Avoiding a Comfortable Life in Italy, New Zealand, and Canada with Daniel de Biasi – In this episode of the Expat Empire Podcast, we will be hearing from Daniel de Biasi. Much to the surprise of his friends and family, Daniel left his stable job in Italy when he was 27 years old to search for adventure. He got a Working Holiday visa and hopped on a plane to New Zealand before he could even speak English! After attending a language school and acquiring a few IT certificates, he found a job in Christchurch and lived there for 4 years.
Once he felt his life was becoming too comfortable in New Zealand, Daniel set off on a brand new adventure in Canada. He soon discovered that moving to Canada was much harder than moving to New Zealand, but he persevered and built a great life for himself over the last few years in Vancouver, even recently receiving his permanent residence.
Daniel has followed his passion for adventure to many different countries and never let himself become too comfortable and complacent. Tune into this episode to hear how he did it and get inspired to take your own journey abroad!
LEARN in this episode:
✔ How to get the courage to leave a comfortable life in your home country for an exciting and challenging new life abroad
✔ What it’s like to move to and try to find work in a country where you don’t speak the language
✔ How you can balance your wanderlust and desire for adventure with the realities and difficulties of moving to a new country
FIND Daniel at:
► Website: https://emigrantslife.com/
► Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/emigrantslife/
► Personal Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/debbio86/
► Email: daniel[at]emigrantslife.com
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Welcome to the Expat Empire Podcast, the podcast where you can hear from expats around the world and learn how you can join them.
Hey guys, before we get to the interview, I want to remind you that we’re offering free 30-min consulting calls to anyone interested in moving abroad.
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Send us a message at https://expatempire.com to schedule your call today!
With that said, let’s start the conversation.
David McNeill [0:00:47]: Hey Daniel, thanks so much for joining us today on the Expat Empire Podcast.
Daniel De Biasi [0:00:52]: Oh, thanks, David. It’s a pleasure to be a guest on your show.
David McNeill [0:00:56]: Yeah, it’s awesome to get a chance to speak with you. You’ve had quite some interesting international experiences and covered the globe more or less, or at least a good part of it and a lot of travels as well. I’m excited to dive into that today, but if you could just tell us a little bit about your experience so far, where you’re from originally, where around the world you’ve lived so far and where you are right now that would be great?
Daniel De Biasi [0:01:19]: So yeah, I’d like to say that I didn’t travel as much as you did, but I’m originally from Italy. I was born and grew up in Italy. I left there when I was about 27, then I went to New Zealand. I was there for almost five years and then Canada and being here for almost four, three and a half years, four years.
David McNeill [0:01:42]: Awesome. How have you enjoyed living in those different countries? What would you say is your overall experience so far for each of those places? And of course we’ll dive into more of the details.
Daniel De Biasi [0:01:54]: I mean, New Zealand was interesting. New Zealand was very interesting even because it was my first experience abroad. That’s where I learned the language and everything was new. Some people say that you’re wearing pink glasses (rose colored glasses) or something like that. Everything was great. Even the challenges and everything was great. I loved it. Canada was my second experience. It was slightly different. Maybe the expectations were different from reality. Plus hours dreaming or I don’t know, thinking of living in a big city was really…here’s the life, living in a big city. The reality rarely matches the expectation. I found out that I’m not a person to actually live in a big city. I’m more like a small town kind of guy, which is where I grew up. I grew up in a small town. That was kind of interesting to find out more about myself in these two journeys. I discovered a lot about myself.
David McNeill [0:02:55]: Yeah, I can imagine. Of course those are really important things to figure out. As you said, you started out in the small town, a lot of people want to see the big city and then they might find out that the small town was a better fit for them or it’s always a process of readjustment. It’d be good to hear a little bit about where your journey started, of course, back in Italy, it sounds like in a small town. What really gave you that drive to be able to move abroad? How do you go and pick yourself up from that and move really pretty much halfway across the world to a place like New Zealand?
Daniel De Biasi [0:03:31]: So I think New Zealand just happened to be New Zealand. I just wanted to leave Italy. I think everything, the dream of the, or the idea to leave Italy and go abroad started probably in my early twenties. Actually, at some point I almost joined the army, just because I wanted to combine the technicality of my job, which was in telecommunication and the fact that you can travel abroad, you can go to different places and be able to work. I almost joined the army. I’m glad that didn’t, but that’s for another podcast, but I’m glad I didn’t. But when I turned 27, probably even the milestone getting closer to 30, you start putting your life on a different lens trying to like figure out, putting everything on a spreadsheet just seeing like, what things did you achieve? The things you want to keep achieving in life and all of that.
Also there was an external factor at work I reached to the point where on the technical aspect, I couldn’t grow anymore. I got to pretty much the peak of my career as a technician in telecom and also the company I was working for decreased my salary. I knew that looking at the economy in Europe, especially in Italy, the fact that they cut our salary, the future will only get worse. They’re not going to give me more money. They’re going to start cutting and cutting and cutting and because I had big dreams, I was 27 at the time. I thought, I don’t want to stop here. I just want to do as much as possible. I was trying to grow professionally and trying to make more money to have a better life and all of that.
I decided it was easier for me to actually quit my job in Italy, which they call a secure job. So it was easy for me to quit the job, a secure job in Italy and move away from Italy than actually trying to find another job in Italy, which was really hard to find another job in Italy. For me, it was just easier to move abroad. Also at that time, my dream was to work. As I mentioned, I wanted to grow professionally. My dream at the time was to move to Silicon Valley and work for a tech company. I love telecommunication and networking, all that kind of stuff. My dream was to join, I don’t know, Google, Cisco, Apple, just these big tech companies and work for them, but I spoke zero English when I decided to leave Italy.
I thought about applying for a job, but then I realized, how can you even apply for jobs? You can’t even go to job interviews if you don’t even speak the language. I started looking into starting abroad or specifically in the US. I did some math and just the economical side, it was not working for me. It was too expensive. Okay. Let’s find a place where I can go where they speak mainly English. My idea was to go somewhere, learn the language as soon as possible and then I move to the US. I put on the list…I think there were three countries that I could pick from – Australia, Canada and New Zealand.
I excluded Australia because at that time, every single person from Italy who was leaving Italy was going to Australia. Because my main goal was to learn the language as soon as possible I didn’t want to hang out with Italians. I don’t want to be around Italians, I’m just going to avoid Italians as much as possible, which I did actually. I excluded Australia for that reason. Canada, I thought, was too cold. I want to go somewhere else. I wanted something tropical, I don’t know, something cool in a way. I thought Canada was too cold, so I excluded that for that reason. There’s New Zealand. I heard good things about New Zealand, not a lot but the little things I learned about New Zealand were good things. I was like, let’s give it a try.
I didn’t even know where New Zealand was on the map. I knew what it was, but I really didn’t know specifically where it was. I applied for the visa anyway, without even knowing where it was on the map and applied for a working holiday visa. I think not even two weeks later I got approved then things started becoming real. Like, oh my God, I’m actually going to do this. I looked at the map and the first thing I felt when I looked on the map when I saw where New Zealand was, which is completely on the other side of the world, like “Oh, my mom won’t be happy.”
David McNeill [0:07:54]: Yeah, I can imagine.
Daniel De Biasi [0:07:56]: Yeah. In fact she wasn’t. Yeah, that’s pretty much how I started because I just wanted to learn the language as soon as possible and move to the US, that was the idea.
David McNeill [0:08:06]: Yeah. Wow. There’s a lot to unpack there, definitely. I’m curious, sort of on the logistical, concrete standpoint. Did you quit your job before you applied for that working holiday visa in New Zealand or did you get everything sorted before you made such a big decision? Obviously that clearly had the love of big impacts in your life as well. How did you think about the risks of all of these decisions? Or did you just say, you know what, screw it. I’m going to go for it and you just put in your notice before figuring out your next steps.
Daniel De Biasi [0:08:37]: I don’t remember. I’m pretty sure I already had the visa because everything started to be real when I, yeah, actually no. Now that I think about it, I got my visa approved Easter Monday. It was like around April. I don’t remember the year, but it was Easter Monday. I remember I was going to a barbecue with my friends. That’s usually what we do on Easter Monday in Italy. I remember telling my friends, I didn’t even tell my mama at this point. I just told my friend like, oh my God, I think I made a big mistake. Not in a bad way. I was like, oh my God, I think I did something there. Like what’s going on. Yeah, I think I’ve got to go to New Zealand. That’s when I broke the news to my friends and I quit my job in July. Yeah. Quit my job in July.
I think already moved already. I don’t remember if I applied for the visa first or because before I actually apply for a visa or the same time, I don’t remember. But when I decided to leave Italy, I thought I could go through the company because it’s such a big, one of the biggest companies in Italy and they have a branch in South America. I thought maybe they could send me to South America so I could have my own experience abroad and also have the safety net that you still have a job. You still have an income. You don’t have to worry about logistics. You don’t have to worry about finding a job when you get there. It’s like in a cocoon, I could just move there and just continue life somewhere else.
So I tried that path. Didn’t go, well, they said, no, Daniel, there’s no opportunity. If you want to go abroad, this experience that you want to have, you need to quit your job. Okay, fine. I quit my job then. I remember I gave my notice a month prior I left the job, which I probably left on the first of August. It must have been the 1st of July when I gave the notice. I remember my last day of work. It’s probably one of the saddest days of my life. I remember having breakfast in the morning. I was crying. I was crying because I was like, I love my job. I absolutely adore my job. For me, knowing that that was the last time I was going to work, it was just painful.
Like I remember having breakfast and crying just because I wanted to do it, but I don’t know. There’s something about…I love that job. In fact, every time I go back to Italy, probably the second day or even the day after I landed, I usually call my coworkers and we’d go out for lunch, like all together with my co-workers. That’s what we used to do. I really loved my job.
The logistics for New Zealand, as I said, I quit my job. I think the last day was in August, then I left the 1st of September. The way I did it, I applied for a working holiday visa as I said, and there’s a company in New Zealand called Working Holiday Started, which is a company that helps you to make the first step into the country. I didn’t know much about moving abroad, even living by myself. I was living with my mom at the time. Everything was new. I didn’t know anything about living on my own, especially starting a new life in another country, probably even opening a bank account. My mom opened my bank account even before I knew I probably should have been doing something like that. Even the easiest thing, opening a bank account was like foreign to me.
This company helped me to open a bank account, get the IRD, which is the equivalent of the social insurance number, which is the number you need in order to work. They helped me find a SIM card. They helped me to find accommodation and sent somebody at the airport to pick me up. Everything was organized for me. That for me was a huge, huge help. At least having somebody that is waiting for you at the airport, you’re not completely alone. You had somebody there waiting for you. Somebody was meeting me the next day at the hostel where I was staying. Taking me to the bank, opening the bank account for me. Somebody that will hold my hand making the first step in the country was a huge, huge help for me. As I said, I didn’t know anything, absolutely nothing. That’s the way I did it. I went there, absolutely no English. I started learning a little bit of English before I left. I went there with no English, no job and just hoped that things would work out in the end.
David McNeill [0:13:08]: Apparently they did. I’m curious to hear more about how that went, but I have to ask first just to close a loop on one other topic. How did you break this news to your mom and your family and friends and how did they take it? Was there a time where they tried to get you to stop and to stay living in Italy or were they supportive? How did that all go?
Daniel De Biasi [0:13:31]: Yeah, that’s an interesting question because as I said, my mom didn’t take it that well. The first thing when I told mom I’m going to New Zealand, she did the same thing. She looked at the map and said, “Daniel really? Can’t you go anywhere closer? Like really, you have to go, I know you want to leave Italy, but do you really have to go on the other side of the world to leave Italy. There’s like so many places in between Italy and New Zealand, can you find something else?” I remember saying to my mom, “Mom, think about the positive side. Everywhere I moved from there, is going to be closer.”
She didn’t take it too well but she was happy for me, she was happy because she knew the situation in Italy wasn’t good. Actually still not good. She was happy for me that I was leaving and following my dream but at the same time, it’s my mom. How can she be happy? Of course she was sad for me that she saw me leaving, but she was happy for me. My friends, I think it was more like 50-50. As I said, I broke the news with them at the barbecue but even then, like you said, between saying that you’re leaving and actually leaving, those are two different things. Like so many people say, oh, I’m going to do this and at the end they don’t do it.
At the beginning, I think it was like, yeah, okay, fine. You say you’re going to do it, but let’s see if you actually do it. I think things became closer when I quit my job. I think even the people that were supporting me because I knew they were happy for me that I was chasing my dreams. Some of the friends, which are my best friends, were not as supportive, just because they didn’t want me to leave, pretty much. They were, in a way, egoistical. Yeah. In a way they were egotistical. They didn’t want me to leave. They just wanted me to stay there with them. Some of the people that I was hoping to have support, I didn’t get the support from them.
But overall, I remember the last month in Italy was probably the best time of my life. Just because…I described this in a previous episode, I was talking with another guest. That I found like the example I gave is like being at your own funeral and you’re not dead. You know, when somebody dies they always say good things about you. They show they actually appreciate your love and all that stuff. They don’t say certain things until you die. I had the pleasure of having that experience and I was still alive. It was such a great month. I was having party after party because I was leaving, different group of friends. I had multiple parties just for me leaving. Everybody’s showing the love that, in a way they showed it, but then never said certain things. It was surprising and heart-warming. It was just, I don’t know, the best time of my life. It was amazing.
I couldn’t get to that level of friendship and connection with my friends if I didn’t leave Italy. Also even every time I go back to Italy, you have just a different experience. You wouldn’t have the same connection on the deeper connection. Feel loved and wanted in a way that people…I don’t know they want you to be there. You wouldn’t have that connection if you never left. In a nutshell, some people were less supportive than others, but overall the experience was absolutely amazing.
David McNeill [0:17:12]: Yeah. Really, like you said, it shows who the true friends are and makes those bonds even stronger when you go back. I think that’s a great point. Now jumping back forward, now you’re in New Zealand, you’re settled in a little bit. You have the basics that you need to be living there and surviving, let’s say, but you are just at the very beginning stages of learning English. You don’t have a job yet. Can you walk us through what the process was like, what some of the surprises were, the challenges that you faced and ultimately how you really got settled there, especially finding a job.
Daniel De Biasi [0:17:47]: So, as I said, as I mentioned before, like there was this company that was helping me, holding my hand through the whole process at the beginning. And this guy, Robyn helped me to, gave me some recommendations based on my goals, based on my background and all of that. Like Daniel, you don’t speak the language. We know that. What I would recommend is that you just go to an English school for the first month, learn the basics, learn a little bit of English and an understanding of the country. One of the things they teach you at the English school is not just the language, but even the customer, the country, the difference between your country and their country and all that kind of thing. It was a good way to learn a little bit about the country, not just English.
Also this guy, Robyn told me, if you really want to find a job, the easiest way to find a job is for you to move to Christchurch. So when I landed in New Zealand, I landed in Auckland, which is the top of the North Island, which is the capital. No, that’s not true. It’s not the capital. It’s the biggest city in New Zealand. It’s not the capital, sorry. He recommended that I move to Christchurch, which is in the South Island. It’s the second biggest city in New Zealand. The reason he recommended me to move to Christchurch was because Christchurch had a massive earthquake in 2011-2012. The whole city needed to be rebuilt. They were looking for people in the trade industry, like electricians, telecommunication, anything. They were looking for people, over people, over people just because they needed to rebuild the city. It was great advice. It was easy for me to move there, find a job and actually get a visa after all.
As I mentioned before, I didn’t speak the language. Even though, I have to add, even if you speak the language, when you start a new career, a new job, the terminology they use is not necessarily, you probably wouldn’t know. Even if you are maybe fluent in English or you can have a conversation in English that doesn’t mean you can apply that English level if you actually do a profession. For example, I could say my name is and that kind of thing and move around normal situations. But when he would ask me, Daniel, can you go and get me a screwdriver? I have no idea what a screwdriver was. Can you imagine trying to find a job and trying to prove yourself that you’re capable to do the job when you don’t even know the name of the tools. It was so frustrating for the people that I work with.
I remember, in this situation, I think it was my first job ever, the work agency called me, Daniel we’ve got this guy that is interested in you, can you go and have an interview? At least that’s what I understood over the phone. They might have said something else. That’s what I understood. I got my nice clothes and everything. I got on my bike. I went to the job interview and the guy’s like, okay, yeah, let’s get on the van. Like, what do you mean it’s getting in the van. I thought this was a job interview. No, no, no, we’re going to work. He gave me some clothes from a previous employee or whatever. I went to the back, I just got changed and I went with him to get to the job.
I remember he was on the top of the ladder, looked down at me like, Daniel, can you go to the van and grab me this thing and that thing. I have no idea what he was talking about. I understood what he was referring to because maybe I understood the word van in a way, or maybe the gesture he was saying. So I went back to the van, opened the van. Like it probably would still be exactly, like maybe open the side door on the left, on the right. These are the tools I need and there’s the thing. He might’ve said that. But as I said, I couldn’t understand a thing.
I opened the van. I’m trying to figure out what he might need based on the task he was doing. One day I went there holding two tools, and I was looking up on the ladder and I saw his face like, oh, you are such an idiot. That was the frustration at the beginning. Like, you feel such a, you feel stupid because he don’t speak the language. People treated you like, maybe they don’t treat you, but that’s how you feel. I feel like stupid. Like the fact that you didn’t even know what tools I needed. Like the basics coming from, as I mentioned before in my career in Italy, I was on the peak. In my career, I was pretty good at what I was doing. Starting in New Zealand, I was right at the bottom, the last place on the chain. I’m so grateful that they gave me a list. They gave me the opportunity to work and with time I just improved my English. I learned the name of the tools. Finally I found a job where I could apply for the visa, so I applied for the visa and they gave me the visa.
David McNeill [0:22:32]: That was the same job or you found a different job that then enabled you to apply for the visa?
Daniel De Biasi [0:22:38]: Oh. That job lasted like a few days. After a few days, just like, Daniel I’m done. I’m done with you. Just send somebody else. Now I worked for an electrician afterwards because that’s my background as an electrician in telecommunication. Finding a job as an electrician was pretty easy for me. I remember like, even there, like the frustration of my boss. I remember once I was asking how to do a task, like, do you want me to do this and the answer I was expecting is yes or no. But the guy was telling me why to do it, or not to do it. It was not a yes or no answer. I asked him three times and the guy was looking at me trying to explain why doing or not doing this idea. Oh my God, just give me yes or no. I don’t understand what you’re saying. Just tell me yes or no. I was so frustrated, but not with him, with myself that I wasn’t able to understand.
I worked for them for three months, which is the maximum you can work with on a working holiday visa in New Zealand, at least that’s for Italians. You can work and study for up to three months for the same company. You can work for the whole year, but every three months you need to change jobs. After three months, I decided to take some time off studying. I got my certification as an IT person. I thought at that time, as I said, I felt stupid. For me, the only way to prove to other people that I wasn’t stupid was to get some certificates. Going out with a piece of paper like I told you I wasn’t stupid, like a piece of paper that proves I’m not stupid. I still don’t understand what you’re saying, but I’m not stupid.
David McNeill [0:24:17]: If you can just write it down for me, I’ll be fine.
Daniel De Biasi [0:24:20]: Yeah exactly. That was it. I took some time off in order for me to get the certification. I needed to, at least for myself, to prove that I was able and I was good enough to apply for better jobs. Which I did. I applied for a better job in telecommunication and I got the job. Looking back, I did not need a qualification at all to apply for the job and to get the job. But that was for me to prove to myself, I was good enough to apply for the job, if that makes sense. When I applied for the job it was more like my industry, it was more like towards the goal I wanted to reach in life. Then when I applied for a visa.
David McNeill [0:25:02]: So of course this was the first place that you lived abroad. Did you find any particular parts of the culture challenging to adjust to, or really surprising, or maybe something that you really enjoyed compared to what you had left back in Italy?
Daniel De Biasi [0:25:18]: No. I mean, as I said before, at the beginning everything was challenging because everything is new. Everything that you do it’s much harder, like even going to work. I used to go to work with a company vehicle. Now I get on the bike at six o’clock in the morning and go to work. Everything was challenging. But in a way I embraced the challenge because in my mind it was like if or when I’m going to make it, succeeding in building a new life abroad. It has to be challenging. If it’s not challenging it’s not really rewarding. Even Italian, like, I don’t know, I was thinking maybe Italian to my kids or my grandkids. How did you do it? Yeah, I did. I did it, I got to where I wanted to go, but the process to get there wasn’t easy.
I wanted it to be hard just to be more, in a way, more rewarding afterwards. I embrace the challenges that came along with…like I said, everything was new, everything was different. Nothing really surprised me because as I said, everything was new and even the challenges. I remember other people, if they changed a different custom and different lifestyle compared to Italy, I remember like in New Zealand, everything shifted like a few hours earlier. In Italy, for example, at night we’d go out at 10 o’clock, we start drinking, we go to clubs and whatever until like four o’clock in the morning or whatever, six o’clock or whatever. In New Zealand everything was shifted back.
So everything after 10 o’clock…10 o’clock pretty much the night was over. The people started drinking at four o’clock, five o’clock in the afternoon. Then by the time it was like eight o’clock. They were pretty much wasted and pretty much dead. 10 o’clock is the end of the evening. Having a friend in New Zealand, which is from Spain, Spain is even worse. Like it’s 10 o’clock, they’re having dinner at 10 o’clock. For him, like what’s going on? I want to go out. When I wanted to go out people are just going home. It was so frustrating for him. I embraced it because for me it was like, great. Okay. I can go have fun, have a few drinks, going back going to bed at 10 o’clock and get up in the next morning and go mountain biking, go do my thing. I didn’t waste the next day.
Even the changes in the lifestyle, I embraced that as well, because it worked my lifestyle? So in New Zealand, as I said, everything was new and I embraced it as a new thing. I didn’t oppose it. I wasn’t opposed to these changes, I just embraced them because, I don’t know, everything was new. Everything was exciting. Everything was what I wanted. I wanted to be abroad. Finally I was living on the other side of the world. Everything that happened was great.
David McNeill [0:28:13]: Yeah. That makes perfect sense. It’s good to hear that you embraced it and didn’t find too many things to be too frustrating or sometimes I think expats get in that space where they’re comparing it to their home country or I wish it was a little different, I wish it was this way or that way. I think you have the right mentality going into it, maybe more so than your Spanish friends. I wanted to ask a bit about your friends as well, because you’ve talked about at the beginning, not willing to go to, for example, Australia, where you were seeing a lot of Italian people go, and of course you wanted to learn English. You wanted to have that foreign experience. I definitely commend you on that, but how did you make your friends there in New Zealand? And did you find that you were able to make close friendships or were people not too sure, sort of how close to get with you, given that you were initially on a working holiday visa for example, and not necessarily sure at that point about your future?
Daniel De Biasi [0:29:08]: No, but the visa problem wasn’t a problem because in New Zealand, a lot of people are from somewhere else. Even people from New Zealand are from another part of New Zealand. There are all, at least in my experience, at the beginning they’re friends just from, not even in the future, but everything they’ll experience. Most of my friends were either my work mates, my coworkers or my flat mates. That’s where I met the people, even because in New Zealand it is very common sharing a house. At the beginning I was sharing a house with, I don’t know, 6-8 people. That’s where I started even making friends with them, making friends with neighbors.
I have to say that at the beginning it was hard for me to make friendships for the same reason it was hard for me to prove myself that I was able to find a good job because I couldn’t speak the language. When you don’t speak the language, even being funny is very challenging. It’s hard to make connections, where you’re not as good as you are in your own mind. You want to be funny, if somebody says something, Oh, I’ve got something to say, that’s really funny in my head. They need to try to translate it to another language. By the time you find a way to say it, the timing is completely wrong. Still, it stays in your head. It builds up, builds up, builds up until it’s like, Oh my God, I’ve got so many things to say and it was frustrating.
I remember even my friend, like, Oh, Daniel, don’t worry, you’re funny. No, I’m not. I’m funnier than this. It was frustrating. Oh My God, I know I can be funnier, but I don’t know how to say it.
At the beginning, it was the same thing for a romantic relationship. I didn’t even try to have a romantic relationship for years just because, how can somebody fall in love with me if the person I am right now, it’s not the real me, because I can’t be the real me without the language. Even finding a romantic relationship, I was off the table for years. Just don’t even try it. Don’t even want to try doing that.
Making friends in New Zealand was easy. You can just look somebody in the eyes on the way walking on the street and you start talking. It’s so easy to talk to people and meet people, because we’re mostly in the same situation, people coming from abroad, people coming from different states, like part of the islands, part of the country, everybody was looking for new people, new friends.
Sharing a house with other people is the easiest way to make friends. The second house I moved to were pretty much like my second family. We were having dinner together. It was just that deep connection. As I said, it was like pretty much a second family. Also, at work, I was pretty lucky, my company was fairly big. Most of the people, most of my co-workers were of my age or in a similar situation, maybe single, in mid-twenties, thirties, that kind of lifestyle. People were wanting to go out and drink and have fun and party and all that kind of stuff, which was easy for me to make friends compared to here in Canada.
I didn’t want to jump for, but here in Canada it is slightly different because the people I’m working with have a family, maybe because I’m getting older now. So maybe people my age now have family, they have kids, or they’re not really living my lifestyle. In New Zealand, it was super easy to make friends and make connections. There were people from New Zealand, from other parts of New Zealand or expat or people from abroad, from other countries. It was like a mix of both.
David McNeill [0:32:47]: That makes sense. It sounds like you were able to find people in similar situations and that definitely helps to get the conversation started at a minimum and hopefully build some good deep relationships there. I actually do want to jump forward. I think it was a good segue into talking about your time in Canada.
From my perspective, and what I’ve heard so far is that if you were going into New Zealand, you start on a working holiday visa. You didn’t know any English, you learned a lot of English, you were able to do the job. You found a company to sponsor you. You had a couple of years there under your belt, you had a second family of friends, you were getting used to the culture. To me, it sounds like the natural instinct would have been to stay. I’m curious what led you to decide maybe to look into other places and obviously how you ended up in Canada. If you could walk us through that, that’d be awesome.
Daniel De Biasi [0:33:37]: That probably was even the smartest decision to stay, but…
David McNeill [0:33:43]: I appreciate your honesty.
Daniel De Biasi [0:33:49]: Looking back, Canada was what I was expecting, but not. I’ll explain what I mean by that. When I decided to leave New Zealand, I left because I felt too comfortable. I noticed that when I moved to New Zealand the first time, the challenges of making it happen, that you have to make it happen, forces you to give your 110%. We give it all. I found myself in New Zealand to be too comfortable. I had my job, I had my circle of friends, I had my side hustle that I will talk about later. Everything was fine, even though I had a crazy schedule, I was too comfortable, I was making enough money to pay the bills, going back to Italy every year. I was able to have enough time to work on my side hustle. Everything was comfortable. I felt like I needed to make a change. I needed to put myself into a situation of discomfort. That’s pretty much what I was looking for.
The reason why I went to Canada, mostly was because as I mentioned before, I had my side hustle. At the time it was building apps. I was developing apps for the iPhone. Everything started when I applied for my permanent residency in New Zealand and got rejected. The moment that I got rejected, I felt like I had no control over my life. I was building this life in this new country, in New Zealand and they could take it away from me at any point. They could kick me out of the country and say bye-bye. I have to start all over again. I wanted to be at least in control of the financial aspect of living abroad.
For me, that was okay. I want to find a way to make money just using my computer because I’m a tech kind of guy, I love technology and all of that, the easiest and the most intuitive path was to develop apps. I learned how to code and I started making games and apps for the iPhone. At that point, I wanted to learn as much as possible. For me to learn as much as possible, was to work for a tech company. Going back to the beginning, my dream at the beginning. In a way yes, differently because I didn’t want to be in telecommunication anymore. I wanted to take a different path. I didn’t want to work for anybody else. I want to create my own stuff. I just need to work for somebody else to get paid and learn as much as possible in the quickest, short of time.
I tried to apply for tech companies in New Zealand. I even sent emails. My visa time only allowed me to work as a telecommunication technician. To change industry, you need to apply for a new visa. At this point, I was teaching myself how to code. I never worked in a company environment. I wasn’t that good either because I learned it from YouTube. I sent a bunch of emails to all the companies in Christchurch saying, this is my situation, I am not allowed to work for you, I don’t have the visa to work but I’m eager to learn, I’m motivated to learn. So just give me a chance. I’ll work for free after hours on Saturday, whatever. I can work for free. Just give me a chance to prove that I can do this. Then you can decide if you want to sponsor me to get a visa or not.
Nobody replied. I thought, you know what? I was close to renewing my visa in New Zealand and I thought maybe for the same reason my PR was denied, maybe even my visa would get denied. I needed a plan B. My plan B was Canada. People told me that Canada was like New Zealand but bigger. I knew that Whistler in British Columbia has probably the best mountain biking in the world. A lot of mountain biking. I thought, let’s apply for a visa there. Also, in Canada, for Italians, you can apply for the working holiday visa up to 35 years old. At that time, I believe, I was 31, probably. It was one of the few countries where I could apply for another working holiday visa. That was the reason why we moved to Canada. To challenge myself and to get into a new industry, like a software developer kind of industry.
David McNeill [0:38:23]: Even though you were learning how to code on the side and you were building some different apps and games and projects, you didn’t want to stay in the telecommunications business then just keep that as your side project, you actually want to work as a developer. That’s really what was driving you ultimately, right?
Daniel De Biasi [0:38:40]: Yes. The ultimate goal for me was to build my own apps, have my own company and make a living out of my laptop pretty much. If they kick me out of New Zealand, I can move to Thailand, I can move anywhere in the world and I don’t have to start from scratch. I don’t have to start all over to find a job, get a visa etc. At least have control of my financial aspect. I can make money. As long as I’ve got my internet connection and a laptop, I can still make money. That was the goal. That was the goal that I wanted to achieve.
David McNeill [0:39:12]: As you were looking at Canada then, you were able to get that working holiday visa. I guess it gave you the confidence that, Okay, at least I have a year in this country and you have a new experience. You can challenge yourself again. You didn’t go in knowing that you’d then be able to directly work as a software developer. Did you have a job going into it or?
Daniel De Biasi [0:39:34]: No. I’m not a good guy when it comes to planning. I usually just jump right into it and see if I can make it happen, in a way. Even when I moved to Canada I thought, I went to New Zealand with no English, no experience abroad, nothing and I got a job and a visa within six months. If I moved to Canada, how hard could it be? It’d be so much easier. Things were completely different from reality once again. I moved to Canada thinking that I had a visa for a year, a working holiday visa for a year. I moved to Canada and I found out they only gave me six months, which the working holiday visa for Italians allows you to work in Canada for only six months, not a whole year.
That’s changed. When you’re looking for a job, in only six months, it’s harder for the company to even hire you because you only have six months. That was the first challenge. The second challenge to find a job as a software developer was that I’m not a good software developer. I never worked, as I said, in a corporate environment, I never worked in a team. I knew how to write code for myself.
Also, I loved the aspect of coming up with the idea, the design, the coding, troubleshooting, I love the whole process of making apps. When I applied for a job, they asked you, what do you want to do? Do you want to be a coder? Do you want to be a graphic designer? Do you want to do this? Do you want to do that? Because I wanted to learn how to code, but at the same time, like I don’t have the knowledge to work in a team. Also, I don’t want to do that for eight hours a day, every single day, it will drive me crazy. With all due respect, with coders, I don’t know how they do it. Writing code for eight hours a day. Oh my God! I couldn’t do that.
That was eye opening, and also a reality check for me. I got some savings on the side. I needed to find a job as soon as possible because the savings were going down. Something I didn’t take into consideration, Vancouver is a very expensive city to live in. Luckily for me at the time I moved here with my ex-girlfriend, she’s Canadian. I at least had place to stay. The transition to a new country was easier just because I had her. They were helping with opening a bank account. As I mentioned before, I didn’t have to find a place to go. I had to see old friends, I at least have one person with me and then she introduced me to other friends. It was easier to transition to a new life, but finding a job was much harder than I was anticipating, just because of the timeframe. Probably they had more demand. I just find it much, much harder to find a job in Canada and also to get a visa in Canada was much, much harder.
David McNeill [0:42:28]: How did you make it happen in the end? Did you stay in Vancouver or did you move to different cities as well?
Daniel De Biasi [0:42:37]: No, still in Vancouver. It’s still an expensive city to live in, but it’s got good weather in the summer and it’s not super cold in winter. It has got a great location for mountain biking, it’s a great location, great city. I stayed there. In regards to the working visa, as I said, I was looking for a job as a software developer, I had to put that on the side when I realized I’m not good at this. I’m not going to find a job as a developer. I transition back to my old skills, like electrician and telecommunication.
I found a job as an audio-visual technician, which was a new industry for me, I didn’t know anything about it, but it was a good transition. It was a good environment. I found this job, I found great bosses. They realized the potential, they saw something in me or whatever, but they helped me with the whole process just a month after I started working with them. I started working on the visa process in September, and I think it went through all the way to January, just because it was so much harder compared to initially to find information online, apply for a job, apply for a work visa, all of that was so much harder than I anticipated. Just because coming from New Zealand, it’s just like a couple of clicks you apply for a work permit. I got my work permit within two weeks. Both times I applied, I renewed it, in a couple of weeks I had my visa back.
Here in Canada, it was like figuring out what you can apply for. Every region, every area of Canada has got different rules, so different immigration processes or different programs that you can apply to. Information online is impossible to find. I have to hire a lawyer and then an immigration advisor to help me with the process. Even then, I had to stop working in October, which was when my visa ran out and I couldn’t work until January.
Even then the whole process, honestly, it got so challenging that if it wasn’t for my ex and my bosses that were supporting me, encouraging me, I would have just probably got on the plane and gone back to New Zealand. When you move to a country and they put obstacles in front of you, if you guys don’t want me to be here, I can just go somewhere else.
I want to specify this because I said this before and I realized that I speak from a privileged point of view. I have an Italian passport. If anything goes bad, I can always go back to Italy and life can be much worse. I know that. I speak from a privileged point of view, but as a privileged person and coming to Canada, if you guys don’t want me to be here, I can go either back to New Zealand or back to Europe. I can go to England if I want to keep speaking the language, speak English, I can go somewhere else.
I’m here to try to provide something to the country, I want to do something great for the country. I want to help give back to the country to give me a chance to have a far better life. I want to give back to the country. If you don’t want me to be here, if I feel unwelcomed, I’ll just leave. I don’t want to be in an environment where I don’t feel welcomed. That’s what I felt going through all these loops inside of the immigration process. ‘F’ this, I am moving back to New Zealand. I’m not staying here. I persevered and I managed to get a visa in January, 2018, 2019 or something like that. Last year in 2020 I got my PR, my permanent residency.
David McNeill [0:46:24]: Do you feel now with the permanent residence that you’re able to really have the stability that you were looking for? I believe that you said in New Zealand, they didn’t allow you to get the permanent residency. I can imagine that there’s a really good feeling for you right now.
Daniel De Biasi [0:46:41]: Yes and no. It was funny because when I got my PR, in the morning, I went mountain biking with my boss. At the time we were rarely at work. That was 2020. During that time, I probably worked half the year. Half the year was just off, there were no jobs. I remember going mountain biking with my boss and said, if things don’t improve, if the job doesn’t come up, I think I have to go back and live with my mom again. I can’t afford to live in Vancouver. It’s an expensive city. I have no friends here because all the friends I made were through my ex and we broke up at the time.
David McNeill [0:47:18]: Yeah, that’s tough.
Daniel De Biasi [0:47:18]: I’m here alone in another country. It’s expensive to live. Through COVID, there were all these challenges, like what am I doing here? If at least I don’t have any work, I probably should just go back and live in Italy with my mom. I have friends around, especially in this tough time, through COVID and all of that. Funny enough, in the afternoon, I got the email from immigration that my PR got approved and then things changed, immediately just clicked. Now I’m not only allowed to work for the company I worked for, I had the safety net of the fact that I can find another job. If I really wanted to stay in Canada, I could always find another job to pay the bills.
Luckily things turned out that we had jobs coming in, 2021 was way better. As I said before, the PR gave me more of a safety net. The fact that I can work in the industry, I can switch, I can do whatever I want. I can even start my own business, which I did. They gave me that freedom. At the same time the safety and the security that I was looking for, I haven’t achieved yet just because I’m still working for a company. Like I saw in 2020, if the job runs out or the economy if COVID hits I still don’t have the security of an income. And, now what? I need to find another job; I need to come out with something else. I still don’t have that, but I’m working on it.
David McNeill [0:48:52]: What does that look like for you now? Is that more on the sort of podcasting side of things or are you still keeping up the programming and building your different projects on the app side of things? Or how are you thinking about getting that next level of freedom that you’re looking for?
Daniel De Biasi [0:49:09]: When I started doing the podcast in the beginning of 2020, that took over my entire social life. Which was like a pretty limited 2020, and still pretty limited in 2021, but it’s getting better now after COVID. The podcast took over a lot of time and mental energy. I’m spending a lot of time just doing the podcast and through the business that I’m building to help other people moving abroad. I’d still love to go back and do… I have some ideas I want to develop into an app. I love the process as I mentioned before, I love the process of creating something from nothing.
You have an idea, you design it, from the design it becomes a writing code, and then all of a sudden you have an app coming up on your phone and you tap things and make things work. I love the whole process and you have control over the whole thing. I love the process. Hopefully, one day I will have enough income that my podcast can pay for the bills and I can quit my full-time job, and that means I have the whole day I can work on my own stuff. Hopefully, that opens up new opportunities. Hopefully, I will go back and develop more apps.
David McNeill [0:50:35]: Yeah, that sounds amazing. Tell us all a bit about that podcast. Of course, how people can find it, why did you start it? How’s it grown so far and how can they find out more information and of course, tune in for your future episodes?
Daniel De Biasi [0:50:51]: I started the podcast in, as I mentioned, in the beginning of 2020, like many other people, I had no work to go to. I was home doing nothing. What am I going to do? It was like in the back of my mind to start a podcast. I wanted to do that with my brother back then to improve his business growing. Just because he has a business in Italy, I wanted to have a podcast and I thought I could join the fact that I want to have a podcast with helping my brother. I could do two things combined, I can have something amazing coming up. But that never happened. Either my brother and I were not… You know how to start a podcast. It can be intimidating, especially at the beginning, like you’re listening to your own voice and all of that. It was challenging.
On the other side, I had somebody that didn’t even know what a podcast was. It was like a lot of resistance. In 2020, I found myself with nothing to do and I said Okay, let’s start a podcast. I started thinking, what can I do? What can the podcast be about? I wanted to combine the passion I have for podcasting and helping other people. The best decision I ever made for myself was to leave Italy and go abroad. I wish more of my friends will do that. I tried to convince them so many times to just do it. You have no idea how the grass is greener on the other side. Just do it.
Always they have resistance because it’s too hard or they don’t speak the language, and there were all these challenges. I wanted to through the stories of other people to show that, yes, it is challenging, and yes, it’s not easy and it’s not for everybody. But, once you do it, like the way you grow, once you move abroad, once you put yourself in those situations, it’s just so priceless. It’s just so amazing to think that you can gain from making one single decision in your life.
I wanted to share these stories because I love podcasting. There are other podcasts that helped me going through other situations in life, just hearing other people’s perspectives, other people’s stories, the fact that if you have challenges in your life that doesn’t mean that you’re not good enough. That means that, that’s the right process. Everybody is trying to achieve what you’re trying to achieve. They’re going on the same path. There’s going to be challenges. If you keep going, if you overcome the challenges, at some point, you will achieve your goal.
For me, I wanted to apply the same principle on moving abroad. Yes there’s going to be challenges and yes, there’s going to be moments that you want to give up. But if you keep going, this is what you’re going to see on the other side. Now I’ve got experiences. I’ve got the stories of people that did it. One question I always ask my guests is, do you have any regrets about leaving your country? After over 50 interviews so far, nobody ever said yes. Yes, I regret it.
David McNeill [0:54:06]: That’s a good sign.
Daniel De Biasi [0:54:07]: Nobody ever said that. Exactly, as you say, it’s a good sign. Hopefully, through these stories, some of the stories are amazing. You probably know, I’m sure you know some of the stories…even when I tell my own story, especially with friends back in Italy or the people I meet, Oh, Daniel, you’re so brave to leave Italy. Yeah but listen to this story, they had to go through so much worse.
Like I mentioned before, I’m a privileged person. I applied for a visa in New Zealand, and within two weeks, they gave me a visa. For me, the only thing I have to do is buy a flight ticket with my money in the bank that I saved from my job and go to the other side. That’s it. That’s the only thing you have to do is buy a ticket and go to the other side of the world. For some people even getting a visa is impossible. Not even talking about saving the money to buy tickets. It’s crazy.
If you put it into perspective, yes, coming from my point of view, from the people in the same circumstances, yes I might’ve been brave. But if you look at the bigger picture, my life was so much easier than other people. Most people that listen to the podcast are probably in a privileged situation. When you hear those stories, the people that achieve it, what stops you? What excuses do you have? There’s no excuses. If you want to do it, there are other people in much worse situations than you that did it, you have absolutely no excuses not to pull the plug and chase the best life that you could have.
David McNeill [0:55:51]: Sure. Do you have a website that people should check out or what’s the name of the podcast they should search on their favourite podcasting app.?
Daniel De Biasi [0:55:59]: The podcast is called Emigrant’s Life. Emigrant is spelled with an E and not with an ‘I’ because I don’t like the word ‘immigrant.’ I prefer the word Emigrant. So, the podcast is called Emigrant’s Life. You can find us on www.emigrantslife.com. You can find us on social media. We are pretty much everywhere on social media, like Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, and all of that stuff. You can find us everywhere.
David McNeill [0:56:24]: Awesome. We will definitely put those links in the show notes, but I have one more question for you, which is where do you see yourself going from here in the next couple of years, not to make this into too much of a job interview, but just thinking more about you’ve got your situation set up there in Canada. You’ve got permanent residence. Do you think that you’ll be staying there for a while or do you feel like you’re getting a little restless and looking for a new challenge again?
Daniel De Biasi [0:56:51]: I am restless. Actually I just came back from a month of traveling for work. Every time I go back to the city I realize I’m not a city kind of guy. I was working in Kamloops, which is three hours away from Vancouver. It’s beautiful, you drive from the highway coming down into Kamloops, you can see all the desert, all the nothingness around the city. Oh man, I love that. Coming back to Vancouver, the high-rises and buildings and concrete, it’s just not for me. I feel like I need to make a change in my life, but at least for now I want to stay in Canada just because I want to get a passport. I want to get citizenship because at least that will be my plan B.
I didn’t mention it before, but I don’t want to go back to Italy. At least for now, I have no intention to go back to Italy and live in Italy at least. I need to have a plan B. Once I’ve got my plan B in place, which if everything goes bad, I can always go back to Canada which is a pretty good place. I want to get there because I don’t want to start all over again in another country and go through the whole immigration process, which I will but if something goes bad, at least I can go back to Canada, which is a great place. I’m going to stick around in Canada until I get my citizenship. Then after that, probably moving back to New Zealand at some point. I love that place. I miss that place. I miss the people and I think that’s where I belong. That’s where I feel like home. I think I’m going to get there at some point, I’m working towards that goal. For now, I’m going to stick around in Canada and have more Canadian experience, at least for a couple of years more.
David McNeill [0:58:45]: Sounds great. Definitely like your idea of having multiple passports, I think that’s always a great way to go. Thank you so much, Daniel, for sharing your story with us today, it’s been a real pleasure. I look forward to seeing where you head in the future. Hopefully, back to New Zealand, but maybe we’ll get a chance to have a beer, say hi, at least one of these days in person.Daniel De Biasi [0:59:06]: Oh, I’d love to. Yeah, maybe we can do the second episode, five years afterwards, I don’t know, like a segue of the story if it’s developed in a different country. Who knows? It was a pleasure to be on the other side of the microphone for once. I really enjoyed it. Thanks for all the great questions.
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