Are You One of the 25% (part two)

As promised here’s part two of the six things that I think people should consider before moving abroad to live. The first part can be found Here. The first part focussed on language learning, not making assumptions and not using the move as a form of escape.

Do bear in mind these are only six of possibly many more things that need to be considered, but with these two blog posts I’ve tried to address some often overlooked things to think about before making that move. So without further ado, here’s my final three things that I think you must think carefully about before you pack up your possessions and drive off towards a new life in foreign parts.

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Downsize: Before you pack away every last thing that you own it’s a good idea to think about what you have and what you are likely to need/use in your new home. If you’re moving into an apartment then sell the lawn mower and other garden related things that are superfluous. Believe me I know someone who moved to a new apartment that had a communal garden tended to by the condominium and he paid to ship his gardening tools to Spain only to have to get rid of them once he was there. Books and DVD’s are heavy and can take up valuable space when paying for shipping. If you really can’t live without your film collection then invest in a disc holder and get rid of the plastic cases that will take up room and ship mostly air in the long run. Books are precious to some people and if that’s you, then take only those that you know you will read again or can’t bear to part with, books that will move from a shelf in one country to sit in boxes in an attic in another is a waste of money.

Think about furnishings, are they suitable for the climate you’re moving to? I shipped two large leather sofas only to discover that leather is horrid to sit on in the Italian summer. If you are packing up and discover towels that have seen better days and rugs that you can read a newspaper through, bin them. And while you’re packing up the kitchen, with every utensil you pick up, ask yourself when you last used it, if the answer is a year or so ago then put it into the charity shop pile.

Go through you’re wardrobe and donate all of those clothes that you’ll never wear abroad. If you’re going to be in rural France on a self-sufficiency drive then get shot of the dinner suits and evening dresses, the pigs and chickens won’t care what you wear. Before moving to Italy I sold all but eight of my 79 pairs of shoes, and since moving here I’ve worn only two pairs of the saved ones.

It makes perfect sense to downsize and pay to ship, only what you will need and use. Don’t fall into the trap of buying things to take that you assume you’ll not be able to get in your newly adopted country; unless of course you’re moving to the central plains of Mongolia, and then will you find anywhere to plug in your newly acquired wireless iPod docking station?

Remember, what you don’t take can be sold to go towards your shipping expenses or go to help others either in a charity shop or at a furniture/household charity bank.

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Dispel Belief: We’ve all watched movies like, Under the Tuscan Sun and watched TV shows like, A Year in Provence, that’s cool and I say watch and enjoy, but don’t believe a word of it. There’s nothing more sure to get our wanderlust rising than a well shot film with gorgeous vistas and a bevvy of beautiful people to temp us into falling in love with them. Even if you are partial to conversations with the kitchen wall, chances are you’ll not find yourself, like Shirley Valentine did. The reality is very different. Instead of falling in love with a hunk from Positano and riding on the back of his Vespa with your hands around his toned midriff, you more than likely find yourself on a cramped bus that smells of diesel next to an old contadino with armpits riper than his watermelons. In short if you think your move will be like a film plot or the narrative from a Spanish best seller then don’t move as you’ll be sorely disappointed.

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Don’t Rush: Think carefully about what time of year you’ll be moving, an Italian summer can be oppressive and not best suited to lugging furniture out of a van. Italian winter’s although relatively short can be cold so it’s best not to be moving into a house with no means of heating if there’s a chance there’ll be a metre of snow overnight. Think about the property you’ll be moving too carefully and plan to move at a time best suited to your needs. Also check dates; will it be a bank holiday or is there a festa in town? Nothing will spoil the move if the shops are closed and you can’t get milk for your tea or the streets are shut off for dancing so you can’t pass with your possessions. If you’re planning moving to Italy remember most of the country shuts down in August and never: I repeat. Never plan to move during Ferragosto (August 15) always leave a couple of days either side as the whole country, (including me) will be celebrating.

Once you’ve moved into your new home there’s another, don’t rush, that applies. Don’t rush into remodelling the house, if you can live in it, then do just that. Live in it and you’ll discover on a daily basis what works for you and what doesn’t. Obviously this doesn’t apply to major restorations. However if you can live on a building site it can be very helpful. I moved into my house the day after we evicted the rats and lived in one room as we did the planned work, this enabled us to make changes as we discovered what was right for us and the end result was very different from the original plan.

Also don’t rush into making friends with every person that speaks your language. It’s beneficial to have friends that share your native tongue and understand where you’re culturally coming from. But back in your native country you’ll have been selective, so don’t stop just because you’re an ex-pat. There’s nothing worse than having lunch with a table full of ex-pats that back in your birth country you’d have avoided in a heartbeat. Friendships will come and the best ones take a little time, but are best waiting for.

The Best Laid Plans and all that Jazz

August 15th is Ferragosto in Italy, the day the whole country celebrates summer and like the rest of the population we were intent of celebrating, However, things did not go to plan. I like it when things go off on a tangent, so to speak, the result can often be better than the anticipated original idea. A few weeks ago we made plans to visit Roccascalegna to enjoy an evening there during its three-day music festival. We’d looked at which acts were performing and decided to forgo the strumming of mandolins and rock based acts of days two and three and opt for the opening evening of jazz influenced piano playing under the stars.

We’d been privileged to be invited to a pre-festival get together at the Olive House; a mere 1.5km from the town centre and main stage. So we collected our friends Viv and Seppe and after Annie arrived with a van full of people we set off up the roads that snake their way upwards. We passed through the lovely town of Altino; making a note of the date for the town’s pepper festival and continued climbing higher. The views over Abruzzo from up high are magnificent, even in August, the valley is green and between the mountains you catch a glimpse of the Adriatic coast in the distance. We turn a corner and the road begins to descend and soon the medieval castle can be seen sitting on top of an outcrop; within minutes we’ve passed through the town centre and are pulling up outside our destination.

I became aware of the Olive House when I was asked to write some copy for a marketing campaign, since then I’ve become friends with the owners, Graham and Mark. Our convoy of cars park outside the property and our hosts invite us inside. The patio is set out with tables and chairs in readiness and as Graham serves drinks, Mark welcomes everyone. Some of our party have never been before and Mark gives them a potted history of the house and its facilities as Graham brings out the food, to go with the bowls of nibbles already on the tables. We’re served pizza rustica, a superb vegetable frittata and homemade herby focaccia.

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Very quickly we’re all chatting and getting to know each other, there’s much mirth and merriment and as we’re coming to the end of the mosquito season seldom nips from the annoying little blighters. (Being higher up, the Olive House is less plagued by mozzies than our house down in the valley). The setting is perfect; there’s a slight breeze keeping the heat at bay. The half-moon is high and occasionally there’s a distant hoot of an owl. The evening air is filled with the sounds of friends laughing and sharing stories. People joke about my conversation with one of the dogs, as i always answer the question I ask the canine in a deep voice, Mike says it’s like a prisoner who’s been on sixty cigarettes a day for years, the lunacy threatens to become surreal when someone asks, “what time are we leaving for the music festival?”

Quizzical expressions are passed across the tables, shoulders are shrugged and heads are shook. The consensus of opinion is that we’re all having such a good time that we don’t need to listen to someone tickling the ivories to make the evening perfect. So another bottle of wine is opened and more laughter floats down towards the orchard.