In this week’s interview we hear from Anna Fill, who many of you will know from The Riviera Woman website.
“I speak the language, love the culture and appreciate that no country is 100% perfect and you have to accept whatever the challenges are and respect local custom.”
Where do you live now, and where did you move from?
I live in the hills in a beautiful part of Liguria, Italy, close to the French border. When I first arrived to the region I lived in Menton before hopping just over the border. I was born in the UK.
Is this the first time you’ve been an expat? If not, where have you lived before? If so, what was the leaving process like?
I spent a lot of time in Italy as a child but only became a full-time expat later in life. When I left the UK I wasn’t sure how long I would actually live abroad but now the longer I am away, the less I believe I will return permanently to the UK. In truth, who knows… I never say never and leave my options open.
How do you spend your time? Do you work?
What do you miss most from home?
Family has to be top of the list.
What do you appreciate the most in your adopted country?
This is an interesting question for me because even though I was born and educated in the UK, my home life was greatly influenced by my foreign parents. My mother is Italian and my father was Ukrainian and so for me living in Italy feels very normal and natural: food, mentality, lifestyle. I speak the language, love the culture and appreciate that no country is 100% perfect and you have to accept whatever the challenges are and respect local custom. I am also fortunate to be able to enjoy France and Monaco which are just a stone’s throw away.
How did you make new friends in your new home?
It can be daunting meeting new people but by getting involved in local activities was one way and I have met many wonderful people through The Riviera Woman and Vivaitalia.
Have you started learning the language? Any tips on the best way to do it?
Speaking the language of your chosen place to live is paramount and as I mentioned before it is important to understand the culture. I believe it is easier to embrace a language by learning something you are interested in. Listening to radio or even picking up supermarket magazines where there are images you can relate to words also helps. Never be afraid to make a mistake. People will appreciate that at least you are trying.
Do you obviously stand out as being foreign? What’s your experience with this?
It depends where I am. I am not typically British or Italian. Mind you I was delighted when recently an Italian asked me which part of Italy I was from!
If you have children, what are your observations on Third Culture Kids?
I don’t have children of my own but have spent some time with TCK and I find they have a very open mind and are quite adventurous.
Any tips for beating home sickness?
I am not sure you can beat it completely but perhaps manage it better. Set yourself targets and stay in touch with the people you know back ‘home’. With social media and good communications, you can find that you have the best of all situations. Surrounding yourself with like-minded people helps too.
What’s the most common question you are asked about being an expat?
Are you English? And… Do you live here all year long?
How does the cost of living compare to where you were before? Anything that really surprised you as being particularly cheap or expensive?
This really depends on your lifestyle. In my experience you don’t need to spend a great deal to enjoy yourself. Day to day living is less expensive in Italy and so is travelling on public transport.
Are you settled here now? Or do you plan to move on one day?
I am settled but ‘un domani‘, one day I may move on but never back as I don’t believe there is a back.
Would you share something embarrassing that happened to you as an expat (but that makes you smile when you look back)?
Ah yes… I live very close to France and whilst in a French supermarket I asked an assistant in what I thought was my best French where I could find preservative (spelt préservatif)… I thought I was asking for jam… but I wasn’t! I will let you find out for yourself what I actually asked for!
And finally, if you could give one piece of advice to someone considering moving to where you live, what would it be?
Moving is a big thing so I would give more than one piece of advice. Research the area you wish to live. Rent before you buy, if that is your intention. If you are not moving for work reasons, consider how you will be spending your time. But if you do want just one piece of advice then I say ‘research’. I think that will cover most things.
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