I often get this question from my friends and family about what it’s like to live in Milan. I suppose it’s a natural conversation topic since, living abroad in Milan is not the first place that comes to mind when people want to move abroad. So, what is it like to live in Milan?I think what they really mean by that question is what’s the difference between living in Milan compare to any other cosmopolitan cities in the world? Base on my experience, I feel Milan offers a lot for a foreigner coming in as a student. Before moving, I was accepted at other schools in London and Sweden. I chose Milan base on budget, weather, location and the school program.
The advantage of living in Milan:
Location: Milan is located very close to other countries such as Switzerland, France, Germany, Austria, Croatia and Greece. They’re all interconnected with each other, therefore, traveling to another country in a matter of 2-4 hours is very easy to do. Also, there are plenty of towns nearby where you can explore on a whim or as a one day visit. One of my favorite town is Lake Como, Italy. It’s a charming place with beautiful scenery which, I highly suggest visiting. https://astintabroad.wordpress.com/tag/lake-como/
Weather: During my stint abroad in Milan, many tell me that I was lucky with the weather because the year before it rained a lot and it was very cold. I whole heartedly agree because I remembered sweating in the middle of October which was a rare case. The weather in Milan is bearable.
Budget: Food, drinks and basic necessities (i.e. toiletries) are affordable. You can pretty much live in Milan if you’re on a budget. I know I took advantage of aperitivo nights where you can get drinks and food (buffet style) for 10 euros. It doesn’t get any better than that.
Brands/Stores: Big chain stores like Sephora, Zara, etc. you can find it in Milan. The only ones you won’t find here are very specific products like this face wash for Embryolisse that I bought in Paris. They carried the brand but, not that particular product. Also, my compact powder I bought at Sephora in U.S. they didn’t have it available anywhere in Italy. Besides that, you can pretty much find the big name brands here as you would in a big city.
Luxury: Fashion luxury is the heart of Milan. There’s no where else to buy or learn about the luxury market than here in Milan. It’s what they’re known for and they intend to keep it that way.
Things to do: There are plenty of places to see or do in Milan. They have a ton of galleries, museums, events and exhibitions to attend. Some of the frescos that dates back to 14th, 15th or 16th century is found here like Leonardi Di Vinci’s “The Last Supper”. Also, every year there are 2 main events that I highly recommend attending which is, Fashion and Design week. The city comes alive during this time and it’s a great time to see the Milanese in their element.
International Community: Despite the language barrier, I’ve never felt out of place in Milan. Maybe it’s because I went to an International school but, there’s a handful of people who are from all over the world living in this city. Milan, as I mentioned, is situated close to the northern part of Europe that they get tourists and people coming in to Milan for business or pleasure. Most people here speak more than one language and some up to five. It’s one of the most diverse cities I’ve lived in.
The disadvantage of living in Milan:
Bureaucracy: It’s pretty bad. Anyone who plans to live in Italy brace yourself. One must learn the language. It can help you obviously to communicate and understand the locals but, also to get through the nitty gritty details about processing documents, visas, etc. I never learned Italian fluently but, I did get by speaking Spanish. Still, whether you know the language or not expect a lot of back and forth, never ending printed paper requests and receiving unclear answers. Their system lives on a “maybe” responses. It’s a hard truth but, it’s true and many of my Italian friends agree with me on this.
Milanese Community: Have you seen Gossip girls where the show is base on elite members of New York City? It’s like that in Milan. There’s a community in Milan where you’re only accepted a certain way base on looks, status and whether they like you or not. As a foreigner, you probably won’t see this at first or at all but, when you spend time with people who are born in Milan or lived in Milan for years you will start to see that life here is similar to the Gossip Girls show.
Service/Machines/Technology: The system in Italy generally isn’t as up to par compare to U.S.While in U.S. I can pay my phone bill altogether as part of the service. In Italy, I had to pay for my internet separate from my text messaging. Oddly, they have an app but, it works solely as an informational system and/or adding text messaging minutes.
Also, finding options for anything in Milan is limited. In example, when you’re out partying late at night you only have 2 transportation options to get home. A late night bus or a taxi. The bus runs on certain routes and if your stop is not in one of those routes then you have no choice but to take the taxi. Taxi in Milan is ridiculously expensive.
Then, there’s the erratic store schedules that I could never understand. Sundays, Mondays and hours between 2-6pm you’ll find a lot of stores, museums, galleries, exhibitions and pretty much everything closed. Ok, on Sundays an Italian friend explained that the reason the stores are closed is it’s due to the fact that people want to be home with their family and friends or there’s the Sunday mass. Fine. But, what about Mondays?
I will get a lot of flak for this one but, why is a dryer almost non-existent in Italy? One of my Italian co-workers explained to me that it’s due to the fact that there’s a lot of sun in the southern part of Italy and it’s not needed. I said we do too in Los Angeles. Then, she re-explained by saying that the homes in Italy are too small to accommodate any space for a dryer machine. Hmmm. Ok.
Putting aside the advantage and the disadvantages of living in Milan; I still would not trade my one year of living abroad experience for anything. It shaped my character in many ways whether the experience was good or bad. I think in the end, Milan was a good choice for me because it allowed me to fulfil my goals of what I wanted out of this experience. I came out a stronger individual with an open mind and ultimately, grateful for my life.