Tag Archives: movingabroad

The Travel Revolution: Moving Abroad: Australia

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Have you ever sat at your desk dreaming of jacking in your job and moving abroad to a whole new world? Or maybe you’ve wondered whether the 9-5 routine of city life deadens how you really feel deep inside? What if there are alternative realities that might bring you alive in ways you couldn’t even imagine?

With so many places to choose from whether Europe, Indonesia or America, considering a move abroad can feel as scary as it can exciting. From assessing the size of a place, the possibility of finding a job or the likelihood of finding good friends far from home, upping sticks can seem an idyllic idea laden with risk. But it doesn’t have to be.

That’s where Gazing Girl comes in.

In a series of short interviews with guys and girls who have moved abroad to Sweden, Spain, New Zealand and beyond, we hope to give you the confidence to travel where your heart takes you.

Next stop, Australia! Over to you, Mette

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Can You Tell Us A Bit About You?

I’m a Danish girl living in Australia with my two kids (5 and 2 years old) and my husband. He works in Oil and Gas, which means that he is away at work for four weeks and then comes home for four weeks in a continuous cycle.

I work as a Business Improvement Officer in my local council but I have a background in Psychology and Communication and I am currently studying to be a Life Coach.

What Inspired You To Move Abroad?

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I wasn’t enjoying my psychology faculty in Denmark and had toyed with the idea of studying abroad. That combined with Wanderlust landed me in Perth for a semester. I met my husband there and the rest is history, as they say.

How Did You Manage The Change?

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I’d had many years of getting used to the place without realising that I was in the process of immigrating. I’d had quite a few years studying, then holidaying and eventually living here (and then travelling back home again), so the decision to finally make the leap and move here permanently wasn’t too much of a shock.

That said, my first six months in Australia contained a lot of surprises – big and little! I had to get used to silly things like adjusting to a very different grocery shopping experience! Cling wrap and eggs are kept in completely different areas in Danish supermarkets!! And as for milk, getting used to a different colour coding system was something else altogether!

It’s those little day-to-day things that we take for granted at home which can become quite big stressors when we settle into a new country. Don’t even get me started on driving on the wrong side of the road!

What’s Been The Biggest Highlight?

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The biggest highlight has been realising that I think of Australia as home now. I have stopped beginning most of my sentences with “at home we do it this way….” Also, Danes and Aussies share a very similar sense of humour, which has made the transition that much easier. In that sense I can continue to be my quirky self and people around me get it – most of the time!

What’s Been The Biggest Challenge?

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Obviously leaving behind all my friends and family was never going to be easy but I have made a conscious effort not to dwell on it. It gets hard around Christmas and birthdays or other special occasions when I know that my family in Denmark are gathering and sharing old traditions but as Australia is quite tradition-poor I am working hard to ingrain those same traditions in my own family and my Australian family is falling in love hard with the Danish traditions.

In terms of setting up in a new country the biggest challenge has been making friends. I live in Perth where the standard ‘six degrees of separation’ has been brought down to three or four degrees. Everyone has either gone to high school, university or done sport with everyone and it is incredibly hard to break into those long established circles. However, having kids was great in that respect as it involved me in mothers’ groups and meeting new people when my oldest started school. I’ve made some very solid friendships among those mums in a short period of time.

What Has Surprised You Most About The Country?

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The lack of history and the lack of culture keeps surprising me. I once discussed the topic with my brother in law who insisted that he was very cultured. Given that sport is his culture, I really didn’t know what to say!

I’m also pretty surprised by the lack of quality buildings. There is an old electricity station near where we live that was built in 1935, which has been placed on the list of ‘historical buildings’. My first apartment was older than that!! It seems that if a building is ten years older or more the Aussies just knock it down and build something else!!

What’s Your Favourite Aspect Of The Country?

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You can never get enough of the Australian landscape. From the picturesque white sand blue water beaches to the rugged outback with nothing but red dirt and the green woods in between. I could happily spend the rest of my days nature gazing here.

I also love the general attitude of Australians. When I first came out I was so excited to realise that when you pass people on the street you say hello and people actually say thank you to the bus driver when they get off!!! When I left Denmark that certainly wasn’t the case! I think that’s changed since I left ten years ago but it was a stark contrast back then and a habit I’m very happy to bring to Denmark when I visit home.

What’s Your Least Favourite Aspect Of The Country?

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I wish the issues with the Indigenous population could be solved. The Australian settlers (and since then, the government) has made so many blunders and continue to do so. There is an incredibly strong ‘them and us’ mentality and it is saddening to see. It will take many many generations to overcome the negative impact, but hopefully one day there will be mutual respect between the races whether original Australian or many generation immigrants.

What’s The Biggest Difference To Denmark?

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Social Welfare!!! I’m sure many Danes think they have it hard and pay too much tax but in reality the tax percentage isn’t that different to what Aussies pay, yet Aussies don’t get nearly as much for their tax dollar as Danes do.

The fact that a Dane can receive their entire education for free (bar the materials they need) and even get an allowance while they study, means that the socio-economic gap is minimized. By contrast, in Australia there is a huge gap between upper class and lower class citizens and in my opinion it’s a hard cycle to break.

Did You Have A Stereotype Of The People In Your Mind And How Did Reality Reflect This?

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When I was 12 or 14 and Neighbours and Crocodile Dundee was on Danish television I swore I would never want to speak English with an Australian Accent. As it turns out, the Perth metropolitan dialect is much easier to digest than I could’ve imagined!

I guess I always thought there’d be a lot of khaki pants and loose shirts when in reality people pretty much look and dress the same as they do in Denmark!

As I get more aware of Aussies in general, I’m learning to distinguish between people of different states and also people from different areas of the greater Perth. There are certainly stereotypes, though – they are self imposed and proudly cultured from what I gather!

How Did You Find Making New Friends?

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As I described above, it was hard initially but that said, every where I’ve gone, people have always been very welcoming and eager to strike up conversation whether day or night.

It was difficult establishing those deeper connections, though – the ones that form when you’ve known someone for a long time. It’s not easy to break into long-established friendship groups so for the first couple of years I found myself making friends with people in similar situations to myself – those who had moved to Perth from either overseas or a different state. The only issue with the latter is that many of those people tend to eventually move on again.

What Is The Foreign Job Market Like?

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When I came out here I had just graduated with my Masters degree, I didn’t have any experience within my field and finances as well as my lack of interest didn’t lend itself to me doing a bridging course to transfer my qualifications to Australia. So in a sense I started at the bottom again. I tallied up the applications I sent out and within the first six months I must’ve sent out around 100. It was only when I met a friend of my husband, who had a sister who worked in a retail shop that I was I able to get my foot in the door.

I am not sure if it was my name, lack of experience or my inability to write a good application that was the reason. In most cases, I didn’t even get a response saying that my application had been received. Having worked in recruitment since, however, I notice there is definitely a resistance towards employing anyone who doesn’t have experience in Australia, no matter what level they have worked in previously.

Once I got my foot in the door and made a few connections I have had several positions ‘handed’ to me. It is definitely a case of who you know.

How Hard Is It To Get A Visa?

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Australia offers a Working Holiday to people under 30 that’s very easy to get. My student visa was also easy.

Before my husband and I got married I tried applying for a de facto visa. That was hard! Because we didn’t own anything together (the house, car and bills were all in his name), the immigration department pretty much told us that we would have to get married in order for me to be granted a visa. We actually broke up because of that as my husband was 23 at the time and not at all ready to consider marriage, so I withdrew my application and sent immigration a very angry letter.

About six months later my husband changed his mind and asked me to come back. I had planned to get an ‘intent to marry’ visa, which would give us a further nine months to see if he was really ready to commit, but as I was already in the country on a holiday visa, that didn’t turn out to be possible.

In the end we ‘just got married’ and then applied for a visa on those grounds. When we went for our interview we realised that the immigration department had kept everything we had ever sent them, including my hate-felt letter and based on all of that and the fact that my husband had been to Denmark to ‘collect’ me, they were quite happy to issue me my residency.

What Would You Do Differently Looking Back?

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I am a strong believer that ‘Everything Happens For A Reason’, and the same goes for this. I think I have learned a lot in the past ten years since I moved to Perth permanently.

I do wish we had been able to live and work in Denmark for six to eight months, which we have discussed so many times. The last time we looked at it seriously, we felt it just didn’t make sense financially and now that the kids are starting school I feel like it’s too late.

What Advice Would You Give To Someone Thinking About Moving Abroad?

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  • Follow your heart! What is it telling you? Trust that!
  • It is always OK to change your mind if it doesn’t work out the way you imagined. You can always go back home if you feel like it.
  • If you go through with it, make sure you do so wholeheartedly. There is nothing gained from living with one foot in your home country and one foot out. Yes, it’s hard to leave family and friends, but you have to move past that real quick and live in the moment, otherwise you’re going to miss a lot of good things that are right in front of you.

What’s Next For You?

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In an attempt to get back to my educational roots, I’m completing a Life Coaching course in a few weeks and am planning to launch a Life Coaching business before the end of the year. I am specialising in helping clients who are going through similar things to me, so I can help them to really enjoy life and embrace what it throws at them.

Oh and I have my brother and all of his family visiting this month and my parents are coming for Christmas. Yay!

How Can We Contact You?

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Watch this space… my website will be www.mettemcgrath.com but I am yet to launch it.

Tell Us Something We Didn’t Know About You….

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I have a huge love of anything feline and an equally sized allergy towards them but it seems that ten years of Australian air and soil might have cured me of that (that’s what I’m telling myself anyway)!

I also make awesome roast pork with crackly crackle. It’s in my blood, part of my heritage :)

Moving Abroad: South Africa

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Ever dreamed about moving abroad but don’t have the foggiest where to start?

With so many countries to explore, considering a move abroad can be overwhelming. From visa requirements and researching new job markets to finding friends and housing, upping sticks can seem pretty intimidating. But it doesn’t have to be.

That’s where Gazing Girl comes in.

In a series of short interviews with guys and girls like us who have moved abroad to France, Spain, Singapore, Australia and beyond, we hope to give you the push to follow your dreams.

Next stop, South Africa. Over to you, Natasha…

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Can You Tell Us A Bit About You?

I grew up in the UK but moved to South Africa after I finished school and spent almost a decade between Cape Town and Luanda (Angola). During my time in Africa, I completed my University studies at UCT (University of Cape Town), spent 3 years working in the recruitment world before deciding to become a full time yoga teacher! I now live in Chamonix and I’m a Yoga Alliance qualified teacher and a MYYO Practitioner. I currently run Viva Yoga Chamonix and I’m really enjoying my new alpine-based life!

What Inspired You To Move Abroad?

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Through-out my school days I dreamt of moving abroad. I was born into a family with an insatiable thirst for sunshine and warm climates so I spent a lot of time chasing the sun as a child! I remember one occasion when we were on holiday in Vasiliki, Greece and we woke up on our first day to overcast skies. After checking the forecast my mother hired a car and drove us 50 kilometres to the other end of the peninsula just to catch some rays.

So after a trip to sunny South Africa in my gap year, the draw of university life in Sheffield of Bristol sort of lost its’ appeal! ;)

What Are The Vital Statistics Of South Africa?

south-africa-map-facts2The Republic of South Africa is found in the southern region of Africa next to Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Lesotho and Swaziland. About 45 million people live there.

The biggest city is Johannesburg and the capitals are Cape Town, Pretoria and Blomfontein. This is because the government is based in Pretoria, the parliament is in Cape Town and the Supreme Court is Bloemfontein.

The 11 national languages include Afrikaans, English and Zulu and perhaps the most well-known South African is Nelson Mandela – the president from 1994 until 1999. The current president is Jacob Zuma.

How Did You Manage The Change?

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I was 19 at the time so making friends and adapting to a new life was easy for me. South Africa is full of warm, friendly people so settling into Cape Town life was not too challenging. I made an effort to enjoy the outdoors because South Africa is spectacular in that respect.  

What’s Been The Biggest Highlight?

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There are too many to single out just one – the beaches, the wildness, the parties, the people, the lifestyle!

What’s Been The Biggest Challenge?

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Distance from family was hard. Although Cape Town is on more-or-less the same time zone as the UK, it’s still an expensive trip home and a long journey so I only saw my family once or twice a year.

What Has Surprised You Most About The Country?

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The diversity. I had very little idea about South Africa’s intricate history, the controversy of Apartheid and everything that stemmed from it. Considering how recent a democracy South Africa is (only since 1994), the country has remained in a relatively peaceful state of unity…

What’s Your Favourite Aspect Of The Country?

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The diversity – South Africa really is the “Rainbow Nation”.

What’s Your Least Favourite Aspect Of The Country?

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The extreme inequality and the juxtaposition of rich and poor. It is quite a shock the first time you fly into Cape Town, for example, and you fly over the luxurious estates and huge houses in the wealthy suburbs and then as you approach closer you see an endless sprawl of shacks as far as the eye-can-see (“The Cape Flats”).

What’s The Biggest Difference To The UK?

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Colour. South Africa is an immensely colourful country and somehow the UK seems so black and white in comparison… excuse the obvious play on words.

Did You Have A Stereotype Of The People In Your Mind And How Did Reality Reflect This?

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I really had no idea what the expect.  At 19 I hadn’t really met a lot of South Africans before so I didn’t go in with any particular pre-conceived idea of what to expect.  However I didn’t realise the extent of the damage of Apartheid on race relations in the country.

What Is The Foreign Job Market Like?

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Quite a challenge and a little bit complicated. If you are moving with a big global company then they will work out your visa related issues for you. If you are looking to work for a smaller company or to start up something as a foreigner in South Africa then the challenges are substantial. The government are trying to ensure that South Africans receive jobs first so you, as a non South African citizen, need to prove that you have skills over-and-above that of a South African citizen relevant to the particular job. For instance, being able to speak multiple languages or experience dealing with a very specific issue.

How Hard Is It To Get A Visa?

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Visa’s are quite tricky. A study visa is relatively straight forward to acquire but work visas are a long and paperwork heavy process. My application took 9 months to be issued even with the help of a private Visa expert.

What Would You Do Differently Looking Back?

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I would have travelled more within South Africa. I explored the Western Cape extensively as well as Mpumalanga but I would have definitely liked to have explored the East Coast a bit more. I went up the Garden Route a few times which is spectacular but I never went up as far as Durban. The Drakensberg mountains nearer central South Africa are incredible and I would definitely like to head back and explore them some day.

What’s Next For You?

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Continuing on my yoga adventure with my company, Viva Yoga Chamonix! It’s hard to find more peaceful surrounds than the Mont-Blanc Valley. And while it’s quite a change from life in South Africa, it was time to move on after almost a decade living at the most southern point of Africa.

How Can We Contact You?

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natasha@vivayogachamonix.com through my website or on +33 (0) 6 42 90 18 04.

What’s Your Favourite Quote?

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“Love is all we are, the rest amounts to nothing” Anon.

And My Favourite Yogi Quote For Good Measure…

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“Every tomorrow is determined by every today” -  Paramahansa Yogananda

 

 

 

Moving Abroad: Milan, Italy

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Ever dreamed about moving abroad but don’t have a clue where to start?

With so many countries to choose from, considering a move abroad can be overwhelming. From visa requirements and researching new job markets to finding friends and assessing the cost of living, jumping ship can seem pretty intimidating. But it doesn’t have to be.

That’s where Gazing Girl comes in.

In a series of short interviews with guys and girls like us who have moved abroad to France, Spain, Singapore, Australia and beyond, we hope to give you the push to follow your dreams.

Over to you, Karolina…

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Can You Tell Us A Bit About You?

Hi there. I turned 26 in January and got my first white hair this week!

Born and raised Croatian, I moved to Milan in 2011 to do a Master’s degree in Cognitive Science (a fancy name for psychology) – at least, that’s what I told my parents. My main motivation for moving to Milan was actually to to be with my Italian love! After a year, though, heartbreak pushed me to Madrid where I met two new loves: a new guy and entrepreneurialism. And now, after 2 years of Spanish adventures, another heartbreak has pushed me back to Milan where I’ll be staying until…another heartbreak I guess?!

As for what makes me tick – I love quality, processes, people and stream-lining products and services to maximise growth. Career-wise, I sing opera, work with start-ups, design webpages and attend jewellery fairs (the latest being in Basel, Switzerland – tough life!) My dream job would be a professional mingler.

Anything else you should know about me? I’m a dog person. Woof!

What Inspired You To Move Abroad?

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(Un)fortunately I’m from Croatia, which though rich in beauty, doesn’t have a great deal more than that. I was raised in a happy family of internationally active opera singers brought up to think outside the box (and the boundaries of one’s native country). My upbringing has had a huge bearing on what drives me in terms of love, education and travel.

How Big Is Milan?

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Big enough, I’d say. The city itself has around 1 million people, 5 million including the outskirts which makes it just a bit smaller than Madrid. Milan is the 5th largest European metropolis.

How Did You Manage The Change?

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Actually, if you know the language, you’re at home. Milan is almost not “abroad” for me – I have an amazing network of friends there and I know the majority of the city’s secret pockets. However, in my experience, a successful transition is enhanced by keeping busy and throwing yourself in.

What Are The ‘Must-Sees’ In Milan?

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  • Anadima Bistrot – The ravioli with zuchinni is a must-try – absolutely mouth-watering.
  • The Old Tavern – Try the donkey meat ragù… incredible.
  • Osteria Conchetta – Traditional Milanese cuisine which is delicious and inexpensive.
  • Bastianello – A patisserie serving outstanding brioches and cornettos (similar to croissants).
  • Luini’s PanzerottoThe tomato and mozzarella panzerotti (savoury filled pastry) is, quite simply, unforgettable.
  • Deus Cafe – Think burgers, pancakes, sandwiches, fresh juices – you honestly can’t find one flaw in this place.

Cocktails

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  • Pinch – Cocktails to die for in a buzzing social area. 
  • Rita – If you’re looking for some seriously good drinks to kick off the night, Rita is brimming with a young, hip, good looking crowd and is almost always full.
  • Nombra De Vin - A seriously cool, vaulted wine cellar with lashings of atmosphere and sex appeal.
  • Ugo Bistrot - Ugo is a snazzy bar with mainly gin based cocktails located along the canal in the south of Milan. Very classy.

Must-See Sites

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  • Duomo rooftop - The stunning Gothic cathedral took nearly six centuries to complete. The 5th largest church in the world and the largest in Italy, the Duomo is well worth a visit.
  • Da Vinci’s Last Supper – Housed at the Dominican convent adjoining the church of Santa Maria delle Grazie, this is Italian art at its best.
  • Pinacoteca di Brera – The main public gallery for paintings in Milan, it contains one of the foremost collections of Italian paintings.
  • Museo del Novecento – Located in the Palazzo dell’Arengario, this a public venue dedicated to Milan’s collection of Twentieth-Century Art.

What’s Been The Biggest Highlight?

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Spring – no question! Seeing magnolias and cherry trees blossom in the Parco Sempione with the Arco della Pace at one end and the Sforzas’ Medieval Castle at the other is breathtaking. And that’s not the end of it.

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April is also the time when Navigli, the ancient canal system, fills up with water and the whole neighbourhood lights up which makes you forget you’re in the centre of a metropolis. Everyone is out on the streets, there are all sorts of flea markets, festivals, concerts, performances and exhibitions. It’s magical.

What’s Been The Biggest Challenge?

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I call this the Slav paradox.

Croatians and everyone East of the Italian border are generally considered “those who clean and serve”. It’s no accident that the Italian word for slave (schiavo) comes from Slavo (Slav in Italian). Although we’re talking about hardcore stereotypes here, I sometimes felt I had to make an extra effort to avoid being stigmatized, especially during first encounters. In terms of what I mean by the Slav ‘paradox’ – most Slavs in Italy are actually more international than those inclined to stereotype ;)

What Has Surprised You Most About The Country?

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The rent. You could get a seaside villa in Croatia for the price of a Milanese flat! In other words, it’s not cheap. I’d say most accommodation in the centre costs between 550 and 800 euros a month.

What’s Your Favourite Aspect Of The Country?

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As always… the people. Obviously, Italians are so easy to approach. By the time you’ve thought about how to make the first social step, they will already have introduced themselves, everyone around them and invited you to their home for some of Mamma’s pasta.

What’s Your Least Favourite Aspect Of The Country?

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Italians love words and communication in general. Which is a great thing unless applied to areas which are supposed to be quick and efficient. Basically, if Administration was a marathon, Italians would be a dead turtle.

What Other Cities Are Near Milan?

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Milan is surrounded by beautiful places from Lake Como, Lake Garda, Genoa and Florence to Lugano in Switzerland – all within a two hour radius. And if a long weekend away skiing is your thing, Chamonix in France is just 3 hours away!

What’s The Biggest Difference To Croatia?

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Food etiquette. There is a completely different culture behind the way food is selected, prepared, combined, enjoyed, admired, served and talked about in Italy. It’s an art form.

How Did You Find Making New Friends?

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Easier then the easiest. But do make an effort to speak Italian because the soul of these exceptional Mediterraneans will never fully sing unless you touch it with the right music.

What Is The Foreign Job Market Like?

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I’m not really sure but instinct tells me that Madrid, for instance, is more international then Milan. 

Do You Get Homesick?

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When I do…

Seeing my family  is a 4 hour train ride away. It’s super comfy and only 30€!

How Hard Is It To Get A Visa?

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I’ve never tried as Croatians don’t need to. But getting the residency permit requires a few hundred Euros for the health insurance and some administrative efforts.

What Would You Do Differently Looking Back?

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Nothing. Maybe just.. not having hugged those I care about before leaving Madrid.

What Advice Would You Give To Someone Thinking About Moving Abroad?

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Becoming an international person is the closest one gets to living more then one life only.

So if you have nothing to do, it’s better to have nothing to do abroad then at home.

And if you do have something to do, challenge yourself and grow.

What’s Next For You?

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Life.

How Can We Contact You?

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Karolina@sober.hr 

And if you’re in Milan, more likely you’ll find me at Pinch, the best cocktail bar in the City ;*

What’s Your Favourite Quote?

“I have no favourites. No favourite colours, songs, animals, quotes… I’m learning to embrace my horizontal and versatile personality and to admit that I have as many “favourites” as moments of life.” 

Karolina Sober, just now

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