Who are you?
My name is Caterina, and I’m a 61-year-old who still thinks she’s 30.
Where, when and why did you move abroad?
I’ve been in a small Sicilian city in the Catania province for three months; I plan to be here a year, then to the US, then back again. I’m a Granny Nanny for my niece’s college friend.
What challenges did you face during the move?
So far, there have been no significant challenges, but I’m keeping a daily blog, which lists the minor ones. The visa component is strangling me! Very difficult to obtain. I need to be on/off in 90-day cycles. I’m working on dual citizenship, which may be faster… LOL.
How does the cost of living compare with your previous country?
The cost of living balances out. Food is cheaper. Covid-19 tests (necessary for any air travel) are not free here. Clothing is priced same as the States. Wine is cheaper. Gas is expensive. Our building is solar powered, so utilities aren’t bad.
Is it easy to open and use an account with a local bank?
I have not yet broached the banking issue. I use Venmo whenever possible.
How did you find somewhere to live?
My host found the apartment for me; it is in the building owned by her family.
Are there many other expats in your area?
I have not run into other expats except for during trips into Catania. There is a military base there.
What is your relationship like with the locals?
I feel that my relationship with the locals is great. I credit my host and her parents for making introductions. Anyway, the people here are extraordinarily friendly.
What do you like about life where you are?
I like that I am in a small city. It is small enough to escape big city negatives (tons of tourist traffic, garbage, parking problems, etc.), but big enough to have a vivid nightlife, and I can walk to anything I need.
What do you dislike about your expat life?
I wouldn’t say I have any dislikes that I don’t own myself. I’m working on and frustrated with my language skills, especially the listening component. I would like to embellish and grow the relationships I’ve begun with the wonderful people here; language is the main barrier.
What is the biggest cultural difference you have experienced between your new country and life back home?
The biggest cultural difference, and one I appreciate, is that you don’t leave the house looking frumpy. No sweats. No yoga pants. Brush your hair; put on lipstick. They make panache look effortless … I’m trying to observe and learn. Also, the shops and everything shut down from 1pm to 4 pm. In a small town, this is lunchtime with your family. Maybe also a quick nap. At 4 pm, things come alive again. Dinner is at 8:30pm at the earliest. It is not unusual for schoolchildren to be up past 11 pm.
What advice would you give to anyone following in your footsteps?
My advice? Immerse yourself. Be respectful. Learn the language. Eat like an Italian. Schedule your day with the same ebb and flow of your community. Buy from small vendors and shops. And remember it’s not all about you. Be generous. Bring something when you’re invited for lunch. Etc.
What are your plans for the future?
Plans for the future rely heavily on the Italians. Either an ER visa or dual citizenship are my plans, since this three-month on/off business makes me crazy. Then, I don’t know if I’d buy property here – I’d rent for a while to figure things out. Both owning and renting have pros/cons. But I love this child I’m spending time with and want to watch him grow up.