Cost of Living, Italy compared to UK

09/17/2009 - 05:23

Hi, Can anyone help me here? My partner tends to think the grass is greener somewhere else.  When we were in the UK, Italy was a better place to live, now we are in Italy, he thinks the UK is better (due to costs of living vs salary income).We moved to Italy in 2005, and since then we kind of  settled here.  We have a nice house, a car each, a motorbike,  and we occassionally go out for dinner.  However, my partner is not very happy here, and is making his arguments to return to UK. He keeps comparing costs to the UK. When he lived in the UK he lived at home with his parents (they paid for everything and did everything for him). Here in Italy he has had to stand on his own two feet, ie pay the electricity bill etc, telephone bill etc...  I on the otherhand, worked in UK (with a reasonable paying job), had a house, and a car, and a daughter to look after.  I therefore remember how much had to pay every month and there wasn't very much money at the end of every month.  I know costs have gone up everywhere in the world and that this last year has hit everywhere hard economically.Wages here are low, and my partner is worried that he will not ever be able to progress from the salary he is earning.  Tax is high here and to be honest I do not see that tax payers here get alot back considering what the government takes.  But I think tax in the UK is likely to go up given the huge deficit the country now has.However he is convinced that it is cheaper to live in the UK, and that his salary was much higher (this is accurate, his salary was higher and he paid less tax). However when ever I speak to someone who lives in UK, they say that costs have gone up considerably over there i.e. council tax, train fares, weekly shop,The argument for quality of life is not included in this.  This is because we live in a very tranquil area, with stunning scenery.  The UK has many social problems that Italy does not have. Please let me know what you think and if you think its easier to make a living in the UK.


ValentineI am not surprised your partner thinks that living in the UK would give him a higher disposable income given that when he lived there before good ol' mum and dad picked up the tab for all his living costs. From personal experience, I know just keeping the fridge stocked can cost an arm and a leg with a couple of boys in the family.    Once he has factored in mortgage, council tax, the cost of travel to and from work and all the indirect taxes so beloved of labour such as the £80 they would like for your ID card, let alone all the tax rises that must be implemented to cater for the fiscal deficit, then the picture is not nearly so clear cut. A lot will depend on where you wish to live and the basic cost of housing and the commute.   There are a number of threads on this subject so I would suggest that you try a search but to me it comes down to how you live, what your expectations are and the quality of life you would like for you and your family.Good luck in coming to the right decision for you all.C        

hi, yes, i agree with sibillini.particularly high in the uk are these famous comuting costs.but then all that tends to become details if the only parameter is that of cost of living vs.salary then probably the best choice would not be the uk anyway. i agree that really one should make an overall evaluation and consider seriously quality of life factors.For example i know people who live in what are considered very pretty traditional market towns in the uk and they refer to me that it is not considered even safe to "go into town" on a saturday evening due to all the manic binge drinking youths at least we don't have to put up with that kind of thing here.I know a little your area Piacenza and environs are very pleasant,it's quite a well off area,services aren't bad,easy to get to Milano etc...personally i'd stay there rather than blighty....

 you might have more money to spend in the UK but then maybe not...we used to have to spend it to get away to Italy for a bit of civilisation and to recharge batteries...  more important to me ...and we lived in Devon.. is the security and peace of mind you find living here ...firstly it allows our son..eight when we moved seven years ago to have a freer type of life..  not because its any safer here...just the perception is that... and it also broadens his life experience... anglo/american youth culture... dominates the whole world... and yet by living on the side of that a person gains a different hopefully he will be more open to all cultures... or at least have a broader view on life and where to go when he does grow up.. you mention a child...  and i am not saying that education is any better here...most probably worse in the formal sense... but if you have moved once and they have settled in then its worth staying just for that...however if you are having discusions on this then maybe your daughter will be hoping to go back...   but i think any child as they grow here and learn...will eventually be happy that you made a choice to live here... they just appear happier here children..less stressed..  and at the same time seem to have a more adult  view on life...things do also become easier your network increase so do your abilities to earn and to spend less...italy is a very networked place to live...if that is a word.. you need to establish credentials and build circles... everything then gets cheaper and opportunities pop out at you... i would stick with it... maybe the wrong seem to be enjoying it... i would carry on living here...  because its living not surviving...

For us it's a question of quality or life vs quantity.We have probably a reasonably good quality of life and income here in the UK, I'm an IT manager and Carol has just left full-time teaching to go to supply teaching, so we've taken a financial cut there.  We both have cars, I have a motorbike (but it's a bit ill), and we have a good sized house which we extended.  However, we've just come back from our 4th visit to Italy, and each year it gets harder to leave, and it is now firmly entrenched in out hearts.  Now we're not stupid, we know that a holiday is not the same as living there, and it's a higher cost of living, the taxes are ridiculous, we've seen the cost of food and general goods, the state of the roads and so on.  But we love the way of life, the slower pace, the food, the way the community is so important, so many things.  The kids love it, we would love to make a permanent move and are serious about doing so one day.  We are seriously contemplating a holiday home to get a foot in the door, but don't know if we can afford it.The social element for us is a big one.  We have lived in our curent house for nearly 8 years.  I've had 3 cars broken into in the last 3 years, all sat on our drive at the time.  Two more than once.  My motorbike was stolen.  We've had bikes stolen from the back garden.  Bricks thrown at the house - one went through the lounge window 2 months ago.  I won't tackle even 2 youths creating a disturbance because they may be carying knives yet in Italy onver the years, and even this year, I've seen old people very vocally reprimanding large groups of teenagers -  and they appologise!!  I haven't yet seen a single drunk (maybe we don't go to the right areas) and people generally seem to be happier there.   If it were me, I'd stay and try to enjoy life and maybe look for an additional revenue stream.   Is it better than the UK?  Dunno.  Frankly.  Depends on what you want.  But I do understand how your partner feels and I have been there a few times.  In the early 90's I was unemployed for 18 months due to the collapse of engineering in this city and wondered if I would ever work again.    Is there anything he can do to break the cycle?  The internet means a global audience.   Anything at all you can do to generate a litle more income?  We're even looking at doing that here!!   Anything you can do to cut down on your general outgoings?  Grow your own fruit and veg?   Be a bit creative.  If you don't mind me asking can you tell us what he does for a living?  Someone on the forum might be able to help. It's easy to be the 'expert' when it's someone elses shoes your looking at.  I really do hope it works out for you all.My Opinion only, FWIW.

My partner is working for a local company selling spares to places all over the world.  Infact he is rather lucky as his company is recession proof! This is also his first job in an office, previously he worked as a mechanic on heavy plant machinery, or highly technical machinery.  His job is mainly in english so its not too tough.  However, he knows its hard to get promoted as he is waiting for dead man's shoes.  Pay rises, are also rare.I'm looking for work to help our situation, and to improve my italian.  I did find an opportunity teaching english, however I need to study teaching and get a TEFL! Thats ok with me but my partner is very unsupportive, so difficult to pursue.  However I've not given up, and I'm determined tomake a success of here.  Afterall I sold my house and left my daughter to live her father to come to Italy with this man!  In the meantime, Im advertising my services for cleaning, washing, babysitting, looking after the elderly, etc.... you name it I'm trying to do it to bring in extra money and improve our lifes.I did try doing a vegetable patch, but all our soil was heavy clay and I had absolutely no help from my partner.  Also watering during the summer months was a problem, unless I did 50 trips a day with buckets of water. I currently grow herbs in tubs in the rear of our house.I'm a much more social, friendly person than my partner.  So I've no trouble in making friends and meeting new people.  I do realise Italy is about networking and having worked in the finanical sector in the City I know how important it is to know as many people as possible and make sure they are good contacts.Quality of life is much better where we are.  There is no hassle with crime, hooliganism, drunks, drugs, gang warfare etc..  However the public service in Italy do leave a lot to be desired.  The UK has a much better health system and the services do generally work.  The UK is a service country, Italy isn't.  The italians know nothing about service, or consumerism. Thank you for your reply, all the things you say make sense to me.  I do not think you can keep moving country unless your extremely wealthy.  I also think its very easy to think that something else is better.  I tend to look for the good in life, as the bad has bad has no problems, rearing its ugly head!

Thats easier said than done for me.  Thinking of what is good for me, is not something I've been used to doing.  If I had thought that way all my life I know I would've done a lot better in life (material things and experiences).  But thats not the person I am.  But I do understand what you are saying and I'm trying to be a bit more like that.  I'm 42, and my daughter is now in college, living with her father (a complete cretin) in the UK.  So the world, is there for me to make the most of my abilities, and start to build again for a better future for my daughter and whatever else happens on the way.

In the UK I worked an average 60 hours a week, but all my wages went on mortgage, bills, COUNCIL TAX, and communting.  I looked at my bank account at the end of the month and wondered what I was doing all this for.  Now I work when I feel like it, I don't have a mortgage, I produce my own food and I'm still skint, but hey what are you after.  It sounds like you are well off!  I struggle to pay for my car, I whiggle my way out of various bills.  Are you sure your partner is just not happy with the way of life, the culture and all.  If it's money you're after Italy is not the right place, but quality of life...

Time for a reality check here!Most people in Italy live in crappy flats and there is lots of crime and drink related vandalism.Energy is expensive and the litter dumping is disgraceful.    (We've travelled the length and breadth of Italy over many years and seen for ourselves.)Few people even have a garden to have a Barbeque!Sitting in the street on a plastic chair is as close to "a house in the country" as many get.The health service is not a patch on ours. Witness the crooked teeth many youngsters sport  and the sick old folk shambling around. Millions suffer from the effects of a lifetime of tobacco abuseOne wonders what parents say to curious children as they drive past the black prostitutes lingering by the side of the road in this most Catholic of countries.The overall burden of taxation is  higher than in the UK AND there is a lot more tax evasion.  However, if you are lucky enough to live in a rural retreat then it may seem like  a different world!The weather makes a big big difference to ones perception of 'quality of life".   We must take off the rose tinted specs and appreciate there are many parts of the UK that are great places to live.    However the weather is a BIG factor and to us that makes a HUGE DIFFERENCE to the way we feel about a place.     We are lucky enough to have a house and land. Virtually everyone we have met in italy has been  pleasant and helpful .Locals we speak to are surprised that we wish to relocate to the area as they see it as a land lacking opportunity ,where the youngsters have to move hundreds of kilometres to get work.We appreciate the grass is always greener and that a few quid in the bank is a good friend to have.We also appreciate that having a choice of where to live is something that most Italians, indeed most people in the world do not have.We love Italy but always remember that the UK is a great place to live -but...shame about the weather...Ciao a tuttiBilly&Martine   

We are fortunate. We live in a lovely house in the hills, with land.  There are no prostitutes, or grotty places here.  The UK is a great place to live if you have alot of money and live away from all the social problems.  As for the weather, Italy has wonderful summers, but here in the winter is worse than the UK. We had snow up to our knees three times last winter, thats not mentioning the fog that thicker than pea soup.

All interesting stuff, but some big generalisations, not sure about "most" Italians living in awful flats and certainly in our area of Marche the Italian health service is fantastic. I could not praise them enough. It is very difficult to compare and contrast the two countries. There are areas in the UK as well as in Italy that suffer from poor local services, crime,ghettoised housing. I guess if you are not living in those areas then life is easier. I would suggest though from my experience that it is better to live with less money in this part of Italy than it would have been in England.We were talking to our guests last night who come from a pretty rural village in Suffolk, but are becoming increasingly concerned re the rise in crime, and do not go into the local town at night due to drunks and the violence that comes from heavy drinking.Its not a country I would be happy to return to.A

bunterboy, you are right about putting things into perspective, however it's not as bad as you put it.  The health service in my experience is better in Italy than in the UK.  One experience was waiting at A&E with my 8 year old daughter who had broken her arm for 8 hours, before just being seen by the nurse and another 2 before she saw the doctor in the UK.  In contrast I have been to A&E in Italy on various occasions and never had to wait more than 15 minutes.  And that as when my mother had stepped onto a sea urchin, painful but hardly life threatening.Also, whilst weather is a bonus, there are places in the world with much better weather (winter is one continous howling gale, we live on top of an exposed mountain).  The weather was way down on my priority list when deciding to move here.  The real difference I find is that in a place not much smaller to where we lived in Surrey, there is a real community.  People talk to each other, know each other, clebrate together.  In England I did'nt even know my neighbours names. With less money in my pocket I have better social life as I did in the UK.  I can afford to go out for the odd meal, even if it's a €10 pranzo di lavoro, still better than a take away Chinese.  During the summer there are free open air concerts (not to mention our musical neighbours breaking into spontaneous jam sessions), in Surrey, I would have had to pay expensive public transport to get into London, not to mention the taxi back, if I could find one, an expensive yet disappointing meal out and an expensive concert ticket.  A night out would have cost me at least £150, now I have some nights out costing me nothing or very little.To get back to the cost comparison, yes the day to day costs of living are almost the same or possibly slightly higher in Italy, but the things that make life worth living cost less in Italy. 

In reply to by Heiko

I have to put a comment about the health service. Italian health service is archaic. As we have had more than our fair share of it. A&G are good and quick!, but if you are unlucky enough to have to go to hospital, don't try and leave if you feel you have had enough because they will arrest you. Plus my son was in hospital for six months, he came home with bad scaring on hands and face through their rough treatment, and i was only allowed to stay with him an hour a day. In the UK I would never of left his side. In the end he came home on oxygen which I was told I had to organize myself which was a nightmare with all the bloody paper work, two weeks later just to be told they would let me have one of their oxygen bottles. When we finally returned to the UK there was an oxygen bottle waiting for us and they had a health visitor to my home everyday until he was settled. I was grateful!!I am not saying UK is best because there are problems with health service, but they gave my son a great service.In the UK I don't agree with the council tax we are being robbed! and then over charged for parking our car. Over crowded! And it rains.You really have to understand your priorities, and whats best all round. Good Luck!! 

OK I probably laid it on a bit thick!        Eating out in italy can be  cheap of course, but you should try a dreich Scottish winter if you think Italy has it bad!It hardly gets light for a couple of months!   However our neighbours are lovely and there is a real sense of's just the weather that lets everything down!

Some interesting comments here.  We haven't yet had the pleasure of an Italian winter and I often suggest coming over for Christmas one year but get met with non-commital grunts.The weather really does make such a huge difference.  When all you get, day after day, week after week is grey skies, rain, the odd sunny day and no prospect of a decent summer you simply cannot underestimate hot much good getting off a plane into 30 degrees of heat and clear blue skies does for you!   We were 35 miles south of Rome near Anzio this year and it was a bit too hot for us, but it makes such a difference. Valentine - are you in any way in a rural(ish) area?  Are there farmers with machinery that needs fixing? ( I may work in IT now but an a fitter/toolmaker by trade with 17 years on the shop floor and would go back to it tomorrow if I could. )  Anything like that to break the monotony of what he does?   Hobbies?   I do know what it's like - I have exactly the same feeling where I work at times.  Also FWIW I'm looking at doing a ESL course and after a chat with Barry (Hi Barry) during our visit cos it's what he does, and a long chat with a nice lady in Barcelona (her phone bill) from the Wall Street Institue as to what qualifications are generally well recognised I was advised to do the CELTA one.  Problem is it's based in Cambridge at the Anglia Ruskin Uni, and although only 27 miles down the A1 from us, it's a bit difficult when I'm in full-time employment and not cheap!  Our church starts an ESOL course - tomorrow morning actually - for the many immigrants in Peterborough and I'm going to be helping there just to get some experience but there must be loads of nice people on thus very forum who could help you there.The community thing keeps coming up.  We have found (apart from this year) that within a few days of staying somewhere in Italy we are chatting to people and the locals generally know there's an English family around fairly quickly.  People are friendly, helpful and have a good sense of humor (apart from the carabinieri who don't EVER seem to smile).  In the UK, the new  people next door don't speak to anyone, and it's all gone a but isolationist where we live, which we don't like much.  A few years ago we were staying near Trasimeno - currently our absolute favorite part of Italy - and the village had a week-long pizza festival.  We were invited along, had a great time, lots of food, wine and fun and really felt part of it.  Our kids mixed well with their kids despite the language barriers.  Total contrast to here - although there's exceptions on both sides I suppose.  

As regards "stealth taxes" Sibillini I feel I must point out that it was the Tories that invented them.As I recall they doubled VAT to 15% and then raised it to 17.5% when the 'poll tax' went belly up.                  They increased National Insurance from 6% to 9% but  they did  cut  income tax. They also intoduced Insurance Premium Tax, Air Passenger Tax and the fuel price escalator not to mention adding VAT to gas and electricity!VAT on tampons and toilet paper - luxuries indeed!!No one likes paying tax - witness the demonstrations against Obama's watered down yet still worthy health reforms - but EVERY Government whatever the political persuasion will try and get the money  off us without us noticing.Sadly Indirect taxes give the illusion of choice  but hit the poor hardest.Finally what about the National Lottery another little earner introduced by the Tories which is a magnet for the poorest in society.TFI Friday.Now, Berlusconi there's a chap to admire......???!! 

There has been a lot of interesting comments in this thread a lot of which cannot be argued with. We spend about one third of our time in our house in Italy and the rest of the time in the UK. We adapt out life styles to where we are. In Italy, we live when we can on good cheap local produce, make jams and preserves and fill up the freezer from 'free' or very cheap ingredients, and keep to a minimum our usage of the more expensive things - electricity, gas etc. When we are in Italy in the winter, we have a much lower temperature than we would endure in the UK but often the days are sunny so we make the most of this -  being outside .... There are reasons for living in each country so you maximise on the reasons you are where you are and minimise the negatives whenever possible.We have the best of both countries so in that respect I suppose we are very lucky.

Italian tax rates are higher than the UK.Current rates:€0-15000  23%€15001-28000  27%€28001-55000  38%€55001-75000  41%€75001 and over  43%Regional and municipal taxes can add a further 2% to these bands and and an employees contribution to social security is around 10% (equivalent of NI).But, since the introduction of the euro, the pound has fallen by almost 30%. If you think only in terms of sterling then Italy has become much more expensive on a day to day basis but for anyone owning property and earning a living in Italy its not obvious that in purely financial terms they have done worse throughout this period compared to someone working and living in the UK.

Valentina  I agree with Don l, it sounds like you are happy here and if mummys boy wants to go home let him. If you went back to make him happy and then found you weren't happy you would end up seperating anyway.The health service (I have experienced) has been much better than in uk, I haven't seen any flats or plastic chairs and I don't wear glasses, rose tinted or otherwise!I have 3 kids and in uk my biggest monthly expense was my food bill, when we first arrived here (5 yrs ago) I did feel we were spending the same  but the trick is when living in Italy live like the Italians, the good balance of weather means you can grow so much food.I have 2 freezers both bulging at the moment, it is definately cheaper to live here if you grow your own and freeze/preserve for winter.You have to work hard making bread/cakes /biscuits/passata/preserves etc but the food you get is better and it cost nothing but your time.But you don't have to work hard for someone else and be paid a pitance just to put food on the table.I have an English friend who says it's very expensive to live here and I couldn't understand why until I saw him in the supermarket with a load of proccessed food (why would anybody buy frozen pizza when they live in Italy?) his trolley had lots of cardboard crappy meals and packets of biscuits, fizzy drinks etc.In Uk a lot of people work long hours, have no time to shop/cook so live on expensive unhealthy ready meals, then they get fat, spend £300 a year to join a gym and have to work overtime to pay for this lifestyle. Here they dig over a piece of land, grow some good healthy food enjoy cooking/eating it and know they are keeping fit doing it.The cost of living is dictated by your lifestyle choice where ever you live, if you want to stay find a way. I know I will never want to be anywhere else..Italy is home!   

Sorry to hear about your bad experience Amba; but what area of Italy was it, and I will stay clear?We have had nothing but fantastic service here in Northern Tuscany. My wife had to have her Gall Stones removed and was operated on exactly 3 weeks after first seeing her Doctor about them. The Hospital (Castelnuovo Garfagnana) was brilliant; very clean, great staff and I was allowed to stay with her at all times. I think your experience was unusual as in Italy the norm is that the family stay with the patient; even stay overnight. I was offered meals and bedding if I wanted it. She has had various hospital visits since then and never any problems.I don't know about the 'being arrested' bit, why for God sake...? I have absolutely no qualms with saying that in my opinion the Italian Health system is probably one of the best in Europe; it has it's problems but compared with our experiences in the UK it's streets ahead.