4 Things to Expect as a Solo Female Expat
If you're a single woman and you're planning a move abroad, let me just pause for a moment and tell you that you are amazing and brave.
Everyone kept telling me I was brave before my move to Italy, and I would just roll my eyes. For me, living in Italy was a dream and I had no choice but to follow it, no matter what was in store for me.
Now I can appreciate how truly brave it is to completely untether from a life and start over in a different culture.
Here are some of the expectations you should have if you're flying solo.
1. People Won't Get It
Especially if you move to a country where a) people don't move from the town they've grown up in and b) women are conservative, happy to play Suzy Homemaker to a man, there's gonna be some head-scratching in your direction.
When I tell people I'm American and I live in Calabria, their first question is, "Oh, are you married to a Calabrian?"
(I like to joke: "not yet!")
It was a bit of a shock to see how common this attitude was that a woman must be attached to a man to do something so gigantic. I realize as an American, I'm much more accustomed to living freely and independently.
So fair warning: this will likely come up. You'll say, "I'm single" a million different times in your new language.
2. People Will Want to Help You
This is actually a great perk, but I'll admit, it took a while before I was able to feel vulnerable and ask for help. Again: American = independent.
I have a lovely neighbor, Ada, who is 76 and doesn't speak a lick of English. She has been prattling 90 to nothing at me since Day 1, even though she knows I only catch about 40% of what she says. But she brings me fresh eggs and homecooked meals. She gives me a remedy for headaches and ants. She knows I'm alone and always tells me if I need something, just ask.
3. You'll Be the Center of Attention
Again, this could be a good thing, depending on your personality. I actually like the attention because it helps me meet people and feel like a part of the community.
But be ready for the questions:
Are you single?
What do you do for work?
Why are you here?
Are you on vacation?
I want to make a shirt or hand out flyers that have all the answers so I don't have to give them 5,000 times at one event!
Oh, and once you tell people where you're from, they will find even the tiniest thread of connection to your country. I tell people I'm from California and they want to tell me about their third cousin once removed in Chicago. Because, you know, I might know Federico!
4. You'll Find Your People
Italy, especially Calabria, doesn't seem to have many single people on the surface, but I have managed to attract some pretty great single women, both Italians and expats.
I find that I attract the kind of friends that I need, and it's been wonderful to have women to do things with who aren't more concerned about feeding their man lunch or taking care of the kids (not that there's anything wrong with that...it just makes it hard to hang out!).
And who knows? Maybe you'll find love as a solo expat in a new country! Even if you're not interested in a relationship, being solo as an expat definitely helps you see the world in a unique light.