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by Adrianne George

“I fell in love with the country”

Although Natasha was born in Toronto, Canada, one of the most cosmopolitan cities in the world, she has chosen a life outside of North America. She has lived one year in Italy and now calls Germany home. Her first trip abroad was a Contiki tour of Italy. “I fell in love with the country when I arrived and it has changed my outlook of the world ever since”, she says. So changed was her outlook that as soon as her tour of Italy was finished she started looking into Visa Programs that Canada had with different European countries as the first step to living abroad.

Natasha applied for a working holiday visa and was chosen as one of only 400 applicants. “I have not looked back since”, she beams. But living in Europe has opened her eyes to the condition of some African women in Europe. “I have seen black women prostituting themselves on the street in large masses and where I’m from you just don’t see this. I also learned and realized how lucky I’m to have the quality of education that I have while others would not be provided this opportunity”, she laments.

 

A little help goes a long way

But Natasha admits that she has found herself in precarious situations while transitioning and “many NGO immigrant agencies have assisted me when I needed it the most from translating to just knowing legal matters”, she says. And a lack of language skills can be a huge detriment. “I’ve been in situations where not knowing the language prevented me from being provided ANY service; knowing the language is critical in the event of an emergency”, she recounts.

One advantage of fighting through the challenges of living in a new country is the opportunity to learn new tastes. “In Italy I’ve learned to be more open and friendlier with people that you don’t know; while in Germany I learned to develop a sense of evaluating people more whom should I call as a friend”, she reports.

Going to aperitivo after work made it easy to make friends in Italy, but Natasha finds it harder to make friends in Germany. “The Black Women in Europe social network has been my one good source to meeting other sisters abroad”, she says. “I have connected with the expat community in Germany and we have all shared some of the same situations and stories”.

Natasha’s top sites to see in Italy are Florence, the Trevi fountain and the Isle of Capri

Speaking English helps.

Natasha has taken advantage of the plethora of teaching opportunities afforded to native English speakers. She has also found work in graphic design and marketing and communications. But the high cost of living and lower salaries are a reality and so is depending on Skype as a communication lifeline.

The high cost of living also effects the housing situation in Germany. “It came to my surprise that at least 15 other people would be sharing the kitchen and bathroom” in an apartment building. Germans move very seldom and one reason may be the 45% deposit required to buy property.

 

Where is home?

When Natasha returned to Canada after living in Italy and felt like a different person. She missed Florence a lot and realized that she had a very charmed life there. She was lucky enough to get a job offer that enabled her to return back to Italy. But she considers herself a temporary expatriate as Canada will always be her home. But regardless of where Natasha lives she has become more aware of people and culture and she embraces immigrants with a better understanding of their struggle and fears.

She finds that Black Europeans do not have a problem with adjusting to life in a new country, but “depending on where a person is coming from they are faced with discrimination because of the country they are coming from”, she explains. Blacks in Europe are often deemed as non-educated or a possible burden to society. “I was lucky to come into Europe legally and easily and with the ability to work because I was born and educated in Canada”.

and a trip to Germany, she says Berlin and a visit to Checkpoint Charlie are a must to see

 

Living & Spending in Germany:

The Euro is the currency of Germany, we have included a currency converter below for your use.

 

Monthly rent:

In Germany the monthly rent can range from 250-700 Euros if you are looking for a room or shared accommodations.

 

Cost for meals:

Meals can range from 5-10 Euros.

 

Transportation costs:

In Rome Italy a bus pass is 30 Euros for the month while in Germany a monthly pass can range from 75-120 Euros depending where you are travelling too.

 

Compared to your home country are most things cheap/same/expensive?

In Europe I find I’m paying double than what I would pay for small ordinary things like food or shopping.

 

Recommended monthly living budget:

To really live comfortable in Europe you need to make at least 3,000 Euros a month. However the reality is most Europeans don’t make this. You’re lucky if you make at least 1,500 Euros for the month.
 

 

Photo credits: Natasha’s portrait courtesy of Natasha Vassell, Italy and Germany montage images sourced from Wikimedia

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2 Responses to “Natasha Semone Vassell: Charmed by Italy & Germany”

  1. Anonymous says:

    Congrats on the article, Natasha! I’m glad to hear that you are making your way after your transition from Italy to Germany!

    As someone who’s lived in Germany for 30+ yrs., I was certainly surprised to hear there were still apartment situations where so many people are sharing bathrooms/kitchens?!?! Also, instead of 45 % deposit to *buy* property, I think you meant *to rent*. Because – yes – it is realistic in Germany to expect to put down a deposit equivalent to 1 to 3 month’s rent before signing a lease.

    I think it’s also fair to add that prices for things like rent/eating out vary greatly depending on whether you are in an urban or more rural area (just as I’m sure they do almost everywhere).

    Take care!

  2. Divagraphics says:

    thanks please be sure to read the Canadian Caribbean edition of Sway magazine in regards to this topic that I wrote http://swaymag.ca/2011/08/an-international-work-experience-heart-to-feel-taught-to-think-hands-to-labour/

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