politeness of Canadians. That is not to say that Italians aren’t, because they absolutely are but where this differs is in the service industry. I just miss going to the grocery store and having a conversation with the cashier. Sometimes here, they barely acknowledge you. This is perhaps an extreme example, also due to the fact that again, we are in Northern Italy and the people are a little more closed than if you go to the South (even Italians themselves will confirm this!).
What has motivated you to write your blog “Questa Dolce Vita”? How does it help?
I was first motivated just to keep friends and family updated with my adventures, but it quickly evolved into a way to connect with other expats as well as help soon-to-be expats! A blog is also very cathartic when you’re trying to get used to a new country and culture.
Would you like to give any advice to soon-to-be expatriates in Italy?
Learn Italian before arriving.