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Is Life in Italy So bad?

At the end of the day, despite bickering politicians and dodgy organisation, life in Italy is not that bad, or wasn’t once – see the updates at the bottom of this post and remember that this piece was written in 2009.

Certainly up here in Milan things work.  Life in Italy is a bit bumpy at times and things could be better organised, but if you get ill, you get treated – for free.  Children do get an education, almost for free, and the streets of Italy, with one or two exceptions, are not exactly violent – just ask one or two Americans for some examples of really rough streets.

Years of creative accounting have left many Italians with decent stashes in the bank, and even today Italians seem to be able to buy houses with quite short term mortgages, if they bother with a mortgage at all.  Said houses will be filled with spanking new furniture, but only after many thousands of Euros have been spent on giving the new pad a ground-up make-over. Quite the opposite from the UK, for example -where 100% mortgages have been on the scene for many years.  And many people do their houses up bits at a time – not in one go, as in Italy.

There is more to demonstrate that life in Italy is not a huge torture.

Italians are Wealthy

Beautiful Italy
Beautiful Italy

Many Italians have the cash to enable them to take around a month off in August.  Most have modern cars, and can afford the exorbitant car insurance.  Then there are the scooters, Ducatis and boats.  Mobile phones are everywhere, people wear decent clothes, go out, and eat and drink well. Italians decorate themselves with tattoos, have nice haircuts, enhance themselves with cosmetic surgery, and can afford sky-high dentists bills too. Many can afford Sky pay TV.  Italians in the nations bigger cities have nannies for their kids and carers for their elderly parents.

To put the icing on the cake, the nation has a climate which really does keep life in Italy bearable.

Years ago when I arrived in Italy I was extremely surprised at the wealth here. I believed the UK was a rich country, until I came to Italy, that is.  Now the UK is just about on a par with Italy – but much of the wealth is supported by credit, whereas Italians have an aversion to credit. You still cannot get UK or US style ‘pay in dribs and drabs’ credit cards that easily here.  In the UK, the things grow on trees.

The ease with which credit can be had indicates low disposable income levels, or, in other words, poverty.  You have to jump through hoops to get credit in Italy.

Laura’s Kiss of Death

Laura Kiss, who recently wrote a provocatively entitled ‘Freedom of the Press!‘ article on the Huffington Post, paints a bleak picture of the Living Museum.  Kiss, when not posting to Huffington, also writes for the Italian newspaper which Berlusconi’s loves to hate – La Repubblica.

I don’t agree with all of her observations, and think some are inaccurate:

“…nothing works in the country…”

Not true. Many things do work, but many of these things do not work too well, or somewhat intermittently.  I think saying that ‘nothing works’ is a little on the extreme side.

And then there was this claim:

“…the quality of living is worst and much more expensive than in any other western country.”

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Stop reading, start speaking

Stop translating in your head and start speaking Italian for real with the only audio course that prompt you to speak.

The quality of life in Italy is not worse than in any other western country, and, with the exception of some Italian cities, Italy is not ‘much‘ more expensive than any other western country – have a look here: International Cost of Living Comparison – Global Trends in 2009.

Yes, Italy does have its problems, but things have not yet become so bad as to have Italians marching en masse to Rome in protest and surrounding the Italian houses of parliament demanding change.  Revolution does not seem to be in the air.  Why?  Because many, many, Italians are all right Jack – and Berlusconi knows this, as does an Italian friend of mine, who also made the same point.

Kiss also states:

“Most of the Italians are also very immature and childish and still wait for Santa Klaus to come and bring the gift of freedom.”

No, not true. Many Italians already think they are pretty free.  Oh Italians love to complain about Italy, but very few are prepared to turn all the words into actions – why?  Because their lives are not bad.

At the moment Berlusconi is having a go at riling the European Parliament.  He may be aiming to detach Italy from the European community so he can exert his will on Italy and be unhindered by meddling Eurocrats.  But even this will not provoke Italians to take to the streets in protest.  Why?

Because life in Italy is not that bad.

One last point: Tax evasion may not be such a bad thing in nations, like Italy, where governments don’t do a wonderful job. It means people have money to spend in difficult times (often caused by political mismanagement), and consumer spending, at the end of the day, is what keeps economies ticking over.

UPDATE: October 2013 – Unfortunately, since this article was written, Italy has been heading downhill fast. Life in Italy today, late 2013, is much more uncertain than it once was, and even some expats are now leaving owing to the difficult work situation. The once dolce vita – sweet life – is turning bitter, alas.

UPDATE: February 2015 – The situation in Italy has not improved much at all since October 2013. Around 85,000 businesses and one million jobs have been ‘killed’ by the economic crisis and Italy’s leaders have yet to do much to attempt to turn Italy’s economy around.

Young educated Italians have worked out that there’s not much to keep them in Italy aside from poorly paid jobs with very little future and so they are leaving Italy in droves. Life in Italy for these people has definitely taken a turn for the worse.

One aspect of life in Italy does remain the same though: Italians have not yet taken to the streets to protest against how badly their nation is being run – quite probably because few understand just how poorly run most aspects of Italy are. Only the nation’s health system works though it may not work for much longer.

Another mini-update on life in Italy will be added in the future.

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