Who are you?
My name is Nadia, I am from Moldova, 29 years old. I am a cross-cultural specialist currently writing my first book for expats about Italian culture.I also work in tourism and love to learn new things about foreign cultures.
Where, when and why did you move abroad?
I moved to Italy in 2007. I was 19 back at the time, I graduated from high school in Moldova, was in love with an Italian and wanted to study Foreign Languages and Intercultural Mediation.
What challenges did you face during the move?
The biggest challenge was to be far from my family, not being able to share important moments with my relative. I also had to learn how to fit into an Italian family, with its established rituals and ideals, different from the ones I had in Moldova. I didn’t struggle much because I knew the language when I came to Italy but in the first years it was difficult for me to accept that I will never completely fit, that I will always be in between, a mediator between my home culture and Italian culture. Later I started to value this position, acknowledged my roots and my expat experience and reached a balance.
How did you find somewhere to live?
In an Italian way, through personal connections. A girl from my university course posted on Facebook that she was leaving an apartment and it was just perfect for me.
Are there many other expats in your area?
Yes, I live in Rome; there is a huge expat community because of organizations like FAO, World Food Program, etc. There are also many diplomats, English teachers, expats who work in tourism, etc.
What is your relationship like with the locals?
I was lucky because I spoke Italian when I arrived and I chose a very foreigners-friendly course, people who study foreign languages are naturally inclined to hang out with foreign students and see this opportunity as an enrichment. I made friends quickly and have my group, many of them live in other countries but we meet every time they come back to Rome and visit each other. I love how extraverted Italians are, I was very shy back in Moldova, now I do small talk all the time and I am not afraid to express my feelings. It helped me very much in interpersonal relations.
What do you like about life where you are?
The weather. Moldova has a temperate climate with not that much sun so Roman sunny days are perfect for me. I also like the relaxed lifestyle, how Italians enjoy life, how they care about people who are important to them and how they love their country despite all troubles they may encounter.
What do you dislike about your expat life?
That I am always split between two countries, part of my holidays are necessarily spent in Moldova to visit all the people I love. It would be great if all of them moved to Rome but I guess it is not possible. The good part of it is that I always feel I’m going home, whether it’s Chisinau or Rome.
What is the biggest cultural difference you have experienced between your new country and life back home?
In Moldova it was all about achievements. Relaxing was for official holidays or Sundays only, I didn’t go out that much because of the weather and the desire to achieve as much as I can. Italy taught me to be more relaxed, to enjoy every moment, from a sip of coffee at the bar counter in the morning to evening aperitivos with friends or wanders in tiny Roman streets. I managed to teach this to my Moldovan family too, now they don’t wait for holidays to pause a while and chill out.
What do you think of the food and drink in your new country? What are your particular likes or dislikes?
Food in Italy is a religion, an institution, like the Vatican. It is very important, it unites people, it is the main small talk topic, even people who go jogging at 6 am discuss their favorite pasta sauce and how they do it. If you ask an Italian who returned from a weekend trip “How was the city?” be sure food will be an important part of the story. Wine is cherished as well, Italians drink in moderation and have their rituals, like limoncello or other liquors that are used as digestive at the end of a substantial meal.
What advice would you give to anyone following in your footsteps?
First, learn the language. It is really a must if you want to know the real Italian culture and not its touristic version. Second, do the math. Italy is a great country to live if you have the money, or a good job to get it. Otherwise, it can be frustrating. Many people love the country but find it difficult to get a job. Even Italians have this problem, especially the young ones. It is difficult to change your profession later on and to make money, so you always have to see the big picture and choose your path here carefully. Also, spend time in relations, talk to people as much as you can. The best opportunities here are spread through word of mouth.
What are your plans for the future?
I am currently writing a book about Italian culture for expats and I run a Facebook page, Multicultural You, that deals with cross-cultural matters. Businesses invest much money in cross-cultural communication but expats who don’t emigrate to work for fancy corporations are usually on their own in this difficult process. They think that Italy is a dream destination and everything will be easy. When the reality hits, the culture shock is huge and people back home can’t support them because they don’t understand what could possibly go wrong in paradise. This situation can cause huge stress and I would like to help expats understand how they could deal with it by knowing the Italian culture better in advance. This is what I want to do in the future, help expats to be happier.
Join Nadia's Facebook group for expats, Multicultural You.
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