Who are you?
My name is Antonella Moretti, and I’m Italian. I have three children, the last of them was born in China.In Italy, I was an accountant, but now I follow my passion which is writing.
Where, when and why did you move abroad?
We moved in Suzhou, a beautiful city in Jiangsu province, in 2012. My husband got a job here. It was our first experience abroad.
What challenges did you face during the move?
When I was organizing the practical matters, I was overwhelmed by all the responsibilities and felt like I was going to jump into the unknown. I didn’t know what to expect from our future life in China, and I was a little bit scared. Once I arrived, though, I realized that I had nothing to fear.
Are there many other expats in your area?
In Suzhou, there is a big international community. There are also many Italians and, even if this may seem a good thing, the risk is to stick around only with your fellow countrymen and not make an effort to meet people from other cultures.
What is your relationship like with the locals?
I think Chinese are friendly people, especially in the place where I live. They like children and in most cases are helpful. I have a couple of good friends among locals, but I regret they are too few: there is an invisible barrier between foreigners and Chinese and sometimes it is hard to break it.
What do you like about life where you are?
I think life in this part of China is very convenient: I buy online, use my phone to pay my shopping, can go everywhere in the city because public transportation is cheap and work well, I can find free wi-fi everywhere… and much more. Last but not least, life is very safe in this city – my children and I can go around alone at any time of the day without any worry.
What do you dislike about your expat life?
Maybe the feeling that, even if I consider this city familiar and I like my life here, it would never become my real home. China is too different, and I will always be a foreigner here. And I’m worried about the pollution problem, which is maybe the only bad side of living in China.
What is the biggest cultural difference you have experienced between your new country and life back home?
In Italy we are more direct, we express our opinion straight forward. Chinese are more diplomatic, indirect. Sometimes you need to read between the lines. And we appear to be warmer and funnier, as we are noisy, like to make jokes and use our body to communicate. Chinese often are shy and restrained.
What do you think of the food and drink in your new country? What are your particular likes or dislikes?
I like all the Asian cuisine, and I am always curious to try different dishes! I like dumplings, noodles and Beijing duck for example. I dislike very few things.
What advice would you give to anyone following in your footsteps?
Don’t think about China as an underdeveloped country: in many aspects, it is super modern and things work very well. Don’t be afraid of differences: they exist, of course, but you can easily cope with them.
What are your plans for the future?
I’ve just published the English edition of my novel “Parsley & Coriander,” the story of three Italian women who moved to China. I’m very busy with the promotion, but as soon as I have a little more time, I will start to write my second book.
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