Shout out a big old “ciao” to Mar (and use a lot of hand gestures while speaking), to welcome the the latest adventure seeker to be featured in my Expat Living Interview Series.
Originally from Mexico, Mar now lives in Milan, Italy. She talks about expat living and joins the ranks of others here on cherylhoward.com like Jessica L. Scott Reid in Hamburg and Sasha Romany in Paris.
All About Mar.
I’m a Mexican girl living in Milan. When I’m not working or blogging, I’m enjoying “la dolce vita” and trying to travel as much as possible. I love good food and wine, photography, books, languages, sitcoms and fashion.
Where are you from?
I’m half Mexican and half Spanish, growing up in Mexico where I lived until I was 18.
Where are you living now and how long have you been there?
I’m currently in Milan. I’ve lived here for 6 years, but I’ve been living in Italy for 13 years altogether.
Have you lived anywhere else around the world?
Do you plan to stay in your current location or move somewhere else in the future?
For the moment, I plan to stay in Milan.
What’s your personal story? What made you decide to take the big leap and leave home?
After high school, I took a sabbatical year to travel around Europe. That’s how I came to be in Le Marche where I started studying Italian and fell in love with the country. At the end of the sabbatical, I decided to move to Italy and study my degree here. In the meantime, I met my husband and moved to Milan, where we both now live and work.
Do you ever miss home? What do you do to cope?
I miss home sometimes. At the beginning it was harder because I was young and far away from my family and friends. Yet I was following my dream and having such a great time in Italy that made me miss home a bit less. Now in Milan, I have a group of Mexican friends and anytime that we feel homesick, we get together and have an aperitivo (the Milanese happy hour). This helps a lot!
How do you blend in and be accepted by locals?
Since it was my decision and dream to move to Italy, I arrived with my mind open to absorb everything I could about their language, culture and customs. I think this was important for locals and made it easier for me to blend in.
Did you have to learn a new language? If yes, what? How did you go about learning the language and how long did it take you to become fluent?
Yes, I had to learn Italian. It was fairly easy because it’s similar to Spanish. It took me about six months to be able to have fluent conversations and take university classes in Italian - not to mention the dialect which I finally understand but can’t speak. I’m glad I lived in a small town where no one spoke English, as I had to learn the language fast.
What has been the most shocking thing you learned about the local culture?
Nothing really shocking as I also come from a Latin country and we have similar behaviors. However, there’s one thing that will always bother me and that’s the incapability of Italians to queue! Queuing can become a war here and you have to keep your eyes open, especially on the old ones since they are the most dangerous and always try to get ahead of you!
What is your number one tip about how to live life as an ex-pat?
Be patient. A lot of things will go wrong at the beginning … you won’t understand the language, people will seem rude to you, bureaucracy will be like hell and you’ll even start questioning your decision to move. If you’re are patient, you’ll get through all that and the sun will be shining soon enough.
What do you love most about living abroad?
The possibility to learn so much about another culture (and myself) and how that possibility broadens your mind and your opinions. Plus, it’s so cool to be in a continent where a one-hour plane ride can get you to another country.
Did you make the move solo? Or are you with a spouse or significant other, other members of your family, or friend(s)?
I moved to Italy alone when I was 18. I only had a few friends in my new town but they helped me a lot.
What do you do work wise? Did you have a job before you arrived or did you look for work when you got there? If you didn’t have a job, how did (or do) you land work?
Are you living abroad and would like to be included in the Expat Living interview series? Send an email to email@example.com and you could be featured just like Mar!