An Italian Expat: One of a million

Apparently 100,000 people leave Italy every year in search for hope. A job, studies and most importantly meritocracy: a society where their work and effort is recognised and a place where the more you work the more likely it is you’ll get to the top. Not somewhere your name counts more than your capabilities.

I perfectly know this sounds incredibly cynical and that “it is not as bad as it sounds”, but there must be a reason why we are one of the country with the biggest number of expatriates in the world.
Especially when our country has, objectively, so much to offer that it is rationally not easy to understand why people would leave it. The perfect weather, the delicious food and the friendly people to name a few.
Why would someone decide to go live in rainy England, where the closest thing you get to Pizza is something quite more disgusting that what you’re used to (and double the price) and a cup of coffee is long and watery?

One of the biggest Italian contemporary writers, Roberto Saviano, published a video recently about this. He believes that Italians move abroad in search for happiness. And, personally, I find myself almost fully agreeing with him.
He says how many italian boys and girls close their eyes and when they think of their future they imagine it leaving the country in order for their talent and hard work to be fully recognised. The fact that in 2013 there has been a 73% growth of Italians moving abroad (mostly to London) should make us stop for a second and think why this is happening.


I moved away from home when I was just 18. I left all the comforts of life with my parents behind to go live in 12 square meters in London. My life had turned around in a matter of days. I found myself completely alone in a city of over 8 million people but I knew I was on the right track. I have learnt a lot in the first months, from the basic home duties to living life independently. I found my first part-time job just two weeks after moving out (was hired by a British food company called EAT.) and started working on essay after essay for my University course. In the meanwhile I made loads of new friends and went out clubbing every other night.

Now over two years have passed and am living for the third year abroad. Not in England this time, but in Holland. Things are quite different over here, especially since I am living in a city of just under 300,000 people and life is everything but chaotic.
And there is one thing I have noticed about this place: the lack of Italians. In London I was always “one of the many” who moved there. When I worked for Starbucks back in Old Street (Central-East London) I realised the amount of Italian people who lived and worked in the City, from students to lawyers. But here in The Netherlands I hardly ever find myself speaking my native language. In just one month I will be moving to northern Denmark and am very curious to see how many Italians I will find there.

Once in London a bartender from Milan told me: “Italians are like pigeons, they are everywhere”. Probably the funniest way to say something very true, especially when living in the UK.

Back in October, when I visited the Dutch Design Week exhibition in Eindhoven (southern Netherlands), I liked the work of a young Italian artist and designer who came up with an “Italy of the future”. She created posters where under “Italy is”, there would be written a series of extremely positive scenarios: “a dynamic country for young people” or “the country where your dreams come true” to name a few.
The artist also came up with a fake news programme of 2023, where Italy is portrayed as the hub for the European youth, a country with extremely low youth unemployment (currently above 40%!) and a place where immigrants from North Africa are not seen as a burden but as people who are trying to build themselves a better life.

Why is a North African travelling to Italy “stealing jobs”, whilst an Italian moving to London is “building himself a new future”?

In Italy we are always talking about “escaping brains”, people leaving the country as soon as they finish high school or (mostly) their bachelor degree. But Italian politicians should work hard on changing this situation, and making sure that Italy is a country which starts giving opportunities to young generations and mostly to who deserves it the most.


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