Pauline Ninck Blok studied the Italian language at university in her home country of the Netherlands, and it was during this time that she discovered her love for Italy.
She has been living there since 2001 and says her secret to adapting to expat life is to be relaxed and go with the flow of a new country.
Q: Where are you originally from?
A: The Netherlands, but born in Nigeria
Q: Where are you living now?
A: Città della Pieve, Italy
Q: When did you move here?
A: I moved to Italy in 2001, and just recently to Città della Pieve.
Q: Did you move here alone or with family?
Q: Why did you move?
A: I studied Italian Language and Literature in the Netherlands and decided to see what I could do after graduation. I work as an estate agent and translator.
Living in Italy
Q: What do you enjoy most about Città della Pieve?
A: It is really a typical historic centre, and full of life, even in wintertime. I don’t need to use the car all the time and the people are extremely friendly. The quality of life compared to my home country is hard to rate. There are many things that are better and less stressful here, regarding everyday life and social aspects, but bureaucracy and other complications sometimes create stress.
Q: Any negatives?
A: The bureaucracy in Italy is terrible – you need 3,000 forms to do anything.
Q: What are the biggest adjustments you had to make when settling into expat life in Italy?
A: I adapt very well and can basically live anywhere. Maybe because I moved around a lot as a child.
Q: What’s the cost of living compared to home?
A: The cost is living is generally lower than in the Netherlands. Eating out is cheaper, wine is cheaper, but car insurance is fairly expensive.
Q: How would you rate the public transport?
A: Public transportation is really not an option if you want to get anywhere on time or get anywhere at all. You definitely need a car. If you always travel alone with no children or pets, and have a pretty flexible schedule, then public transportation should be fine.
Q: How would you rate the healthcare in Italy?
A: I’ve been in hospital for surgery, for a broken arm, I’ve given birth twice here, and I have been extremely pleased with the Italian healthcare on all occasions.
Q: How do you rate the standard of housing in Città della Pieve?
A: It really depends on what you need or want, but there is something for everybody in my opinion.
Q: Any areas you’d recommend for expats to live in?
A: Città della Pieve is absolutely adorable, as are so many other towns around here. It depends on whether you want to go rural or still experience town life a bit.
Meeting people in Italy
Q: How tolerant are the locals of foreigners?
A: People are wonderful − they are open and friendly. They are not always too happy about people from outside the EU (not the USA or similar countries, but rather African and Middle Eastern countries).
Q: Was it easy meeting people and making friends
A: Extremely easy. Work, kids and the dog.
Q: Have you made friends with locals, or do you mix mainly with other expats?
A: Both. My advice would be to not focus only on making expat friends, as you would miss on out of a lot of Italian stuff, which makes living here so great. I think you need to find the balance between local and expat friends (and many Italians are more than happy to mingle with expats).
Working in Italy
Q: Did you have a problem getting a visa or work permit?
A: Did it all myself. At the time it was slightly more complicated, but now it’s extremely straightforward.
Q: What’s the economic climate like in Italy?
A: General economic climate is bad, like anywhere, I guess. Expats should be able to find work as teachers, translators, estate agents and property managers.
Q: How does the work culture differ from home?
A: Italians love to not be completely legal about everything. Pay attention but don’t get too stressed because that’s really not necessary.
Family and children
Q: Did your children settle in easily?
A: I recently moved with my two children, but only from one town to another. They have adapted very easily, but then they speak both Dutch and Italian, so it is obviously less of a problem.
Q: What are the schools like?
A: I think the schools are good. They eat at school, and they have menus that include a large variety of meat, fish and vegetables − I am quite impressed with what they serve. Generally, I am very happy with the schools.
Q: Is there any other advice you would like to offer new expat arrivals?
A: Try to let go of your preconceptions about how things should go or how things used to go in your country. Go with the flow and everything will work out just fine.
~ Interviewed in November 2014