Living in Positano is not about lounging around on a sunny beach all day and having beautiful views to console you when things get rocky at home or at work. A holiday here does not easily translate into everyday life especially if you are an ex-pat from a faraway continent.
Living in Italy in a small summer tourist orientated town with barely any winter entertainment because your friends move out at the first hint of cold is not everyone’s cup of tea. It can be a lonely experience.
Small cultural problems surface which can test your sanity like battling with bureaucracy at the town hall, dealing with medical care in a language you are unfamiliar with or the lack of suitable local schools. Plane tickets to return home become a big part of the budget. But above all it is the frustration with the laid back local’s attitude to problems and ‘this is the way things are here’ acceptance which makes lobbying for services and changes to the system almost unheard of.
I didn’t imagine that life would be easy when I moved overseas as an expat. I really missed family get-togethers and holiday traditions, and lost the support system of life-long friends. I was grateful for being able to understand the dialect in Positano as well as speaking Italian as it made my integration easier in a town that was already used to accommodating foreigners. It was difficult adapting to the confined spaces in Europe after a lifetime in Australia and comforts of home I took for granted were quickly forgotten as I pulled on extra sweaters in winter rather than stand on ducted heating for warmth. Now of course, the internet (when it works) has made the world a lot smaller and communication over long distances an everyday affair and helps keep one’s sanity.
A new book has been launched this month together with a competition on Expatwomen.com. It is full of tips that I wish I had read when I moved overseas 20 odd years ago:
Expat Women: Confessions - 50 Answers to Your Real-Life Questions about Living Abroad
This comprehensive guide book written by Andrea Martins and Victoria Hepworth for expatriates or want-to-be expatriates discusses chapter by chapter a real life situation which can arise living abroad. It offers sensible advice for any practical or psychological problem, reassurance and weighs up the positive and negative aspects of the decision-making. I was surprised at how much I have in common with these women!
Among the many examples of the situations the book deals positively with are those covering guilt over aging parents, loneliness, visa, alcoholism, trailing spouses, holidays, families,repatriation and reverse culture shock. It also talks about coping with the feeling of having no real home base especially for those families who work intensively in many countries. It has comprehensive tips and encouragement. Living as an expatriate can be bewildering culturally but is also an enriching experience opening a sea of opportunies.
As @downatheel mentioned on Twitter:
‘Usually I live the adrift feeling of living abroad. Today an anchor would be nice’. This book would be good anchor to hang on to.