Friday, November 2, 2007

Another one bites the dust

What an appropriate title for today, All Souls' Day!
It's official, an exodus has begun in Rome. Yet another friend has decided to leave Rome for greener pastures (green=money). Now that I think about it, this exodus first started about 5 years ago. One by one, friends (mostly American expats but not only) started jumping ship for one main reason: work and consequentially, money. After trudging through the dismal job market of Rome for years, they gave up. Some of them were actually being paid well for Italian standards BUT not well enough considering the job they were doing, and considering that same job would be paid 10 times more in any other European country. So naturally, they left... One example, my friend R was being paid rather well (for Italian standards, let's not forget) and lived comfortably in Rome BUT she knew that her job and her skills were worth more. She applied for the same sort of job in USA, got the position and a hefty salary of $100,000+. No, money isn't everything but knowing you're being exploited in the workplace is never a good feeling. Pouring your heart and soul into a job that offers no security and no possibility for growth can be a tad frustrating, don't you think?
The decision wasn't easy for any of them but when you get to the point where you're feeling shafted on a daily basis, you have no choice left but to abandon la dolce vita and head towards more rewarding work environments.
So far, none of them regret the move. Of course they miss Rome at times, but they feel the overall quality of their life has improved. I've been picking their brains for years, asking about health insurance and whatnot, it's an invaluable resource for me as I consider my future in Italy (or not!).
This post is dedicated to all the dearly departed who've left Rome for greener pastures, 10 and counting... Thanks for setting an example!


J.Doe said...

It's nice to hear I'm not alone in leaving Italy after only 4 years. Many other American ex-pats make the move to Italy seem so easy and wonderful, la dolce vita... but it was not that way for me. I was completely frustrated and as a 35 year old, was just too old to even work there because of the legalized age discrimination (although I did manage to find a few under-the-table part-time, lousy paying English teaching jobs, as well as one toilet cleaning job-not good for a college educated medically skilled person)
I am working in the US now in my field and so much happier here. I know money isn't everything, but you gotta have enough to eat and pay the bills. I miss Italy sometimes but will never go there again unless it's for a vacation. I feel like a failure many times because I could not make my life work there, but sometimes you just have to be true to yourself, and life there wasn't working out for me. Still that 'I'm a failure' feeling always lurks in the back of my mind.
I'm sorry to hear you are so frustrated that you are considering this option too or at least talking about it. Being frustrated all the time can't be healthy for the soul,it wasn't for mine.
Thank you though for cheering me up by letting me know that I am not the only American Expat who returned to the US.

Kataroma said...

jdoe - there are quite a few foreigners who return to the US for the reasons we all know about. Do you ever read "the verge" - the blog of an American woman who recently moved back to the US with her Italian husband and two kids after something like 14 years here. Her complaints about Italy are exactly the same ones just about every expat makes.

jennifer said...

Writing from the greener pastures... thanks for mentioning me kataroma. I was in Italy for 15 years, and I must say that I am happy to finally be able to return again as a simple tourist next summer. I regret absolutely nothing, even through all the turmoil and upheaval that this moved caused for my family. I won't ever live and work in Italy again. It was killing me. There is an apathy and disgruntled shrug in the air over there that exhausted me! And since I did spend so many years there, I can say that things seem to just be getting worse...
not that I don't miss the gorgonzola, but that's just not enough!

Romerican said...

J. Doe, you're definitely NOT alone!

Anonymous said...

I think an American who immigrates to Rome is really no different than any immigrant story - be it a chinese immigrant in the US, or an Italian in Canada or Australia - opportunities must be created. This is why there are many italian restaurants owned by Italians all over the world. I lived in Rome as an illegal bohemian, left for the US, hoping to do something more established, more rewarded, and came back disappointed in my experience in the US. I came back knowing I'd have to build something. Got legal, started a business, and would never return to the US. Just thought I'd give a different example, that's all.

In any case, the idea of comparing salaries here to the US or anywhere else is apples to oranges. As far as my experience in the US goes, it was cut-throat, no holiday, no insurance, no severance for me. The Italian system, with its low pay, can't really be compared when you have a month long holiday, 1 month a year liquidazione, job security (with a contract), free health care (even if it does suck ass), and most Italians own their own home anyway thanks to Mommy and Daddy.

Again, apples and oranges.

Romerican said...


I don't know what part of US you lived in or where you worked but 95% of my working friends in the US have vacations, insurance, severance pay & more benefits than I could ever dream of. My friends in Europe have a much better set-up than anyone in Italy could ever hope for. For example, the situation in France is 1000 times better for people who work in the same field as I do.

Can you explain something- why do you feel it's not valid to compare Italian salaries/the Italian workplace to the rest of Europe (Italy is officially part of the EU) or even America? Why do you feel Italy belongs in its own reserved category?

I have a hard time understanding that because what you described as the "Italian system" (a month long holiday, 1 month a year liquidazione, job security) seems so far from the reality of almost every person (Italian and non) that I know here. Job security in Italy? You've got to be kidding! All of Italy is up in arms because of the horrible contract situation in the workplace (BTW: you might want to see a documentary called "Parole Sante"), so not only do people get shitty pay but they have NO assurance that next month they'll even be working. I'm sure you've read about or heard about this! Job security is almost nonexistent in Italy nowadays. As for the one-month vacation, not many people have the luxury of doing that, or maybe I'm just hanging out with a different breed of Italians! As for liquidazione, unless you have a REAL contract, you won't get shit- and seeing that a huge percentage of people are paid under the table or are hired with non-official contracts, they have no claim to liquidazione, 13esima/14esima, sick pay, maternity leave, etc. So I'm not really sure what you're referring to.

Sorry but it's not apples and oranges at all, not in my book.

Anonymous said...

Sorry to have upset you. I was referring to my own experience. I have 6 employees, all with work contracts, plus domestic help.

i've never had a paid vacation in the US, have never received severence pay and have never had health insurance. I've lived and worked in Washington DC, Colorado and California. The list of jobs is long.

I'm wasn't trying to paint a rosy picture of life in Italy. I was just trying to comment that not everyone is disatisfied with working conditions here.

As for other european countries, I have a few friends in france who can't find work at all, just as here. Although the system might be better, my understanding is that they are in pretty bad shape. I guess for me it was never just about the system but about how it combines with lifestyle. So yes, in NY you can earn much more - and you're lifestyle will also require that you spend more. In Paris you can earn more too - and you will probably have the same complaints as all other Parisians about how stressful it is to live there.

Romerican said...

Whoa... No worries, you didn't upset me. I was just pointing out that your description of the Italian workplace was far from reality. We all watch the news & read the papers here so we all should know there is a real problem with jobs in Italy and with the economy.
I'm glad you have your own business with legally-hired workers, that's great! But let's admit it, your situation is an exception not the norm.

I'm not saying USA or the rest of Europe is perfect, I'm just saying that Italy is at the bottom of the barrel right now.

lisa said...

In response to Anonymous' response:

From what I understood, your response and your objection to the USA/Italy salary comparison was based on the fact that you claim the Italian workplace is less "cut-throat". You made no mention of lifestyle or "dolce vita" in your first comment. Nor was that mentioned in the post. You described working conditions that I haven't heard of or seen in Italy in decades, quite honestly! I do not relate at all to your description of the Italian workplace, it's rather unrealistic and rare in my opinion. It's nice to know that your run your business legally but you are one of the few who does. Many/most businesses pay under the table or without legal contracts.

And I couldn't disagree with you more on "opportunities must be created"... I mean I agree with the idea but we all know Italy is a VERY difficult place to do business in, there are a million and one bureaucratic hurdles to overcome and unless you have connections and/or plenty of cash, it's near impossible. I have several intelligent Italian friends who've tried unsuccessfully to start their own businesses. Italy is notorious for not being a good place to do business, that's why they have so few foreign investors also!

Of course not everybody is unsatisfied with working conditions in Italy, that goes without saying. But it's rather obvious that a MAJORITY of people, locals and foreigners, are not happy about things so there clearly is some sort of real problem in the way things work... it has nothing to do with the willingness of people to find work or start their own companies.

zeva said...

"job security" in Italy? I don't think so...

one word sums up the Italian workplace: "precarietà"

Brendan said...

I finally left Rome in September after 5 long years. I made numerous efforts to feel at home in Italy but it never quite worked. I always thought there was something wrong with me for not being satisfied with living in a beautiful place with my wonderful girlfriend and having a decent, easy-going job. I finally got out and went to the UK. The UK is certainly no paradise, but it's more my flavor. I don't think I will ever go back to Italy to live. I recently went for the weekend and I was quite happy to get back to the UK afterwards. It's just not me.