Black woman on in black outfit and blue multicolored long shirt on moped in front of yellow door and brick wall.

The Black Expat Files: Olivia Merchant

Name: Olivia Merchant

Occupation: Executive Consulting and Organizing

Passport Country: USA

Current Country: Florence, Italy

How long have you lived in your present country?: 3 years

Where else have you lived abroad?: Haarlem, Netherlands

How many years have you lived abroad total?: Nearly 4 years

Where can we find you? On IG @oliviassliceoflife OR Oliviaseyeworldwide.com

Two brown boys tanding in front of bridge in Italy eating ice cream

 

I moved to my current country because: As a single Mother raising twin boys on one income I knew that it would be advantageous for me both practically and financially to uphold my values and vision for family. I desired to live a place where I didn’t have to worry about food quality or crime. And last but not least, I wanted to be someplace beautiful that had a variety of cultures in 1-3 hours via travel by train or plane.

The three things you need to make it here is: Patience. Native friends to call upon when you need to negotiate or understand the bureaucracy. A sense of style and taste in clothing.

The best thing about living in my host country has been:
Being surrounded by so much appreciation for craft and beauty, and being able to hop on my bicycle and be almost anywhere in town in under 15 minutes. Oh, and the absolutely amazing food!!

 

My favorite experience living here has been…Going to the market each week to shop for produce. Allowing my 11-year old sons to leave the house by themselves and go to the store or park without any real concern. Day trips to Paris after school drop-off.

 

 

If you’re considering living here, you need to leave this at home : Self-doubt and the idea that living in Italy (or any foreign country for that matter) will solve all your problems. When the honeymoon phase ends, you’ll likely find that who you are in your native country is going to be who you are in your new one. Definitely leave American politics and social norms at home – comparison will either greatly dampen or kill completely the possibility of joy.

Brown mom hugging her young son while standing on street corner in Italy

The biggest lesson I learned as an expat is...
If it was easy, more people would do it (move abroad). Community is everything and establishing oneself as a local takes a great deal of time and effort; how people receive you will be different than when you're a visitor (even a repeated one). Having "burned the boats" helps to stay the course during difficult periods and it's not a failure if it stops working and you need to move back. Last but not least, knowing the language is pivotal in your being able to minimize and weather the challenges. Having moved to 2 different countries with young boys (as a single Mom) there's so much more in terms of parenting!

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