Thursday, March 8, 2018


Today is Women’s Day, and I’d like to celebrate it telling the story of two creative, dynamic and brave women: Anna & Anna from Beijing, who started a project called CinCucina.


Women, who follow their husbands around the world: how are they? Privileged, spoiled ladies living in the golden expat bubble, or brave women who overcome difficulties, make sacrifices, win battles and fight to reinvent themselves?

Anna & Anna met in Beijing (and I’m proud to say that I was the one who put them in contact!) and soon became friends. Being Italian, they both like to cook. So, when the Italian Institute of Culture organized an Italian cuisine course and looked for a teacher, they jumped in! 

CinCucina was born: their lessons are specially tailored for Chinese and expats, and they teach simple but genuine Italian dishes, like Pollo alla cacciatora, or Tiramis├╣. In other words, the real Italian cuisine! They also created a cookbook (available in English and Mandarin), which they presented at the Italian Embassy in Beijing during the week of "Italian cuisine in the world".

But who are Anna & Anna, what can they tell us about their personal stories?

My expat life began in 1995,” tells Anna Cincotto RenieroMy husband and I moved to Switzerland, where he started a job he was passionate about. I’m curious and full of energy as well, but I also like to take care of the house and cook a good meal for the family!

In Switzerland, Anna met many International friends, learned French and became the mother of a lively baby girl. 

After Switzerland, Normandy: a small village in which they really felt “foreign” for the first time. There wasn’t a big International community there, so Anna focused on her part-time job and on taking care of her daughter.

After 11 years abroad, Anna and her family went back to Italy and lived for a while in Florence.

I was an expat in Italy, isn’t it funny? I really enjoyed life in Florence, a small but vivacious and international city.”

New destination: a little town in the American province.

That was a cultural shock! I had to learn English, which I didn’t speak at all. And my daughter went from a French school to the American system, in a public school with more than 2000 students!

Anna needed to support her daughter, who didn’t speak English.

She came back home telling me she didn’t understand a word of what the teachers told her. She cried sometimes; she missed her friends. But if children can see strength in their parents’ eyes, they can overcome difficulties easily!

And Anna was a strong woman, indeed. She made friends with new people and started new activities.
And a cooking group, of course! Cooking was always my passion!”

Afer three years, a new change: Paris. And then Beijing.

This was the first time for us in Asia. It may sound strange, but I can find many similarities between American and Chinese culture: in my eyes, they both share a mix of disorganization, kindness, candor.

I’ve never felt lost during my nomad life” states Anna “Worried, sometimes. The most important thing in expat families is to make decisions together, and this is what my husband and I always did. I didn’t feel diminished because he was the one working, I know my job is important as well: I am the one organizing everything, and I am proud of it!”

And what about difficulties?

The most difficult thing for me was learning languages! I had to learn French and English, and I struggled a lot. So this is why I don’t study Chinese!

Different is the story of Anna Cappelloni. She was Born in a small Italian city, and after an Economic degree she moved to Rome to work. There she met the love of her life, the crazy man who proposed her to leave for a 6-month trip in China to study Mandarin.

Instead of running away, I accepted! At that time I didn’t know that choice would have changed my life!

The real chance to move to China happened years later.

We were both working, and we owned a house… that proposal sounded a little shocking!

Eventually, they decided to accept and moved to Tangshan, a small city 180 km away from Beijing, in which there was no expat community. 

And pollution was severe! I was always alone because I had no friends and my husband was working until late.

Not easy days. But Anna reacted and was even able to find a job as English teacher. Four years later they moved to Beijing, definitely a better lifestyle.

There are several challenges for a woman who decides to follow her husband abroad. Many think that you are a privileged woman, and everything is easy and fancy, but they underestimate the strong impact this life can have on your feelings. You leave your family, your place, your job, in other words, a big part of yourself and you may feel lost, without a role, a purpose. You lose your financial independence and may feel guilty when you spend money. You are often alone because your husband works a lot. And you have to substitute Dad the many times he can’t be present (this is the second year in a row that my husband is not here for our daughter’s birthday!). What many people don’t understand, is that our role is essential. Without the support of the spouse, expat life wouldn’t be possible for the family!

CinCucina is a project that let her make of cooking not only a passion but also a job, to meet locals and expats, to feel proud of something hers. 

I believe that having your own project and not being only a wife and a mother is very important. Last year was exciting and fun, and I hope that the new one will bring more challenges and adventures! I’m ready!

You can contact them @CinCucina Wechat or Facebook page to book a lesson or buy a copy of the cookbook (in English and Mandarin).

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