I finally moved and settled in Florence city. Two weeks are only enough for getting the residency in Florence, shopping daily necessaries, and many times moving back and forth from in-laws to our new apartment. It is tiring but I am so glad to make it!
Comparing to Hong Kong, the city that I lived in the past 8 years where everything moves in a fast pace, lifestyle here slows me down and allow me to appreciate life event more. There is less pollution, the food ingrediants are so fresh, art and culture are so strong… It is nice and romantic!
However being an Asian expat here, although I’ve been married to and lived with an Italian for 5 years, I am still adapting to the Italian (or should I say Florentine) lifestyle. Despite of all the good things that made me fall in love to this city, there are still three things (so far) that I find very hard to compromise.
1. Efficiency of the public offices
As a newbie from a foreign country, I obviously need a visa. Being physically in the immigration office at 7am still finds myself at the end of a long queue. After hours of waiting, we finally had the chance to talk to the people in the information counter. And this only gets us the list of things that I need to prepare for my visa application.
For my case, coming to live in Italy married to an Italian citizen (by the way even my italian husband after many years working in anther country, he still needs to go through all these bureaucratic steps in order to settle here), I need to apply residency first, so as to get the visa. And this is the right procedure figured out by us, after many time back and forth visits among different public offices. Some event gave wrong direction telling us to get visa first and then the residency. At certain point I really felt like in a chicken-or-egg situation: who is before who!!!
The whole process is quite suffering. It is like no matter where you go, you will hit the wall. After hitting all the walls, finally there is a hole, where you can pass through and move forward. You can imagine how many headaches I got!
Hope no one would ever experience such thing, but if unfortunately you have to, here are some tips for preparing your expectation:
a. never think to get things done by only one-single visit. This happens in Hong Kong, but here, NO!
b. if you don’t speak Italian at all, it is going to be REALLY difficult. Find an italian speaker to help.
c. keep telling yourself: be patient, be patient, be PATIENT!
2. No Lift in the buildings
For people used to live in a city like Hong Kong, lift inside apartment building is like bread, you have it! But as an antique city as Florence, especially in the city center, most of the building doesn’t. From my apartment hunting experience, I did visit one (only one) apartment in the city center with a lift! But it was soooo small. If it is only used by one or two persons at same time, it is still OK. But if more than three, you really need to squeeze yourself in! Well, it can be a good way to know your neighbors.
It is fine I feel exhausted after a long day at work, and still can spare little energy climbing some steps. But if I have my one-year old, his stroller, and grocery all at the same time, it is not funny! Luckily nowadays most of the supermarkets provide home delivery service, but before I get my Italian credit card and start shopping online, I still need to play it in the traditional way.
However, I find the renting fee is quite reasonable here comparing to Hong Kong. I’ve seen apartments located in the city center with view like postcard, costing €1,200. Same price in Hong Kong you only end up with 10m² studio. For the apartment that we lived in before moving to Florence: 95m² in a nice area although not in the city center, it costs around €2,200. Maybe that’s the price we pay for the lift. lol
3. Long coffee with paper cup to go
The idea of Starbucks was inspired by a coffee shop in Milan, however there is not a single Starbucks in the whole Italy! I miss those days when I can take my coffee in a paper cup and walk from bus station to the office. Here everybody drinks espresso: bottom up, pay and leave. To me it is like taking shots: too fast and too strong.
One of my friends that is coming to Florence in two weeks asked me: “anything you want me to bring to Italy for you?” “Yes, instant coffee, PLEASE!!!”
Even though it will take longer time for me to well settle down and get used to the new life, I’ve already start to appreciate the beauty of this city. And after almost one month living here, I still feel like being on vacation and constantly look for new things to see and visit!
One evening after dinner, me and my husband with our 11-month-old were taking a walk crossing Ponte Vecchio, he said “oh gosh, we really look like tourists here!” “Here in Florence? Well, who doesn’t!”