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Sacre Bleu! The challenges of a European move abroad

Whether you’re newly landed or are in the planning process, relocating to Europe can present some interesting hurdles. Here’s what you need to know.

Sacre Bleu! The challenges of a European move abroad
What do you call that: Language is only one of the obstacles you will encounter moving abroad. Photo: Getty Images

Yearning for a view of a Tuscan hill town, or to live among the winding streets of a Breton fishing village? For so many, moving to Europe is a dream come true. 

However, no matter how thorough your planning is, you are likely to come up against obstacles. 

Together with boutique relocation experts French Connections HCB and Italian Connections HCB, The Local looks at some of the issues you may not have considered. 

The letter of the law

While settling in France or Italy is easier than in many parts of the world, depending on your circumstances or where you are from, you may need special visas to stay. 

Obtaining these can be tricky, and requires a lot of homework. For example, in France you need to apply for a visa before you leave your country of residence, with multiple stages of validation including visits to your local préfecture (local administration) needed throughout the process. If you wish to settle in Italy, you’ll be making an initial application, then mostly working with the local questura (police) to take fingerprints and other data, before you are granted your Permesso di Soggiorno (residency permit)

If you have purchased a new home abroad, odds are that you’ve already experienced the delightful intricacies of French or Italian law. If not, get ready for an almost endless process of paperwork and waiting periods as local bureaucracy does its thing. 

Even so, your interactions with the law in the course of your new life may extend far beyond dealing with visas or land deeds. 

Did you know, for instance, that there’s an Italian village where it’s illegal to die? Or that you can be heavily fined for skylarking around your home naked in France? 

Sure, these may be extreme instances of weird and obscure laws, but they do reflect a wider fact – life is regulated and legislated differently in Europe, on a local level, and a minor slip-up can have surprising ramifications. 

Family and inheritance laws also differ considerably between France and Italy and the rest of the world. You can’t simply trust that a will may be interpreted the way you intend it, or that inheritance will work the same way in your new home. 

It’s important, therefore, to be able to rely on experts in the field who can advise on things like property law and setting up a will, should you ever need them. 

Let French Connections HBC make your move très simple!

The lay of the land 

Something else that’s important to understand is that both France and Italy are, essentially, collections of small, incredibly diverse principalities. 

This manifests in many different ways. For example, distance and location can often render the local French or Italian indecipherable to those from the outside – not only in terms of accent, but grammar and truly tricky idioms. 

These differences extend beyond language, to how businesses operate, and when you can access certain services. 

Tradesmen may operate differently to how you would expect, with surprising requirements or payment terms. Break a window at the wrong time and you may find yourself without anyone to come out for a week – or with a bill you don’t quite know how to pay! 

You may find that certain documentation you need is delayed by local festivals or irregular opening hours that haven’t been communicated anywhere that you’re likely to find it. 

Without deep local knowledge or someone on ‘the inside’, it can be exceptionally difficult to get things done promptly without significant delays. 

What can make it so much easier is to have someone who knows how to navigate the appointment merry-go-round, and get you face to face with officials. 

Find out how Italian Connections HBC can deliver la dolce vita!

High-rise life, Tuscan-style: San Gimignano is one of the many Tuscan hilltop towns attracting visitors each year. Photo: Getty Images

The long and winding road 

Getting around can also present some unique challenges you may not have expected. 

Recent law changes in Italy, for example, mean that you’ll need to register your car as soon as you have your residency settled – or your wheels may be impounded! This process isn’t quite as straightforward as it seems and has proved a headache for many unsuspecting new arrivals. 

While you are permitted to drive on your existing licence for a period in France, for instance, you’ll need to swap it for a French licence within a year. This can be tricky, especially if the last time you had any sort of conversation in French was high school. 

Buying a new car in France or Italy can also be more complex than ‘back home’, with changing legislation and differences in EU regulations meaning that what you want may be difficult to find. 

If all that sounds like a headache, many people opt to pay for specialist help. Having someone in your corner who can not only speak the local language but smooth the way through the obstacles of car purchasing and registration can be well worth it. 

Boutique, bespoke assistance

Having people to assist you with the intricacies of local life is a godsend when you’re abroad, but good help can be hard to find. 

Friends can often be eager to assist, but complex and frequent requests may place a strain on the friendship – and who wants that? 

You might turn to a professional service. Unfortunately, not all services are equal, and some simply don’t deliver what is promised. So be sure to seek out companies with good reputations and a dedicated level of assistance.

Such companies include French Connections HCB and Italian Connections HCB. Their team of dedicated, on-call experts have been helping people from the wider world settle and enjoy life in France for the last few years, and are now helping others move to Italy. They are accomplished at cutting through local red tape and smoothing the way for the life you’ve been seeking!

Many of the services they offer include the big hassles like securing visas to settle and changing your driving licence, to everyday chores like making medical appointments or seeking a quote from a tradesmen, even helping you in your search for your dream home – this is when local expertise and language skills really come into play, especially when you are first getting settled.

Moving to France or Italy? Call on the team that cuts the busy work – giving you more time to enjoy your new life!

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STUDYING IN ITALY

Rome vs Milan: Which is the best Italian city for students?

Both Italian cities are home to excellent universities but they're different in many ways. So which one is best to live in as a student?

Rome vs Milan: Which is the best Italian city for students?

Italy is a great country for students, with accessible universities and some of the top schools in the world. Milan’s Politecnico and the Sapienza University of Rome, for example, are ranked among the top 100 in Europe.

A recent QS Best Student Cities ranking meanwhile named Milan and Rome as the best cities in Italy for students to live in.

But which is better, really, and why?

Of course, it depends on what you’re looking for. “Milan is a more organised city regarding the services, cleaner and open-minded, but Rome is pure magic. So it depends on your opportunities in both cities and your personality and what you can tolerate”, Sammer Salah, a 30-year-old Egyptian citizen who has lived in several Italian cities over the last four years, tells The Local.

READ ALSO: OPINION: Why Milan is a much better city to live in than Rome

The dichotomy between the organised city versus the “city with soul” is similar to known feuds between New York versus LA, Sao Paulo versus Rio de Janeiro or, as a Brit might jokingly say, “London versus anywhere Northern”, comes up often in conversations with immigrants in Italy.

What sets Milan apart?

Milan is known for being Italy’s central financial hub and the home of the Italian high fashion industry. Located in the north of the country, it’s also very well connected (by plane, train, or road) to other European countries.

Italy’s best rated university, the Politecnico di Milano.

It can also be a fun and friendly city, with many international residents, lots of cultural events and busy city life.

It’s home to Italy’s best university, the Politecnico di Milano, and surrounded by lovely towns, lakes and close to the mountains.

REVEALED: What studying in Italy is really like and what you should expect

“Milan is generally a younger city. Both have a lot of universities, but Milan has a few large universities that also cater internationally. You also have a lot more young professionals in Milan because it’s where all the industry is”, says Carlos Diaz, who is from the United States and has lived in both Italian cities.

What sets Rome apart?

Rome is, of course, Italy’s capital and one of the most historical cities in the world. Some students say it has a more relaxed atmosphere when compared to busy Milano and the Italian city also gets praise for its cultural importance and beauty.

The capital is also well connected to other Italian cities and you can easily find cheap flights to many European destinations. Even though it doesn’t near other countries like Milan (Rome is located almost in the middle of Italy), it is closer to the sea – and to the famous Italian beach destinations in the south.

READ ALSO: Five things to know before you apply for an Italian student visa

“Milan is more organised when it comes to offices, traffic, people in general, but Rome has so much more soul, the people, sunsets, the eternal city, the vibe”, writes fashion editor Margherita, who added: “In my 20s, I would have chosen Milan for sure, in my 30s, Rome”.

What about the cost of living?

When it comes to the cost of living, Milan is, in general, more expensive than Rome. It has a reputation for being pricey, especially compared to other Italian cities – including the capital.

Rent can also set you back quite a bit.

A one-bedroom apartment in Milan’s city centre costs, according to Numbeo’s cost of living database, an average of around €1,240, which is 29 percent higher than Rome.

But on the other hand the infrastructure is fantastic, and Milan has one of the best public transport systems in Italy.

READ ALSO: Ten things to expect when renting an apartment in Italy

Overall you’d need a monthly income of €3,442 in Milan to maintain the same standard of living that you’d have on €3,000 in Rome, according to Numbeo.

While most things are more expensive in Milan, as salaries tend to be higher, local purchasing power in the northern city is also higher than in Rome.

The QS Ranking

The QS ranking uses the opinions of current international students in cities with more than 250,000 people and home to at least two universities featured in the QS World ranking.

They evaluate a series of indicators relating to university rankings, student mix, “desirability”, which includes questions like what are the pollution levels and how safe is the city, employer activity, affordability and “student voice”, with questions like what proportion of students continue to live in the city after graduation.

Milan and Rome did well in the survey, but Milan ranked higher in the top 50 best student cities while the Italian capital was among the top 100.

See more in The Local’s studying in Italy section.

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