Working in Spain or Italy: Legally vs Illegally

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If you’ve decided to teach English and live la vita bella or la vida loca in Spain or Italy, you have to be ready for the onslaught of paperwork that will head your way (especially if you’re North American).
If you are planning on staying in either of these countries for more than three months, and you are not a European citizen, you must apply for a work or student visa in your country of origin.

Before I renewed my European passport, I was forced to go through this process which involved buying private health insurance, and printing out my bank statements in order to prove I had enough money to survive in case all hell broke loose.

The people you will deal with at the embassy or consulate in your country of origin will definitely be very mean to you. I’m pretty sure when they hire people, they ask them to sell their souls. I don’t know what it is about consulate workers, but they aren’t happy balls of sunshine.

-TIP: Photocopy- Make several copies of documentation. If the office misplaces something, you can immediately fax or send whatever may be missing ASAP.

When you receive your visa and head to your destination, you must go to the police station in order to receive a card either called permesso di soggiorno, or certificado de registro (see picture above).

-TIP: If you don’t speak the language, bring someone with you who does. The police officers probably don’t speak English, and the receptionists aren’t much better, so if you have someone next to you who can fully explain what’s going on, you’ll save yourself a headache.

Working illegally: Many Americans and Canadians choose to travel and stay in Spain or Italy without a visa. After the three months are up, they continue working and living at their destination. This is 100% possible and fairly easy to do. You arrive, you stay, and no one checks. It may save you the initial headache by avoiding paperwork and visa costs, but you run into several problems:

– You don’t have a real work contract. You have no rights as an employee, because you aren’t “really there”. They can “forget” to pay you, and you can’t do anything about it. Moreover, you don’t have access to free healthcare, which is automatic if the contract is real, and you pay taxes.

-You can’t travel. Sure, weekend trips to neighbouring countries might not be a problem, but if you go to the U.K, or have an officer look through your passport during a domestic flight, you’re screwed. (I forgot my residence card at home, and had a lot of explaining to do at the London airport customs office)

-Deportation. In the unlikely event you get caught at an airport without a visa and an expired passport stamp (you have an entrance stamp over three months old), you can get a huge fine, face deportation, and be prohibited from entering the E.U for “x” amount of years.

I’ve met people who work both illegally and legally in Spain or Italy. In the end, I highly recommend you follow legal procedures and do things the right way. A bit of stress at the beginning will save you a lot of worry in the long run. If you have any questions about travel/preparation, don’t hesitate to contact me!

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Disillusioned 90s Kid

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         I’m turning 25 next March. When I was 16 years old, I imagined myself very differently at 25. I narrated my lavish lifestyle using my naive imagination. I was supposed to have a nice house, a ton of money, and an engagement ring. I have neither of these checked off on my list. I don’t know if I have myself to blame or if society is working against me. Most of my 20 something friends are in a similar situation and we feel robbed of what we were promised when we were kids.

         Living in southern Europe has further confirmed the fears for my generation. At this point, I don’t know who is worse off, the Italians or the Spanish? Unemployment rates are skyrocketing among young people, and we are blaming ourselves. We are highly educated. Most of us have a bachelors degree, if not a masters. When the universities came to recruit at my high school in Ontario, Canada, they all had a really nice powerpoint presentation prepared for us. Photos of smiling, multicultural campuses, students reading under the trees – it was a form of sugary propaganda. We were the fresh meat, ready for student debt slaughter. My education cost me nearly $30,000 for 4 years, and I lived at home. Two years after graduation, I’m making around €1,200 which is the equivalent of around $1,800 CAD. After paying my rent and other living expenses, it’s hard to make a dent on my student loan payments.

       Staying in Canada wouldn’t have provided me with a world of opportunities either. I would have had to move to a bigger city, rent an expensive bachelor pad, and probably work as a bartender or waitress. I prefer teaching English as a second language overseas. My former classmates opted to enter the public education system, forcing them to move halfway across the country where rent is three times higher than Ontario, and it’s really damn cold. I don’t want to come across as a brat who isn’t willing to make life changes in order to find career options. What I’m pissed off about is that our post-secondary institutions are nothing but a money making scam.

      The university brain-washing must stop. I was sold an idea that was completely untrue. My teachers and professors promoted the overpriced North American university system as if it were a godsend, when after all, I could have avoided the student loan hell and got an E.S.L teaching certificate that costs around $1,000. It would have provided me with the same amount of opportunities, especially abroad.

      Education is supposed to be the key to freedom, but it has been nothing but a heavy chain preventing me from achieving any sense of financial independence. The average cost of tuition at a reasonably sized Spanish university is around €1,000/year, while Canadian universities start at around $3,500-4000 annually, excluding textbooks. If I’m going to be unemployed or earning minimum wage, I’d like to be debt free at least, but it seems that ship has already sailed.

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Tip 1: Save for A Dream Vacation

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Maybe you’ve stumbled across a beautiful destination in a magazine, or read one of those “Places You Must Visit Before You Die” lists, and thought, “Wow! I have to go there!”
But the same old always happens. You get caught up in paying the bills, student loans, or whatever, and your ideas get tossed on the back burner.
It’s hard to save for a romantic escape to Venice or a bike tour in Amsterdam, but it’s very do-able.
My advice? Visual stimulation. Many people will tell you to open up a travel savings account. That didn’t work for me. When I was running low on cash, I took it out of my savings fund. However, last year (and this month) I’ve made a travel box. Since it’s both my boyfriend and I who are planning on travelling together, we are going to add the same amount of money to the box each month. If someone does something unproductive (ie. starting a fight about which movie to watch) we add 2 euros to the box.
What makes the difference for me are the pictures. Last year, I had a visual board of Spanish beaches that were on my desk next to my bed. I would see these every morning and was reminded that it was something I really wanted to do.
This year, the pictures of my s.o and I will do the trick. It’s much more personal than a savings account and a daily reminder. We decided to put around 50€/person a month in the box. That’s 1000€ by next summer. It will give us more than enough for a trip to Santorini, Greece. Even if you’re traveling alone and put less in your own box, you will still have a substantial amount by the time you reach the intended travel dates.
For those of you that think saving a little cash is impossible, it’s really not. Cook dinner at home once in a while instead of going out. Have 1 beer rather than 2 or 3. Make a coffee at home rather than spending money at a Starbucks or cafe. Don’t buy another pair of shoes. After all, a dream vacation is worth suppressing temporary temptations.

 

Photographs and Flags

Prompt: 500 years from now, an archaeologist accidentally stumbles on the ruins of your home, long buried underground.

This is my bedroom as of Monday morning. If someone were to find its remains in 500 years, they would come to the same conclusion as anyone else looking at these photos in 2014.

– She traveled very far to reach her destination (as evidenced by the nostalgic ambience of a massive Canadian flag).
– She has no valuable possessions.
– She loved to move around (39 postcards and counting).
– She was in love, and surrounded herself with people who made her a better person.
– This was a temporary living space, because “home” was a series of different cities around the world.
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5 Things That Happen When You Date Someone From Another Country

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So you’ve met the love of your life! Or maybe, the love of the moment? Regardless of the situation, if they are from a different country or a background completely diverse from your own, you’re setting yourself up for a series of events that can be insanely enjoyable and full of unrestrained suffering at the exact same time!

1. I have no idea what she just said.
So it’s time to meet the parents of your significant other. The problem is, you don’t share a common language, not yet anyway. There are going to be a lot of smiles, and even more nodding. You are going to feel like a toddler at the dinner table because questions will not be asked to you, but about you.

You won’t be able to form an instant relationship with his or her loved ones. There will be a moment where you feel a bit inadequate in comparison to their ex – because you can’t even say “hey, thanks for this great food!” without a ridiculous thumbs-up gesture. When you’re out with their friends, the conversation gets even more complicated, so you just sit there, smiling. Everyone thinks you’re a psychopath because that’s all you do. You become extra grateful for the one friend that speaks English. Eventually, it gets better, believe me.

2. Jetlag is my middle name
Travel is automatically included when you’re dating someone from a different country. If the two of you aren’t living in the same country, and doing the long distance thing – you better like spending what is leftover of your paycheck on planes, buses, or trains. If you eventually find yourself in the same place as your significant other, there will always be family visits from one homeland to another. If you like traveling, this will be a pleasant surprise. (I think you almost HAVE to love traveling in order for this kind of relationship to work).

3. Pass the pasta, please.
If you love eating as much as I do, you’ll be thankful for the world of new cuisine presented before your eyes.There’s no better way to get to know people than to see how they eat. Meal times are often reflections of a specific culture, and eating with loved ones may be the most important part of the day. What people eat, how, and what time, say a lot about the specific country at hand. Unfortunately, I’m Canadian, so I can’t offer much in exchange to my Italian counterpart (other than poutine, but I’ll pretend that doesn’t exist).

4. Are you yelling at me with your hands?
When it comes to arguments, people fight differently. You might mean one thing, and your significant other hears something else. Words and actions may be misunderstood due to cultural norms. Not many Canadians can express “you’re acting like an idiot and I can’t believe you would say that to me, are you crazy?!?!” with 3 hand gestures. I find this part more interesting than infuriating. Regularly, I come across a response to a situation that would be considered weird, offensive, or surprising in Canada, yet here, its completely normal. It’s fun to discover the ins and outs of a relationship based on the cultural differences that each person brings to the table.

5. The Future
Eventually, this topic will come up. It’s the elephant in the room. If you and your s.o are from different countries or continents, one of you will have to make the move in order for it to continue. This is probably the most difficult part of any long distance relationship, let alone, a relationship where you’ve got a body of water called the Atlantic Ocean between the two of you. Whether it’s job security or personal preference, making the decision change your home for another person is a big deal, and can bring both positive and negative issues into the relationship. I’m a believer in the concept of always being able to find a way, as long as both individuals are on the same boat.

I would love to hear about other experiences similar to mine, please comment or message me and tell me your story!

European Discrimination

I’m Canadian and Eastern European. I was born in Canada a few years after my parents immigrated from Poland. It was 1986, and Poland was in political, social, and economic turmoil. There was an exodus of people with dreams and ideas that couldn’t flourish inside of the Iron Curtain.
My parents were on their way to spend their honeymoon in Croatia, but they didn’t get off at their stop. They stayed on the bus. Next came Slovenia – they kept going. They got off the bus in Trieste, Italy because it opened the door to Rome, Italy. The Eternal City served as a temporary base for Polish people looking to escape in the 80s. It was the halfway line between prospective immigrants and their countries of choice, mainly Australia, Canada, and the United States.
That long prologue to this article was necessary in order to understand my frustration. As a Canadian with a European passport, I often travel on the latter in order to avoid long lines or visa questions. When asked for I.D, I often present my Polish one because it doesn’t make a difference to me.
I’ve noticed a look. A special look of discrimination within Western European countries reserved especially for those from the East. The Russian Dictatorship a.k.a “Communism” that swept across countries like Ukraine, Romania, the Czech Republic, and so on, stunted their growth. Intellectuals were murdered and resources were exploited. If the communist years were erased, perhaps these countries would have grown to aide the big fish of the European Union.
But they didn’t. Instead, tons of Eastern Europeans immigrated to Western Europe and became a product of their environment – many falling into drugs and prostitution, among other things.
Not everyone is a bad apple however. There were hundreds of thousands of other hard working Eastern Europeans who immigrated not to cause trouble, but to start a new life. I’m tired of the look people give me when they see my ID. No, I’m not a prostitute, alcoholic, or a maid. I’m not a mail order bride.
I was walking down the street once with a German friend, who knew about my Canadian origins only, when we came across a man digging in garbage cans.
“He’s probably Romanian, or Polish or something.” stated my new friend.
When another friend met a girl at his university, his friends wouldn’t let him hear the end of it because she was Ukrainian and probably after his money.
In a supposed “united” Europe, I see nothing but social and cultural division. Neither Spain or Italy can call themselves multicultural nations, despite the increasing percentage of immigrants coming in from Arab, African, and other European countries. Thousands of displaced immigrants fleeing war torn nations are marginalized and mistreated by their nations of refuge, and I see 1986 all over again.
When football (soccer) player Mario Balotelli made his debut for Italy, many fans made their feelings clear. Balotelli, a black Italian raised in Italy, has been greeted several times by fans throwing bananas at him on the field.
If it’s wrong to make assumptions based on origin or race in North America, why are Europeans, (mainly from Southern Europe) so far behind?
I consider myself Canadian, but there’s a part of my past that’s impossible to ignore, and easy to offend, especially when it comes to comments made from total ignorance.
I shouldn’t be treated differently based on which I.D card I present, and lastly, I’m sick of the all-knowing “look” that comes afterward.

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