Is Living In Milan Really That Bad?

Milan has a negative reputation—but I don't think it's deserved.

Is Living In Milan Really That Bad?
Milan's Colonne di San Lorenzo, which date back to the 2nd century and now serve as aperitivo benches.

Reasons to love Milan:

When I signed the offer letter for my current job in Milan back in 2022, I immediately opened Instagram and began searching for hashtags of the city. Despite studying abroad in Florence when I was 19, I had never spent much time in Milan, and my only impression of the city came from a 20-hour layover I'd had there with my ex in 2019.

Let's just say that my impression of the city during that layover was...Lacking.

After scouring Instagram, Reddit, Quora, and YouTube, I began to notice a disturbing trend: Italians and foreigners alike seemed to hate Milan!

I began to wonder if I'd made a mistake. Was leaving the orderly, calm town of Oslo for the industrial, chaotic city of Milan a terrible decision?

Two years later, I'll be honest: I do not regret leaving Oslo for Milan, and if I can swing it financially, I'd like to remain in Italy for the rest of my life.

Here are some reasons why Milan is a great place to live and why you, too, should sign that offer letter and give it a try.

Great Career Opportunities

Three skyscrapers stand behind a colorful art installation in Milan, Italy.
Milan's modern City Life district.

Milan is the economic powerhouse of Italy, offering numerous job opportunities, especially in fashion, finance, design, and technology.

Compared to Norway and my home state of California, Milan's junior salaries are low, and the work culture can be grueling, with many young professionals leaving the office and flooding the metro stations as late as 8 or 9 PM.

However, Italians and foreigners can find high-paying jobs in Milan, especially if they have prior work experience and/or a graduate degree in an in-demand field. Several of my Italian friends work in industries like healthcare, pharmaceuticals, and digital marketing and earn north of €60k per year—and they did not use "family connections" or obscure skill sets to land their jobs.

The trick for finding well-paid work in Milan is to aim for international companies and clients.

The rental and real estate markets in Milan are so competitive that it doesn't make sense to move here for anything less than €50k/year, especially if you'll be supporting a partner, a pet, or a family.

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While many Italian companies will balk at paying €50k for a senior employee, most international companies will offer this to juniors. And where are most international companies and clients doing business in Italy?


International Community

A lush penthouse terrace full of plants.
Milan is a vertical city; always remember to look up!

With a diverse economy comes a diverse community, and Milan is excellent for blending Italian culture with international opportunities and experiences.

Compared to smaller Italian cities like Florence or Trento, Milan has a wide variety of multicultural shops, restaurants, and experiences to choose from.

As someone who loves dumplings and ramen, I am so thankful for Milan's Chinatown and for how easy it is to find groceries and products from other countries here. There's even a shop on my street that sells imported junk food from California!

As a foreigner, it's much easier to blend in and find things that remind you of home here in Milan than it is in the smaller, more isolated villages of Italy. This doesn't mean that you'll struggle to learn the language or assimilate by living in Milan—it just might take a bit longer.

Top-Notch Public Transport

The Duomo in Milano with a Christmas tree by its side.
The view while exiting the Duomo metro station.

Milan's public transit system includes a mix of modern and historic trams, a 5-line metro, and plenty of buses and e-bikes that are available at all hours of the night.

Fun Fact: Did you know that San Francisco's historic streetcars were a gift from the city of Milan?

I have never needed a car in Milan; even getting to the airport or to neighboring towns like Bergamo and Como is faster by train than by car.

Compared to the areas I lived in California, which are car-dependent, Milan offers a sustainable and efficient way to move through the city or country without worrying about traffic jams, parking, and gas prices.

Proximity to Major Travel Destinations


Travel footage from my first year in Milan.

Milan's location in Northern Italy makes it a gateway to the Swiss and Italian Alps, the Italian lakes region, and the Mediterranean coastline.

Never before in my life—not in Norway, and not in California—have I been able to travel so far and so often for such affordable prices.

While both Norway and California have stunning landscapes, Milan's high-speed rail system and central location in Europe allow me to visit new countries during the weekends.

On a whim, I can take the train to Lake Como, Innsbruck, or to meet a friend in Paris. And since we get 30+ paid days off per year, it's easy to pencil these trips in!

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Excellent Food and Aperitivo Culture

Enjoying an aperitivo of grilled vegetables, salads, nuts, and a margarita
Enjoying an aperitivo in Navigli's Sacrestia Farmacia Alcolica.

Italians sometimes joke that Milan is not a part of Italy, or that the city's food doesn't have the same flavor as meals in the rest of the country.

Having lived in Florence and traveled extensively through Italy, I disagree. Milan's strength is that it has every type of food.

Whether you're seeking regional food from Calabria, Indian curry, or Japanese ramen, Milan will offer multiple authentic restaurants serving each of those specialties at various price points.

If you're interested in moving to Milan, don't worry about the food—it's incredible, just like the food everywhere else in this country.

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Milan's food prices can be high, but this city doesn't cheap out on its aperitivo platters.

When you order a cocktail in Milan, rest assured that you're going to get a plate of free potatoes, olives, nuts, taralli, and a salad along with it. This is part of Milan's famous aperitivo culture, and it's one of my favorite quirks about this city.

Reflecting on my time in Milan, I'm grateful that I signed that offer letter and gave this city a chance.

Milan is not a tourist-friendly Instagram clichè like Rome or Florence, but that's precisely what makes it such a good place to live. You'll receive all of the amenities of a Northern European city while enjoying all of the perks of living in Southern Europe.

What do you think of Milan? Leave your comments below!