As promised, I am asking to international travellers and people living and working in a foreign country to share their life stories with me to know why they decided to leave families and friends behind to explore new realities and meet new cultures!
Are you curious about how they managed to adapt and settle in their new countries? Then follow my expat interviews categorised by country! Are you an expat wanting to share your tips and experience with the rest of the world and be a source of inspiration? Then fill in the expat interview form: I would love to hearing from you!
“Travelling—it leaves you speechless, then turns you into a storyteller.” Iba Battuta
Let’s meet Francesca: a translator expat who lived in many different countries
Introduce yourself briefly. Tell us who you are!
Hello, I’m Francesca, I’m 27, I’m from Como in Northern Italy. I did my French and Spanish BA in Norwich, UK, followed by a translation MA in London. During my year abroad, the year before my final BA term, I lived in Alicante, Spain, and Nice, France. When in Norwich, I was an in-house technical translator in an agency and I could have built a life there. Life has decided differently and for personal reasons I came back to Italy.
Why did you move to your current country?
I moved to Norwich to study my French and Spanish BA at the University of East Anglia. Coming to the UK has been a conscious decision: I wanted to study foreign languages and I thought the best way to do it was living abroad in a country with a different university system of good quality such as the one in the UK which focuses less on theory and more on practical skills. I have loved the UK since I was a child, also thanks to Harry Potter, and English was the foreign language I used to speak best: that’s why I chose to move to the UK for my studies.
What do you do for a living? How was the job hunting?
I was an in-house translator at a translation agency that I had known since university times, I didn’t really get through the traditional job hunting process because I first started out as a freelancer for this agency, then I was asked if I wanted to become an in-house member, I did months of probation and then became a permanent employee.
Initially, for the freelance period, I had to pass a translation test; it was evaluated by other freelance translators working for the agency and I passed, that’s how more or less the market for translators goes. I know, not your average “job hunting – interview” process.
How is the social life in your city, is it easy to make friends?
Norwich is a very quiet city, I didn’t find it easy to make friends once my university mates had left, but that’s because I’m… well, let’s say I’m shy. However, there are plenty of occasions to make friends, like language courses and events at the university.
Why should people move there? Why did you fall in love with this place?
Norwich is ancient, rich in history, quiet, a bit isolated – thanks, English railway system! – but it has everything you might ever want: a rich theatre life, the well-furnished Millennium Library and the other activities you can do at the so-called Forum (restaurants, exhibitions, fairs…), a lively university, a Norman castle, two cathedrals, at least three/four cinemas, a lot of historic and fabulous pubs (The Lamb Inn and the Adam and Eve are my favourites) and places to eat (shout out to Urban Munch and the Birdcage and the Grosvenor Fish Bar combo), luxuriant parks.
The sea is not too far away, there also also cosy tea rooms like the quirky Biddy’s Tea Room, a big open market that’s been there in the heart of the city since Norman times. You also have most high-street shops, like Debenhams, Primark, John Lewis, M&S etc.. The local high-end shop is Jarrolds, basically local Harrods, which I love! From there you can have endless trips throughout Norfolk, where nature is still very much preserved.
What do you want to say to people looking to move there?
I found my place on Spareroom and I was quite happy. If you have a car, Bowthorpe is a quiet residential area to live in. If you don’t, avoid it because buses getting there don’t work till late. The Golden Triangle is a nice compromise, I lived off Unthank Road during university years and it was great: lots of tiny shops and the city centre was a 10-min walk away.
How is the health system? Is it a safe place to live in?
I am two doctors’ daughter, so I rarely consulted a GP once in the UK. The one time I did, though, I had some serious stomach problems and had to fly back to Italy to get treatment, so, best not to rely on me for judgment on the NHS.
I felt quite safe at nights walking alone, even as a woman, although my Italian upbringing in that aspect is not something I can forget, so I always try not to stay out late and I constantly look behind my back.
How is the general cost of living, what is the average rent?
The cost of life wasn’t very expensive, especially compared to London. I was able to live in a shared terraced house, with a decently big room and a garden, for 460£ pm bills included. Food is slightly less expensive than in the rest of the UK.
Public transport is not too bad: buses give students the opportunity to have term-time passes that help saving money. The good thing, though, is that it’s quite easy to go everywhere on foot, so you don’t spend anything at all if you live near the centre.
Tell us something you don’t like about where you live and the difficulties you came across when settling in.
Norwich was a bit isolated, trains are not always on time. Let’s say that more often than not Trenitalia does better. I’ll leave it at that.
Tell me an unmissable thing to do in your city over a weekend
The best things to visit are the Norwich castle atop the hill and the Anglican cathedral, second highest spire in the country after Salisbury. Stranger’s Hall, a real voyage through time. If you go to UEA university, check out the Ziggurats, which are student halls in the shape of the Mesopotamian buildings. UEA has a huge, lovely park and a broad for strolls. Plantation Garden should be on your list too: a hidden Victorian town garden just off Earlham Road, with flowerbeds, fountains and picturesque fake-Medieval terraces. Even in winter it has its frosty charm, but the best time to see it it’s spring.
Did you find Francesca’s experience useful? Then check out the other upcoming expat interviews in other cities!