Four years an expat in Italy

Jaclyn DeGiorgio American writer in Milan four years an expat
Via Dante in Milan, photo via

I’ve made it to four years! I want to say I can’t believe it, but I can. I remember when I arrived here wide-eyed and impressionable, and today, I am definitely not the same person. I had created some lists to document years one and three (yes, I slacked on year two), and I was trying to do the same to mark four years, but I really don’t have much on which to reflect because Italy is my life now and I’ve just been busy living it.

When I first moved to Rome, a friend had told me that the feeling that Italy/expat life is amazing lasts for about two years and I will say that she was right. My rose-colored glasses came off in 2015. Everything came into focus for me, and for better and for worse, it was a rough year.

I know a lot of people hated on 2016, but it was a great year for me. I’m the most content I’ve been since I moved here. I have a proper full-time job, and while I still do a bit of freelancing, it doesn’t govern my life anymore.  I also have a 4+4 contract for my apartment, which is so Italian. The idea of being able to jet off to Paris for a few days and not experience jet lag never gets old to me, I love Italian breakfast and I believe that refrigerating mozzarella is sacrilegious. I’m still forever grateful to everyone who has helped me along the way, many of whom have more courage than I can ever imagine and are much braver than I’ll ever be. I can’t thank them enough for the kindnesses that they have extended to me.

I’ve adjusted to most Italian habits, but the one that’s the most difficult for me to get used to is the interrupting! I don’t meant this in a bad way or to sound negative, but people interrupt a lot here. I know there are interrupters everywhere, but I see it more here. I’m not an interrupter, I like to wait for people to finish speaking before I contribute to the conversation. In most cases, to get a word in during group conversations, you have to interrupt and start talking over other people. Most of the time, you won’t be included in a conversation unless you do, and that’s where I struggle the most. Especially when the conversation is in Italian.

I find it amusing when people tell me how crazy I am to have left New York for Italy. They go on and on about how great New York is, but they have only visited the Big Apple and only know it as a traveler. They haven’t lived New York, worked New York or been New York. Taking the vacation of a lifetime to NYC or jetting off to the city a few times a year doesn’t make you a New Yorker.  Owning an apartment in New York that maybe you stay at a few times a year doesn’t make you a New Yorker. You have to live New York, work NewYork and be New York to fully experience the city. I’ve been both a New Yorker and a Milanese, and I have to say, I like the latter so much better. I feel like it’s who I should have been my whole life. The best part is that I don’t hate New York anymore. I like it. But that’s most likely only because I know I’m not staying there and I’ll eventually be coming back home to Milan.

What do I miss about New York? I get asked this question all the time, to which I always respond with great Mexican food, diner fare and the theater. I used to also respond with soup dumplings, until I found a place on Via Paolo Sarpie in Milan’s Chinatown that makes them here.

I know there’s theater to be seen here in Milan, but it’s just not the same when it’s not in my mother tongue. I miss the theater so much that I even traveled to Dublin to see a show.  Ironically, I didn’t see a single show when I was home this Christmas. The options were slim pickings and the two shows I really wanted to see (either Hamilton for the second time or Othello with Daniel Craig and David Oyelowo) were sold out, and their lotteries didn’t work out in my favor. In fact, my friend and I even entered the Cats lottery because we thought that would be our safety show. “Who wants to see Cats?” we thought. Well apparently a lot of people because we didn’t win that lottery either. Othello and Hamilton are like the Ivy Leagues, so it wasn’t as devastating to lose the lotteries. There’s a lot of competition. But Cats? That was like being rejected from Westchester Community College….they accept everyone!

Anyhoo, that’s all got. Here’s to 2017 and year five!



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