Ex expat

15 Jan
14 January 2017. Twelve weeks ago we were still roaming in Rome. Seems like a distant memory, almost a dream.
When I see photos on Facebook by my friends in Italy, I really miss it. Walking around at Christmas was a biggie. My heart wanted to be there; However, my mind knew the crowds and the usual problems would make me crazy.
Personally, I don’t miss living in Rome, but I do miss our Italian lifestyle if that makes any sense.
We miss the being able to do most of our errands on foot.
We walked everywhere in Rome. If a bus was not coming, we walked home. That is not remotely feasible in Portland where we are staying with our son. Case in point, yesterday we spent 30 minutes waiting for a bus delayed due to the snow. In Rome, even if we were all the way across town we just would’ve started walking because it was possible to walk home in an hour-or-so from almost anywhere. There is no feasible route to do that here.
Not to mention it’s just incredibly beautiful to walk through Rome. Just saying. But then Oregon has some damn fine scenic elements. 
Walking was our major form of exercise, something we accomplished almost without trying. I cannot get to 10,000 steps here without making a major expedition. Hoping I can change that big time when we move to the Oregon Coast next month.
We miss being able to walk to-and-from dinner.
In Rome, we could not only walk across town but could walk to dozens of restaurants we would be excited to dine at. And we would work off the calories by walking at least one way most of the time. It’s terrific to walk 20, 40, or even 60 minutes after a nice dinner. 
We miss coffee bars and cheap, high-quality cappuccini.
In Italy, it is a God-given right to have a great cappuccino for about €1.10. That’s about $1.17. A great cappuccino served at a table outside a little cafe, possibly with a gooey chocolate cornetto that cost €.90. For €4.00 ($4.26) we would have our repast. Since we frequented Bar Ponte Milvio, we would leave a Euro now and then for our friendly server and the guys behind the bar.
By contrast, this morning, we paid $11.00 for two black coffees and two pastries, we served ourselves, and they expected a tip! The pastries were good, but seriously?
I miss speaking Italian.
Luckily I have a class “Keeping up in Italian” starting next week, and I play Parole con Amici (Words with Friends) daily to keep my head in it. OTOH, I do love understanding everything that is said and going on around me and being able to make myself understood in a grammatically correct manner. 
We miss hopping on a train.
Ah, the ease of travel in Europe! We could go anywhere as long as we had a cat sitter. Tuscany for the weekend? Venice just for dinner? (Yeah, we did that once and spent the night.) Joyriding to Paris via Milano beat flying. Now we will have to mount a major expedition just to visit. And flying is a necessary part of U.S. travel. (I can’t see hopping on the Empire Builder to go to Minnesota and taking 37 hours.)
We miss excellent wines at a non-budget-busting price.
Wine in stores in the U.S. is not priced too badly, but in restaurants, well, apparently thievery is not illegal. $11.00 for a glass of wine is not uncommon. We could buy a bottle of decent Sicilian wine in a restaurant for about $17.00.
We do have a fine Farmer’s Market in Portland. Fine, especially if the weather is good. It’s tough to get there in the snow.
OK, enough whining. Yes, we knew we’d miss this stuff. We knew what the U.S. was like and we came back anyway. You know why? Because STUFF WORKS HERE.
  • You can run all of your appliances at the same time without blowing a circuit and you can afford to pay the bill afterward.
  • We have a clothes dryer. I can do three loads of clothes before noon, including sheets, which would have taken an entire day to dry in our spare bedroom during winter.
  • You can buy anything you want at most large grocery stores. Not only food but lightbulbs, batteries, cosmetics, greeting cards, gifts, stamps. You do not have to go to four different specialty stores. And you can get cash from the cashier when you use your debit card. I’d completely forgotten about that convenience.
  • You do not need to have €200.00 cash in your pocket to get you through the week. Debit cards are magically accepted even for a coffee. (But then a coffee can cost $3.00 so why not?)
  • No one sneers at credit cards and you can return items if you make a buying error. This is no small thing.
  • Nice clothes are affordable and there are petite sizes for those of us who are height challenged. Funny how you can buy clothes made of Italian wool in the U.S. at an affordable price point but you can hardly find them in Italy.
  • You can go to a bank and talk to a teller without waiting 20 minutes. And the teller will be pleasant and bend over backward to help.
  • The Internet really is a fast web. (Play on words there. Our provider in Rome was “FastWeb” and they weren’t. Fast, that is.)
  • The buses come when they are supposed to, and tell you when they are late. We have an app that tells us when the bus is scheduled and that gives real time updates as to actual arrival. So if traffic is heavy and the bus is moving slowly, you know it before you leave the house. Buses never just disappear as they did in Rome. Knowing when the bus is coming is a big deal and Rome has not mastered that service.
  • My cousin calls the U.S. the “Land of Stuff.” That is good news and bad news. We over consume in the U.S. OTOH, you can satisfy a lot of desires and solve a lot of problems with the products available to us here.
  • Online shopping is superb. Amazon and Alexa, we love you.
  • The U.S. Post Office, bastion of good service that it is, should be a role model for the world.
People, of course, were a major factor in moving back to the U.S. We have enjoyed the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays with family for the first time in years, and are enjoying dinners with friends when we can get out of the frozen wasteland of our neighborhood. (There have been two major snow events and one minor one since mid-December. Having a car has been a bit of a joke.) Being on the same continent as your family has benefits.
It is more expensive to live in the U.S. We did not move back as a shrewd financial move. It would have been more affordable to live in Italy, from a strictly dollars-and-cents perspective. However, I don’t think I would want to grow very old in Rome. It’s just not an easy place to live, period. We are, after all, and for better or worse, Americans.
We will be back, Italy! To visit. 


11 Responses to “Ex expat”

  1. fumblingthroughitaly February 21, 2017 at 12:11 #

    Great list! I’m sure I will be feeling much the same way in a few months when I’m back in the states, too. Oh how I miss a clothes dryer right now, though…


    • Laurel Barton February 23, 2017 at 14:14 #

      I just took a look through your charming blog. I look forward to following your adventures. In winter it is soooo hard to not have a clothes dryer! In summer, not-so-bad. Good luck in Italy!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Sarah Campbell January 31, 2017 at 14:25 #

    Good Morning: I miss your blogs from Rome – hope you are settling back in the USA. I was wondering if you could direct me to a website that tells me the requirements for living in Italy for about 6 months or 1 year?  For instance, how much money does an American have to have before they are allowed to reside in Italy? Thanks so much.  Have a good day.Happy TravelingSarah Campbell


    • Laurel Barton January 31, 2017 at 16:43 #

      Thanks, Sarah. We are settling in and I will be launching a new blog soon, as well as announcing a book I have written. Stay tuned!

      Your best source for residency requirements is the website for the Italian Consulate in your area. If you are not sure which consulate serves you geographically, start with the Italian Embassy to the U.S. You will find info on student visas, elective resident visa, etc. Usually the ER visa is the choice for “I just want to spend extended time in Italy.” You have to prove sufficient financial resources, have health insurance, an FBI background check, etc.

      I have heard varying opinions on how much money one needs. As retirees, we showed proof of our pensions and Social Security, as well as investments and bank account balances. You may be asked to prove you have a round trip ticket as well. Be aware that if you stay for 6 months or more (count the days!) you will have tax obligations in Italy. You cannot be double taxed by the U.S. and Italy, but you do have to pay in Italy and file in the U.S.

      Hope this helps a little. It is a process to be endured for the privilege of a long stay.


  3. chloe erkenbrecher January 16, 2017 at 01:28 #

    Ahhh! We love stinky cheese, or at least, I do. one of our daughters said the cheese I buy smells like something that dogs want to roll in.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. chloe erkenbrecher January 15, 2017 at 23:01 #

    You’re right. It is so easy to walk everywhere in Rome. I remember walking home many times from downtown Rome to Parioli, because the buses were caught up in a massive traffic jam. When I lived in Rome, the traffic jams were monumental and it took hours to undo the mess. i did think that Rome now had super markets, but I guess not, from what you say. France has very large markets, even in smaller towns, and you can buy anything you need in them. I agree on the cost of living here. What a sticker shock whenever we come back to California. We buy most of our wine in Trader Joes, where you can get a bottle of Nero Davolo quite cheaply: this is as it should be, as it is a rather cheap wine, but one we like. Still, as you say, we are Americans, when it comes down to it, and as much as we love Europe, we love the U.S. even more.


    • GoodDayRome January 15, 2017 at 23:05 #

      Chloe, I think you must be my sister from another mother. One of these days we are going to meet up in France and drink wine while eating stinky cheese. Un bacio!


  5. The EcoFeminist January 15, 2017 at 04:20 #

    Heads up, the bus and streetcar both stop within blocks of the farmers market so not sure why you’re saying it’s hard to get to…?


    • GoodDayRome January 15, 2017 at 18:46 #

      Yes I know the bus and streetcar go there. But with the snow and cold it’s been challenging to get around even on public trans. Our bones were “Romanized” over the past 5 years and it will take us some time to get used to extended outings in below-40-degree weather!


  6. Marcia Miller Kakiuchi January 15, 2017 at 02:00 #

    I totally miss the great inexpensive wines and sparkling wines in Europe. I can’t find extra brut or brut zero here and to order it us like $60 a bottle! In Europe, I could find it everywhere and it was cheap!

    We loved your walking life in Rome too. And the food! Who didn’t love the food!

    I bet you’ll get in a lot of walking when you finally get settled at the beach!


    • GoodDayRome January 15, 2017 at 02:07 #

      Wow, I had no idea finding your sparkler was so challenging and expensive! Check out Dall’Uva https://www.dalluva.com/. Michael is a friend of ours. He may have a good offering for you!


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