Things I Learned from Living in a European City

The first city I ever lived in was Milan. Although it was a very short stint in the beautiful Italian city, it definitely opened my eyes to city life. I tried my hardest to blend in as a cosmopolitan city dweller. It wasn't always easy but it was very fulfilling. Warning: this is a wordy story-time post!

Apartment living
This was difficult to get used to. The apartment I was renting was five flights up, and the lift was really dodgy. I didn't speak a word of Italian (thats a lie, I could say Ciao) so if I got stuck I couldn't talk to the lift emergency services, but I could say hello to them. So I just walked.
The apartment itself was really lovely and each apartment in the quarter had a balcony, which is very different to flats in a similar price range in British cities.  This was perfect for sitting out in the evening with a glass of wine drinking with the French girl who couldn't speak a word of English so just spoke at me in French.

Undergrounds and language barriers
On my first day in Milan I was advised by my employer to buy a Metro pass for the underground. Tired from the 3am flight but full of anticipation I made my way to the station. My positivitity was soon crushed when I discovered that nobody spoke English. In my arrogance I had just assumed they'd know the basics. As I was speaking in my best RP accent, trying to make progress I soon realised the language barrier was made of stone.  The kind-looking station worker was just replying back to everything in Italian whilst wearing a look of confusion on her face. I was flustered, hungry and tired so just burst into tears right there in the middle of my "conversation" with the station worker. A baguette and fizzy drink calmed my frustration and it turned out that all she were telling me to do is get some photos taken in the photo booth to put on my railcard. Not only did the photo on the pass showcase my post-breakdown puffy eyes and red face, when I returned to England I left the photos in my room and mum used them for all of my ID cards. Three years later and my driving licence is an unpleasant reminder of how stressful it was to get a railcard in an Italian city. Lesson learned, learn the language before you go to the country (I know, it seems obvious now).

Language barriers aside, the railcard was less than a quarter of the price of an Oyster Card on the London Underground. To my pleasant surprise, the Metro's were relatively quiet throughout the day, really frequent and didn't have me clutching to my hand sanitiser on each journey. The Metro was the perfect way to navigate around the city. Plus, people were so talkative and I met many people who were in the same industry as me travelling on the Metro. (Yes, they spoke English! I found that many people in Milan had moved from other countries for work too.) 

Long working hours (ha) 
Siesta, say what?! I had thought this was an archaic tradition that had died out. Wandering around midday looking for some food soon proved me wrong because all restaurants shut midday. Although my work didn't involve a siesta many people's did and there wasn't enough demand around two o'clock to make it worth the restaurants and cafes to stay open. In the tourist parts of the city around the Duomo siesta's didn't exist but in the more homely areas everyone was just chilling out. Who do I call to get in contact with our government about introducing siestas into England? I could do with a midday nap in my post-uni British city life.
Taking it easy was just ingrained in the Milanese culture and I enjoyed the relaxed aura of the city. Work still got done, but people weren't stressing out and running around the city clutching their briefcases for dear life. (London, I love you but chill out a bit!)

Amazing street art 
Everywhere you turn there's a political statement but it becomes so beautiful when its in the form of street art. Gone are the days of messy graffiti littering the rough backstreets. These are the days where graffiti is realistic, relatable and colours the city.

Late opening hours 
Forget about worrying that the shops are going to shut at five - they're all open late so despite the long working hours there is plenty of time to shop after work. Finding the energy isn't difficult when everything is within your reach at any time of day.

So, thats my experience of living and working in a European city. I'd love to hear about your stories about city life, link me to your blogposts or put an anecdote in the comments below.

Related Articles


  1. I love the siesta idea haha, such a great post.. really unusual! I am in love with your blog too, your hard work really pays off.. well done pretty gal! x