If you’ve been following this blog for a while now, you may have read quite a few posts about Italy.
I’ve been writing about family traditions, Italian books and pop culture, recipes, the way Italians do things, and other stuff about Italy and its lifestyle. I love doing it and I could write about it for ages, but I thought that maybe it would be interesting for you to hear the opinion of expats living in Italy as well.
It is always nice to see things from a different perspective, don’t you think? This is why I decided to interview some of my online friends and ask them about their life in Italy and their experience with the Italian language and culture.
I am beginning this series of interviews with the lovely Linda Tieu, an American freelance designer who is currently living in Tuscany.
She has been so kind as to patiently answer my questions and has also crafted a gift for you, dear readers. I was really curious to hear her opinions about living here and I loved her answers. It is always super interesting to see Italy through the eyes of a foreigner and I smiled at some of the things she said – yes, you need a lot of patience to live in Italy! And it was really nice to see that her suggestions for tourists visiting Italy are exactly like mine.
Well, I won’t spoil the interview and I’ll let her speak. Enjoy!
Ciao Linda! Let me, first of all, thank you for taking the time to answer my questions. Can you introduce yourself and tell us something more about you and your life?
Hello! I’m an American expat living in Tuscany, Italy. I’m a mom of two young kids and a freelance designer, working mostly with my past American clients. I really love design and pretty paper, so working on sharing through my blog and building up my side hustle – HappyPrintClub.com.
How was your first time in Italy? What was your first impression?
The first time I stepped foot into Italy was way back in 2002 for a study abroad year. It was amazing, fascinating and mysterious – with so much to explore. Having lived here for so long now, a bit of the mystery has floated away and there’s a lot more reality to face. But I still think this is a beautiful country with so many different places to explore and things to learn. If you love traveling, history and art – this is the place!
Was it easy to get used to living in Italy? What kind of difficulties did you encounter?
The first thing was learning the language and definitely there are certain mindsets as most people are Italian and everyone else is a foreigner. That was a very different feel for me coming from Los Angeles, California – where everyone is from some other place!
However, I think it’s about being open to differences and just asking for more information when you need it. I think Italians are quite open to explaining and sharing their heritage. You do have to be very patient with most things – I wouldn’t say things happen super fast here. There’s a lot of bureaucracy!
Do you have recommendations for people wanting to move to Italy?
I think the first thing is to understand why you want to move to Italy and work out all the logistics, legalities, etc. It’s a lot less stressful if you have all your paperwork together. It also helps to get help from Italians if possible and to ask multiple times what you need to do, because sometimes you get multiple answers from various agencies. Again, a lot of patience!
What would you recommend to tourists visiting Italy for the first time, instead?
For tourists, I understand you want to visit all the famous locations, but if possible try to visit with a family or a smaller town or agriturismo to really soak in the slow life. It’s good to plan a bit ahead of time, to make sure things are open when you want to visit, travel, etc.
Over time I’ve really strayed away from the big cities because they are just too busy and full of tourists. Whereas there are million other towns in Italian that are well worth visiting and exploring. It’s all about the time you have and what you are interested in doing.
Can you name three things a tourist must not miss, for a real Italian experience?
You should definitely eat at a non-touristy restaurant… completely different experience! Go where locals go for a nice dinner and experience the real Italian cuisine. Have breakfast and chill at a local “bar” meaning the cafe type places where you can people-watch a bit.
I think it’s highly fascinating to watch the people and their daily lives and what they chat about… that’s the day to day of Italy in a small town. Finally, do a road trip throughout Tuscany. Beautiful rolling hills, sunflowers, the slow pace of life. It’s the best!
Let’s move to the language now. Was it difficult for you to learn it? Can you tell us a bit about your learning process?
It definitely took me a while to really get comfortable. In terms of learning, it was a matter of studying and I also took a course with an Italian teacher, but the real learning comes when you use the language.
So get some conversation buddies or pucker up the courage to speak Italian wherever you can. Don’t default to English if you really want to learn!
Do you have any tips for Italian language learners?
Practice, practice, practice. There’s no other way to really learn. Also, don’t hesitate to ask questions or ask someone to repeat or explain.
Linda is a graphic designer and creator of HappyPrintClub.com – a library of digital printables for paper lovers, snail mailers and crafters. You can follow her creative adventures on tortagialla.com where she shares printable downloads and fun crafty tutorials.
Linda has created this lovely illustration for you, inspired by Italy and its way of life. You’ll find the link to the downloadable pdf down below.