Camilla Helgesson is a Swede who has been living in Rome since 2005. During this time, she was transferred to London for eight months before relocating back to Rome out of her personal choice. She loves the Italian dolce vita, and has a particular interest in the excellent coffee, which she writes about in her spare time on her blog, A Blonde Bean in Rome.
Q: Where are you originally from?
Q: Where are you living now?
Q: How long you have you lived in Rome?
A: Since 2005
Q: Did you move with a spouse/ children?
Q: Why did you move; what do you do?
A: I was relocated by my company; I work as a web manager
Q: What do you enjoy most about Rome, how’s the quality of life?
A: The climate, the vibrant city, the atmosphere, the food, the people
Q: Any negatives? What do you miss most about home?
A: The endless red tape that must be worked through in order to achieve absolutely anything in Italy is unbelievable until you actually live there. Another major difference between the two cultures is how differently time is valued and viewed. What I miss about home is sometimes the nature, the summer with the long nights, the food and my family and friends.
Q: Is Rome safe to live in?
A: Yes. I must say I feel pretty safe here, even if I walk home alone at times.
About living in Rome
Q: Which are the best places/suburbs to live in Rome as an expat?
A: Depends of course what your budget is, but the Aventino, Piazza Navona, San Giovanni, Trastevere and Testaccio are the ones popular among expats in the central parts of Rome. Parioli and Monte Parioli are considered to belong to the more elegant areas of Rome. EUR, Casal Palocco and Cassia are also popular with villas and semi-detached houses, close to International Schools and other amenities.
Q: How do you rate the standard of accommodation in Rome?
A: The areas outside the central part of Rome vary as to housing style. EUR, where the offices of many Multinationals are located, is generally modern, whereas Parioli and Monte Parioli (northern side) are more elegant residential areas.
Q: What’s the cost of living in Italy compared to home? What is cheap or expensive in particular?
A: Housing is more expensive, but food is still relatively less expensive.
Q: What are the locals like; do you mix mainly with other expats?
A: I made it a point to befriend not only other expats but also to reach out to Italians. I accepted invitations I received both to visit their homes as well as to meet up for activities both in Rome and outside the city, I also invited many of my new friends to my home.
Q: Was it easy meeting people and making friends?
A: I think it depends on your own attitude – if you try to befriend them and are outgoing and curious and willing to learn, they will be drawn to you and be happy to introduce you to their friends.
About working in Rome
Q: Did you have a problem getting a work visa/permit?
Q: What’s the economic climate like in Rome, is there plenty of work?
A: If you are here on a contract with a foreign company or NGO you will do well, but if you have a local contract – the salaries are usually low, sometimes there may be delays in the paying out of your salary! If you speak a good level of Italian, it will be easier for you to find a job, but at this moment I guess it is tough for everyone.
Q: How does the work culture in Italy differ from home?
A: There is more jealousy and competition here than back home, there tends to also be a more “show-off” in the sense that a white-collar may remain in the office as long as their supervisor or manager are still in, to show that they work late and are diligent, but that doesn’t guarantee them being effective. I find that back home there is a more open attitude towards self-improvement, co-operation and innovation.
Q: Did a relocation company help you with your move?
A: Yes, partially – after I was stuck with some documents still after one and a half years and I put pressure on my employer, and the remaining issues were solved within just a few weeks.
Family and children in Rome
Q: Did your spouse or partner have problems adjusting to their new home?
A: I became a widow in 2003, so I have relocated here on my own, as I don’t have any children.
Q: How would you rate the healthcare in Italy?
A: It is actually quite good – The public Italian health care system, 'Servizio Sanitario Nazionale', is practically free of charge and includes medicines, doctor's visits and hospitalization. There is, however, a 'ticket' which has to be paid for every service. Some private health care has been approved by the state system. This means that if you choose these hospitals, there will be a small payment to be made directly in the hospital according to the treatment received.
Q: Is there any other advice you like to offer new expat arrivals?
A: Try early on to not compare your new home country with your old. This outlook will help you to not become overly frustrated over things that probably would work better or differently within the Italian system – don’t expect the local culture to change for you.
I would also recommend making friends with locals as well as expats – having a few locals as your devoted friends may well prove to be the key to overcoming obstacles when you have to address frustrating bureaucratic matters – you may well find that they know someone who knows someone that knows someone who will be willing to help you!
~ Interviewed June 2010