Name: Sian Kneller
Originally From: Seaford, East Sussex
Moved To: Milan
Sian Kneller relocated from a small town in the UK to Milan, not only seeking a new lifestyle experience, but potentially looking for love as well. This is Sian’s story…
Back in 2014, I’d just got out of a pretty pointless and draining relationship and the idea of living in a three-bedroom semi-detached house in a small, provincial town in the UK simply terrified me. It was then that I decided to spread my wings and move abroad.
Eventually, I opted for Milan. Among the main reasons for my choice were that I wanted to learn another language, it’s well situated for travelling to other parts of Europe, and it’s only one and a half hours away from the UK.
Obviously because I’m a British citizen I didn’t need a visa to enter Italy, but, be warned: you do need your codice fiscale (equivalent to your national insurance number in the UK) to breathe here. Literally, you need it for everything – from mobile phones, paying gas bills to getting gig tickets.
Also, after three months, you need to apply for residency – this puts you onto the system so that you can register for a doctor, receive your health card (useful for buying cigarettes in the vending machines, ironically) and get a discount on your heating bills.
This all sounds fine, but you can only imagine how much paperwork you need. Nobody speaks English and they speak the most obtuse Italian. No matter what paperwork you take with you (your school report from 1982 and your great grandmother’s blood type), guaranteed you will not have the correct piece on the day and then you have to wait another month to get an appointment. It’s all very exhausting.
The language barrier has been a bigger problem than I bargained for. In Italy it’s certainly not as easy as the German-speaking countries, or France. While most young Italians do speak a level of English, I’ve found that people in official offices usually don’t speak any English at all. It can make moving to Italy challenging if you don’t have a support network either of existing friends or your company or college.
The worst thing about life here is dating – being a single British woman in Milan is dire. Dating in Italy is at best hard and at worst a disaster; it’s like a drama for which you don’t know the storyline to and then you can’t participate in.
Italians tend to hang out in close friendship groups which you can only join by official invitation (or so it seems) and are much less receptive to strangers than people from other countries. In fact, the biggest culture shock for me, despite not having any conscious preconceptions, was that Italians are not as bubbly and friendly as you might think. If you are not American, then expect an ‘oh’ and a look of disappointment. Being British is not cool here. Well, in Milan at least.
That said, there have been many positive things about living in Milan. I’ve met some great people and have made some good friends. I’ve benefitted from having easy access to some wonderful parts of the world (Napoli, Venice, Bologna, etcetera) on the superb Freccia Rossa (red arrow) train service. I have such a huge amount of confidence now and a knowledge of a new language that has opened up a new-found passion for language learning and learning in general.
Ultimately, I think it’s important for anyone planning on moving here to do so with their eyes wide open. Life in Italy does not necessarily mean eating Spaghetti all day and strolling in the Tuscan sunshine.
To be honest, I think coming here as a couple or a family, or a single man is probably much easier than being a single, attractive woman. I prefer a more relaxed approach to dating which is a big reason for me not staying in Italy (I’m actually moving to Switzerland this year). Wish me luck.