From England to Ireland to Italy: Piemonte Dreams
Hi, I’m Clare. I moved from Dublin to Piemonte in Northern Italy. I have lived in 5 countries as an adult and am originally from England but certainly, at 42 and having left England at 23, I don’t feel very English, I also got my Irish citizenship last year and Irish passport so am officially Irish, which is a good thing with Brexit looming! The longest place I have lived was the 14 years I spent in Dublin. But because of my Dublin experience and all the opportunities it afforded me, particularly in the boom years, I have been able to fulfil my long-time dream of living in Italy.
1. Why did you move abroad?
Over the last 10 years, I, and my partner have been self-employed and have grown our own separate businesses, it was the realisation, three years ago, that with all the wonderful technology at our finger tips it is not actually necessary to live in one fixed place, we can work and service our clients from anywhere with a decent internet connection and similar time zone. So, we decided to bank as much money as possible, and saved hard, by barely going out for two years, to buy a small holding in Italy and we moved here full time in 2016.
2. How do you make a living?
I am a big multi-tasker and run three small businesses, as a therapist, an executive coach and an executive recruiter for some large blue chip companies that keep me incrementally busy and rewarded with great senior management roles to headhunt. I conduct my therapy and executive coaching business online, via webcam, and fly back to Dublin for a week a few times a year when my executive searches require me to line up candidates to interview and shortlist, I could interview them by Skype but I prefer to meet them face to face, as do they. Hopefully, when web interviewing becomes even more mainstream, than it is now, I will be able to do everything from here.
3. How often do you communicate with home and how?
I call home to my parents at least once a week, and have been doing that for the past 15 years anyway. I have a couple of weekly hour calls with my recruitment business partner and I keep in touch with friends by email, twitter, text and my blog. I am not a fan of facebook and find Instagram irksome.
4. What's your favorite thing about being an expat in Italy?
Out of all the countries I have lived in Italy has been by far the most welcoming. We know all our neighbours and we rotate dinner once a week with them, except in winter when a few of them move to their second homes near the coast for the sun. I love that everyone loves helping each other out, last summer we helped our neighbour get his grapes harvested and another neighbour got the big tractor out to hoover up our meadow and bailed the hay taking a cut for himself and the rest we gave to our other neighbour for his donkey in exchange for lots of donkey manure for the garden. It’s very much a barter system here.
Also, the winters, though brutal, are thankfully short and when the sun comes out it shoots up to 35 degrees even when there is snow on the ground! One bonus is aperitivo time, which takes place between 5.30pm and 7pm in Italy where bars give free nibbles to eat with your after work drink, it’s just not the ‘done’ thing to drink without eating.
5. What’s the worst thing about being an expat in Italy?
At the moment, it’s not being fluent in the language, we are communicating with a lot of body language and, according to the Duolingo language app, our 400 odd words of Italian, the grammar is painful, thankfully Italians love throwing their arms and hands about when talking so sign language works but I really would like to be able to have good in depth conversation with people, I am working on this. Sadly, there used to be a free community language class in our town for those learning Italian but it closed a couple of years ago.
6. What do you miss most?
I miss the variety in restaurants, which I can’t believe I am admitting to! In the Langhe region, which is renowned for its cuisine, all the restaurant menus have the same dishes on them, so all you can do to differentiate them is decide who does which dish best, which of course is subjective. I also miss having the wi-fi work continuously at home, as we have to keep rebooting the wifi practically every hour, also I miss having unlimited data on the broadband package and phone, they don’t seem to do that here, but then we could only find one provider to install at our location.
7. What did you do to meet people and integrate in your new home?
We were fortunate to buy our house from our neighbour who lives on the adjacent farm and has been an absolute godsend, he took us round to our neighbours to introduce us and had a number of lunches with guests from the area that have in turn invited us to their place for lunch or dinner. We in turn have had to get cooking ‘Piemonte style’, as they are quite fussy about eating food that they are not familiar with! It’s been a great first year.
8. What custom/ habits do you find most strange about your adopted culture?
The rules on kissing greetings stumped us at first as there are a fair amount of Swiss people here too and some kiss twice, some three times, some once, we have to remember who wants what type of kisses, thankfully they all start on the left cheek, though in Ireland it is one brief kiss on the right and certainly there is no male-male cheek kissing in Ireland.
I also love that Italians refuse to drink without food in front of them, there is no such thing as going down the pub here for a few drinks, they will go for coffee, or gelato, instead.
9. What is a myth about your adopted country?
I haven’t run into any ‘mafia’ type characters yet!
10. Is the cost of living higher or lower than the last country you lived in and how has that made a difference in your life?
Significantly lower, Ireland is an island so everything had an import price added on, here a bottle of wine can be €3 in Ireland the same wine would be €15. Eating out is great fun for us as the bill is a 1/3 of what it was in Dublin. We own our house so there is no mortgage and our Dublin house is rented out to cover that mortgage, so at the age of 42 I am mortgage free! This was definitely not on the cards when we were living in Ireland.
11. What advice would you give other expats?
I think getting a good head start on the language, if you are moving to a country with another language, this is vital. Also, bank a good amount of set up money, and money for emergencies such as having to fly home for things like funerals. When I lived in Sydney in my twenties I missed all of my grand-parents funerals, as I was scrimping by in junior jobs then and the air fares were exorbitant.
12. When and why did you start your blog?
I started my blog as I wanted to keep my family and friends in the loop. I am living in a part of Italy which is quite rare for blogs and I like to hope it entices people to holiday in this beautiful secret region. Although lots of Germans, French and Swiss holiday here it’s almost unheard of in the UK and Ireland.
Clare's blog, Piemonte Dreams
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