Who are you?
My name is Jasmine Mah, I am a 26 year old Canadian living in Bergamo, Italy.
Where, when, and why did you move abroad?
I moved abroad in December 2014 to Bergamo, a city in Northern Italy about 45 minutes away from Milan in Lombardy. My fiancé is from Bergamo and after living in Canada for a couple of years, we decided to make the move to Europe.
What challenges did you face during the move? The main challenge is leaving behind your old life- everyone and everything in it. Besides friends and family, I had just started a profession as a pharmacist and practiced for a little more than a year before moving.
How did you find somewhere to live?
My fiancé and I were actually featured on House Hunters International, an American television series that shows expat couples as they search for a home. As everything in Italy, we relied heavily on family searching for us and word of mouth.
Are there many other expats in your area?
Bergamo is a smaller city but there are a good amount of expats here although mainly English, Irish, and Dutch since it’s easier for them to move legally. There are less Americans, Canadians, and Australians mainly due to difficulties getting the proper documents to stay or finding the right opportunity.
What is your relationship like with the locals?
My relationship is very good but I’m one of the lucky ones- having an Italian fiancé means you get instant friends by way of default. The people in Bergamo are a little more German in nature in the sense that they are very helpful and kind but you have to get to know them first. It’s different from Canada where people are outwardly friendly all the time.
What do you like about life where you are?
Life in Italy is so coveted because it’s really well-rounded. You have the opportunity to be immersed in pretty much any “vice” you desire- great wine, food, scenery, art, shopping, history…you name it, you can find it in Italy. Plus, being such a small country, you can travel from one city to another easily and see the topography, dialect, and food change even between short distances.
What do you dislike about your expat life?
Nothing in particular. Perhaps just the lack of friends and family, being around people who have known you your whole life.
What is the biggest cultural difference you have experience between your new country and life back home?
The bureaucracy in Italy is the biggest cultural difference for me. Canada is amazingly efficient and effective, especially in public services and administration, Italy is the opposite. Sometimes the bureaucracy is so spectacular, it makes me laugh out loud (the only other alternative to having a nervous breakdown or screaming in public).
How does shopping differ compared to back home?
It’s better! Shopping is its own art here in Italy, sometimes it can seem more intimidating because the shops are always arranged beautifully and purposefully and the sales people take initiative to help you put together outfits or find exactly what you’re looking for. We are a stone’s throw from Milan, so it’s arguably some of the world’s best shopping.
What do you think of the food in your new country?
Well, Italian cuisine is world famous for a reason…! It’s hard to not like the food and the scale sure shows it when you move to Italy!
What are your particular likes or dislikes?
I adore everything edible here in Italy, I honestly cannot pinpoint a particular like or dislike when it comes to food. The great thing about Italy is that the cuisine changes from region to region, everyone has a speciality or a trademark dish. For example, as I type this, we are on our way to Florence to eat the famous bistecca alla fiorentina (a monster of a steak!).
What advice would you give to anyone following in your footsteps?
My piece of advice is always the same and is probably similar to what a lot of expats say: study Italian before your move. Of course, you will continue to learn while living in Italy but having a foundation before coming is invaluable. Some of the greatest expat frustrations come from communication issues- it impedes every aspect of life, from grocery shopping to making friends.
What are your plans for the future?
In the near future, I’m going to drink a stellar glass of Chianti in Florence. Beyond that, I can’t really say and isn’t life better lived that way?
Jasmine shares moe information about life in Italy through her blog QUESTA DOLCE VITA.