Interview with Edi G in Veneto
Name: Edi G
Date of Interview: Nov. 28, 2006
Area of Italy you live in?
The western Veneto, near Lago di Garda
Let us know a little about yourself?
Married 1984. One daughter age 32 from previous marriage. Born in Northern California, lived in New Jersey since 1979. Husband is a native New Yorker. Paternal grandfather born in Italy, emigrated 1873. Father born in New York, Mother was Irish-American born in Brookline Mass (her mother emigrated form Dublin). Both my parents relocated to California in the early 1920s so I come from a long line of risk takers. Hobbies: photography, painting, crochet (blankets and coats, and small things).
Why did you decide to move to Italy?
I was the prime mover for this change in our lives. My husband said I was like the Queen Mary...once I set sail, there was no turning back. He planned to retire early (age 54) and did so with a good pension so we are able to do this. I have had a feeling all my life that I really wanted to live in Europe. In 1998 I had a small stroke, and in 2003 survived a terrible fall down a staircase into a stone basement, which really cemented my belief that life is short, do what you can now, don't wait. Our daughter misses us but loves coming here to be with us. Our location is central to all public transportation lines so we can hop on a train and go anywhere easily. Plus, there is always Ryan Air.
What type of process did you go through to be able to move here?
The only visa category into which we fit was the Elective Residence so we applied at the NYC Consulate in late 2004. To our surprise, we found out we had to have a minimum one-year lease in order to receive a one-year visa. The lease requirement for the trip surprised us; we had a letter offering an apartment for one year, but NYC required a formal lease. So off we went. We returned to the NYC Consulate in Spring of 2005 to finalize the process. Received our visas two weeks later.
What problems did you run into during the initial process and how were you able to fix them ?
We are both project planners, and had 'planning meetings' every morning after breakfast, making to do lists and setting deadlines. Sounds like overkill? It wasn't. It paid off. We had every document we needed at the time we needed it (except for the lease on the first trip to NYC). The only minor problem we had was the Questura wanting our original marriage license, not just a copy. We talked our way through that, and they accepted the color copy. I think it helped that we had no other deficiencies. We had made up a booklet for each of us, with copies of everything, so I think they could see that we were serious about this effort. We didn't go in there as we saw other people do with the proverbial shoebox full of loose papers.
How long have you been here?
Since August 2005. Our furniture did not arrive until October 20, 2005, because at the last minute...the week before we were set to fly to Italy...we had to fire the moving company because they sent incompetents to do the packing. A very trusted friend agreed to interview other companies for us in our absence, and choose one. The second company was appalled at the condition of the packing done by the first company and said every breakable we owned would have arrived as fragments. Instead, only two small things broke, that were replaceable. We were very happy we went with the second company, and that we had been in the house to see the first company's terrible packing methods ourselves. Don't leave on that plane until you see how your stuff is being handled. We ended up with a full shipping container, as we decided to really move here, and not just camp out in a furnished apartment. We are not kids, and needed our lifetime of furniture and belongings with us (just so you know, we gave our daughter things, we held a huge garage sale, and then filled a standard dumpster with accumulated junk....we had twenty years in that house, and we are both collectors of various things). Our Italian lease is a standard 4+4, so we were making a commitment. In retrospect, we would have left some of the stuff we brought in the house in NJ. Our cat made the trip with us, went into culture shock herself, until we adopted a little Italian kitten for her, and now she is happy.
What type of adjustment problems have you had?
We did everything on our own with no help from translators. People would volunteer and then be busy, so we just plowed ahead. My husband speaks fluent Spanish so could get along in Italy, we had an Italian friend here before we arrived, the realtor had an English-speaking person on staff, so we just did the best we could. There are cultural differences that do annoy us...people crashing into you on the sidewalk without apology...there seems to be no sense of 'personal space' in Italy. Now we have learned to crash back...it is kind of funny. I hit a homesickness wall after about 11 months, as friends predicted I would. But I got through it, and now am OK again. Also, July was the 3rd hottest July since 1957, which didn't help...it was truly miserable, and we couldn't get an A/C technician to come out and really fix everything until September. The units worked but you had to keep a bucket under each. So the 11th month being that July did not help.
What do you wish someone had told you before you made the leap?
I don't think I can add anything here. We had been to Italy six times previously. We had rented an apartment for one month in 2004 while we attended total immersion language school. We had read every book you can think of. So we weren't unprepared. But still, there were maddening things about ways of accomplishing repairs, setting up contracts, blah blah. Oh, yes...I do wish someone had advised not to arrive on August 2, when all of Italy was on holiday and there were no repair or installation people to be found.
What inside secret could you pass on to others looking to move over?
Learning the language is imperative or living with someone who has learned the language. My husband is fearless in communicating, while I sit there composing grammatically perfect sentences in my head. And Take Your Time about joining groups ... plunging in willy-nilly might result in having to undo a few things. I had always wanted to take oil painting classes, but it took me a year before I was ready, and now that I am, I know I made the right choice of a maestro and I have the time to devote to it. It took a full year to settle in after getting our furniture. This adventure at our age has been like starting your adult life all over again but with more money. We had joined an ex-pats group of English speakers, and found that sharing a language does not mean you will all be friends.
Do you have any disappointments, things you thought would happen but haven't for whatever reasons ?
Yes, my biggest disappointment is the weakening dollar. When we signed the lease contract with shaking hands, the dollar was at 1.36; it went down to 1.15 and we were happy campers; it just hit 1.32 today, so that is a worry. But, other than that, all in all things are good.
What has changed about you since you have been here ?
I am more confident in my abilities. You have to become more competent or you can't survive here. I have never been a shy person, and that helps me to strike up conversations with people. But I have had to learn to blend in, by toning down my naturally exuberant American personality, especially after having lived in the Northeast US for 30 years. The Italians in the North seem to value decorum and reticence very much at first meeting, and are not as spontaneous as Americans are. Then, once you know them, they loosen up. But it pays to go slowly.
Do you think that you will stay forever?
I do, but my husband does not. We have been able to keep our house in New Jersey (our daughter is living there and paying us a nominal rent, which is working well for all of us) so we do have somewhere to which to return. My husband worries about the Euro strength and Dollar weakness and about future health concerns. I don't. I am the live for today type, so I guess we balance each other out. Maybe we wouldn't be here if I hadn't pushed for this adventure, but his planning skills and lifelong early retiremente goal made this happen. By the way, his adjustment was faster than mine, and his homesickness much less, because he is a cyclist and found a great group, and did plunge right in...he has had some great adventures with cycling.
Can you think of anything that you would like seen added to this site?
No, I am too new to the site to offer any suggestions. Mainly, I think this is a wonderful website resource.
We really love living here. We are in a small city of 250,000 that has all the offerings of a larger city but none of the traffic jams and other negatives of big city living. We have cultural events all year long, can walk anywhere in the Centro,public transportation is a dream, have made friends from almost all walks of life. Our landlord is great, and we have heard that this is a rarity.