This post is very close to my heart. I moved to the Tuscan Maremma in 2012, leaving behind a very comfortable job in Melbourne. It was the scariest decision of my life. I have always had a safety net and when I moved overseas, I jumped into the abyss. I had nothing: no work, no job prospects, no money.
Disclaimer: moving to small town Italy is NOTHING like moving to an Italian city. There are plenty of expats in cities like Milan, Rome and Florence and thus plenty more job opportunities for English speakers with shaky Italian skills. In the country, you’re on your own and the jobs are non-existent.
I floated through the first year in a daze. I struggled with guilt, listlessness and boredom. I’m not housewife material and it’s very difficult to fill day after day at home alone with nothing to do.
Four years later and I finally have my act together. It was hard, but I picked up a thing or two on making expat life work that I’d love to share. These tips aren’t exclusive to small town Italy. They’re for anyone living in any remote destination as an expat, especially those in a country that doesn’t speak their language!
The first thing you need to do is take stock of your situation. I was fortunate that my husband could support us while I found my feet. It’s not an ideal situation. I was raised to be an independent woman and regardless of how silly it sounds, I didn’t want to depend on my husband for money. But you need to consider your situation. Realistically how long can you go before you die of starvation? Draw a picture of how much time you have to find work. Obviously, if you need money now, you’ll have to compromise on the jobs you apply for, while if you have more time, you can find something you love.
play to your strengths
There are three things any expat can do: teach English, translate and work in tourism. English native speakers with university degrees can now teach in Italian state schools without a teaching degree. In December/January, most schools will advertise for native speakers to help them prepare their students for Cambridge exams. This is great work and pays really well. You will need a modicum of Italian though to apply for these jobs. You can usually find them advertised on your school’s websites as bandi (notices). Otherwise contact your school. Learn about Display My Art and its possibilities too.
If you don’t want to go the school route, you can start you own language school by either teaching small adult classes or private tutoring. If you are looking to a tutor, hire a professional Math heytutor here. You can print out flyers from your local printer and for a bit extra, they’ll usually put them around town for you. Speak to an accountant about getting a partita iva (business number) and working out the tax side of things.
Another option is translating. Italians are desperate for native English speaker translators. Obviously, you need to know Italian to translate, but if you do, send your resume and a sample of a translation (you can translate anything online) to a few translation companies online. The best part about translating is that you can do it anywhere and at any time, so it’s a great way to supplement your income.
The last option is tourism, either a restaurant or hotel. These jobs are a bit harder to find, so you’ll have to send your resume to as many places as you can. The work will most likely be seasonal, from March to September, and won’t pay very well, so be prepared to take a pay cut.
use the internet
The internet is an incredible resource for small town expats and the best place to look for work. In an ideal world, you can continue doing the job you love online as a freelancer. But if that’s not possible, consider other job opportunities like copywriting. If you’re tech savvy, create your own website. Otherwise look for websites that let you sign up and promote yourself online. For freelance journalists like me, there’s one called contently that’s fantastic. You just need to find the right one for you and promote yourself like there’s no tomorrow.
consider heading to the city
If you’re desperate to find a job in your industry or improve your job prospects, consider commuting to your nearest city. Trenitalia isn’t terrible and if you don’t mind travelling x hours a day, you can usually find work in the city. The best place to look for English-speaking jobs in Italy is actually Linkedin. It lets you narrow the search to your industry and the area you’re in, but be warned, the competition is really steep, so don’t be discouraged if 500 people have applied for the same job.
build your empire
Finally, expat life is terrible in many ways, but moving overseas is an excellent excuse to do what you love. If I still lived in Melbourne, I would still be doing the same boring job for good money. Moving overseas has forced me to create my own work, but it’s also given me the chance to try my hand at what was a hobby. The upside to having plenty of times on your hand and no job prospects is that it gives you ample opportunity to pursue your passion, whether that be writing, blogging, DIY, art or accounting.
Maybe you’ll have to teach English on the side to make ends meet, but I encourage you to take advantage of your situation and do what you love. If you can make that your job then expat life won’t seem like such a bad decision after all. The internet and social media are your best friends in this, so get a book or two on making a website, social networking and RSS. They will really make the difference between being successful and flopping.