Aviano in the corner of Friuli-Venezia Giulia, Italy was the most breathtaking place I’ve lived. I enjoyed the expat life in Italy was much too short a time. The grape vine plains are surrounded by the breathtaking Dolomites and Alps with awe inspiring views, when it’s not raining or socked in with fog and clouds. I was mere blocks from from the base of the mountains and had to pass a vineyard on the way to work. It could have been worse. =)
Each new country has it’s own idiosyncrasies (there must be a reason that word starts like idiot). Some are easy to adapt to and some aren’t. Landlords in Aviano charged tenants for painting when you sign your lease, separate from security deposit, which meant I paid four months rent when I moved in (first month’s rent + two month’s rent security deposit + one month’s rent for painting). In Germany, I had to pay first month’s rent + two month’s rent security deposit + 2 month’s rent realtor fee ( €13,500 and the exchange rate was $1.44 at the time!)
I have never minded a smaller fridge. The smaller size does mean more frequent grocery trips, but also means less waste because things can’t linger in the back of the fridge for months. I embraced the European model. And my magnet collection.
I missed having a dishwasher. I didn’t have one in Kuwait or Lebanon or Kabul either. I missed having a tub, I especially missed my soaking, jetted tub in my condo in Virginia. A corner shower just isn’t the same.
I also missed ample electrical outlets. In the US outlets come in pairs. In the Middle East and Europe they are single outlets. My bedroom had four outlets which is two more than my bedroom in Kuwait had. I’m very power hungry! Lamps on both sides of the bed, laptop, cellphone, tv, dvd player all need power. Plus any temporary stuff. Amazon to the rescue.
Shopping for food. I love foreign grocery stores. In Italy two of the markets I frequent had wine taps! Let me say that again wine taps! Generally vino is under $1.50/liter. In my nomad days I was very thrifty and with so many wines to choose it seems wrong to spend more than 5 euro a bottle. Except when my very favorite Brunello di Montalcino was on sale for approx $14.99. In the US it’s generally between $50-75 in stores and $125 in restaurants.
Italy doesn’t want their produce touched. They provide disposable recyclable plastic gloves to handle the produce. (I wonder how many countries will adopt this requirement after COVID-19. I liked the Euro way of consumers weighing and putting price stickers on the produce instead of cashiers. It saved time in line and if you snacked you pay based on the weight before snacking. I’ve gotten some looks about using my own washable produce bags, but haven’t shocked anyone yet.
Surprisingly my place had screens in the windows. No other place I’ve lived outside the US has ever had screened windows! The external shades aren’t metal like the rollandens in Germany (bummer cuz they were seriously awesome), but aren’t as hard to raise or lower either. Screens and shades? Inconceivable!
So many kinds of trash. One of the checklist items for my lease was verifying there were separate trash cans for plastic, paper, compost, glass, and general trash. On some apartments with small patios or balconies the five cans take up most/all of the space. In Germany they didn’t pick up glass at my house, so I had to bring it to a designated location and separate green, brown and clear glass!
It’s common in Europe, even in rental apartments or houses to be unfurnished and they mean only the floors and walls. I lucked out and didn’t have to buy a whole kitchen or bathrooms. The flat even had IKEA style wardrobes and a bed for one of the rooms. In Germany, I had to buy units to hang clothes or shelves. Plus all the overhead lighting.
Size matters!!!I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again (and again). The landlord told me that both wardrobe units wouldn’t fit in the room I’d designated as my bedroom. It turns out he was right and wrong. With some creative placement of the wardrobes about 6″ from the wall I stashed my empty tv boxes behind them they did fit. This allowed the door to close and not block a power outlet near the window. This freed up a ton of space in the kitchen/dining room and a hallway.
I splurged(?!?) and bought a LG combo washer/dryer. The flat had a washer, but I wanted to be able to dry my sheets. There wasn’t really a place for a dryer and there wasn’t a clothes line. I’d heard some horror stories about combo units, but had a great experience with my LG appliances in Germany and decided to give it a go. I’d never hooked up a washing machine. Delivery did not include installation apparently. I was hesitant because a mistake could cause an expensive flood. If you’re a committed DIYer, you might consider my hesitancy unnecessary but I don’t tackle plumbing or electrical work. Mistakes can be very expensive! But it wasn’t bad at all. The hardest part was removing the transportation bolts.
Once I deciphered the Italian instructions and settings I was good to go. It definitely helps to bump the spin from 900 to 1400 and even then the short cycle is only 35 min. Drying my fitted sheet takes 2.5 hours! That may seem crazy long, but a coworker says his combo unit here a complete wash and dry cycle takes 7-8 hours. While the fitted sheet is drying I toss the flat sheet over the drying rack and it’s pretty much done at the same time.
I still miss Italy. The road trips, the wine, the food, and the mountains.