Sunday 9th February was the 20th anniversary of my arrival to the UK. I remember it was a cold winter morning when I jumped in my car and drove for about 18 hours flat all the way to Hemel Hempstead. In that small town just North of London used to live a friend which offered his hospitality for the first couple of weeks of my British adventure, an adventure that was meant to last a year or two.
At that time Italy was trying to overcome the recession of the early 90ies and work conditions were not great, availability for interesting jobs was also pretty scarce. My personal interest in living abroad for a year or two while Italy was recovering inspired the move. As soon as I arrived on British soil I realised the amazingly different working conditions and availability of well paid interesting jobs for techies.
Within 3 weeks I had 3 good offers on the table; two from financial companies in the city of London and one from a high tech company just outside Cambridge. London is a fascinating place and who knows what would have happened if I accepted one of those jobs. Reality was, and still is, I like small cities, where you have the comfort of civilisation while maintaining a human size. Also the Cambridge based company needed a developer who was familiar with industrial manufacturing environment and could speak fluent Italian; difficult to think somebody could write such a job spec that was reflecting so accurately my experience and background. I moved to Cambridge on 14 March and started working for them on the 15th.
Twenty years is a life time and some time I ask myself what happen to all that time. Then I look back and see that quite a lot of things have changed, and not just the colour, thickness and length of my hair:
- I have a great family.
- I fundamentally changed career 4 times, from systems developer to marketer to business coach to entrepreneur; I still like to get involved in projects that use most of my skills; I have a varied and interesting business life and feel well integrated in the local business community.
- I started and have been running one of the most successful martial arts clubs for the last 15 years, receiving in the process various awards and national recognitions.
Many people are often asking why an Italian would like to live in the UK? They usually mention food and weather as the main reasons for living in Italy. My answers are usually:
- I am probably not a usual Italian, otherwise I would still be there. I was fed up of complaining about too many things I could not change and have to accept so it was easier to move somewhere else and see how it was.
- I am not from Sicily or a beautiful sea side town. My native town, Piacenza which is located between Milan and Parma, has a pretty unfriendly weather; in winter it is colder, much colder than in East Anglia. In summer the heat can easily hit 35+ degrees Celsius and very humid for 2 months or more and, frankly, while I can stand it while on holiday, it is no good weather to work.
- Food in Italy is still, on average, much better than here; that’s a fact that plays against my decision. Good news is that food quality and general availability of the “right” ingredients has greatly improved over the last 2 decades so it’s now easier to cook decent dishes without compromising on taste or spending a fortune.
So I am well into the first week of my 21st year in UK and still love the feeling of being an Italian abroad, well integrated in a society and a country that always made me feel welcome and for which I have great deal of respect.