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Interview with Irene W - an American living in Italy

Updated 29 Jan 2010

Irene Woodbury is an American who has been living and working in Italy for a decade. She writes about her experiences in this beloved yet often awkward country on her immensely readable blog

Read more about the country in the Expat Arrivals Italy country guide or read more expat experiences in Italy

About Irene

Q: Where are you originally from?

A: Baltimore, USA

Q: Where are you living now?

A:  Padua, Italy

Q: How long you have you lived here?

A:  In Italy, over 10 years

Q: Why did you move; what do you do?

A:  The love of the country!

About Italy

Q: What do you enjoy most about Italy, how’s the quality of life?

A: I love the quality of life in Italy, and all the things that make it so good – like great food and fine wine. Living in the midst of history by walking on old stones along historic streets and visiting famous place of art enrich my life here. Padua also has the added benefit of proximity to both the sea and fantastic mountains within an hour or two in the car so I can easily alternate my activities and the scenery all year long. I also enjoy that Padua is lived by its own citizens and not too much of a tourist center like other famous places such as Venice and Florence. It feels more authentic in that way. The size is also nice since everything is reachable by bicycle in under 30 minutes.

Q: Any negatives? What do you miss most about home?

A: I miss America’s “thinking big”. So much is possible in the US while in Italy I have to be happy about the smaller things. For example, the job market is not as dynamic and you cannot move from job to job as easily. Plus the pay is much less. After so many years in Italy, I have to kick myself sometimes and remember that I should still think as big as possible, despite the culture around me.

Q: Is Italy safe?

A: Quite safe, especially compared to my hometown of Baltimore

Q: Which are the best places/suburbs to live in the city as an expat?

A: City center, Euganean Hills

Q: How do you rate the standard of accommodation in Italy?

A: 7/10

Q: What’s the cost of living in Italy compared to America? What is cheap or expensive in particular?

A: Housing is more expensive, especially when buying and compared to average salaries. I like not having to pay for health insurance since this country offers socialised medicine. Daily life is more expensive than the US for basic things like food and clothes.

Q: What are the locals like; do you mix mainly with other expats?

A: Paduans are rather closed as a population when compared to other Italian cultures. It takes a very long time to develop friendships. I have mostly Italian friends from other cities that I see often and also mix with other expats.

Q: Was it easy meeting people and making friends?

A: Not particularly.

About working in Italy

Q: What’s the economic climate like in Italy is there plenty of work?

A:  For expats in Italy, yes—not much competition (compared to Florence, Rome and Venice) and lots of companies located here.

Q: How does the work culture differ from home?

A: Not as dynamic and does not prize young talent.

And finally…

Q: Is there any other advice you like to offer new expat arrivals?

A: Italy is quite different to experience as a tourist compared to city citizen. More challenges appear as you try to make a living and make a life here but you have to know where your priorities are and accept the differences. Italy is everything the US is not and vice versa. As for other expat citizens, the differences might not be so marked.

~ Interviewed January 2010

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