Stonehaven may be a far cry from Milan but the Italian city feels like a home away from home for footballer Christy Grimshaw.
The 28-year-old, who was born in Kirkcaldy but grew up in the Aberdeenshire town, signed for AC Milan from French club FC Metz in the summer of 2020.
And although the midfielder is in her fourth season with the Italian giants – where her contract runs out in the summer, Grimshaw admits it has only been recently that she feels settled with life in Milan.
“I have always really liked Milan but over the last six months to a year I feel like have found myself living like a normal Italian person,” said Grimshaw.
“I’ve been drinking an espresso on the go and living my life kind of full speed like an Italian.
“It’s crazy and as full on as the football is. They have their different ways of life and I’ve learnt to fall in love with it.
“I really love it and I’m really comfortable here now. I just love the people and I’m so thankful that from living in Italy I have got to meet so many different kinds of people.
“There was a night a few weeks ago where most of the team were out for dinner and the waiter asked where we were from because we were all speaking different languages.
“I realised we had people from Scotland, Denmark, Iceland, Lithuania, Jamaica and the Netherlands – and we’ve all met here in Italy for football and have learnt so much from each other and our different experiences.
“I’m really thankful for being able to play for a big club in a beautiful city like this which attracts all these different people.
“It’s probably one of my favourite parts I’ve had living and playing here in Milan.”
Becoming fluent in Italian made life in Milan easier
A key factor in Grimshaw, who has won 16 caps for Scotland since making her debut in 2021, adapting to her Italian surroundings was becoming fluent in the language.
She worked with a tutor for the first two years of being in Milan, before employing a different approach to advance her skills.
Author Colleen Hoover turned teacher for Grimshaw as the AC Milan player bought a series of her books in English and Italian, alternating reading each version chapter by chapter.
“At first, when you don’t speak the language, I was almost like a tourist,” said Grimshaw. “It was maybe like that for the first two years I was here.
“In the last 18 months, or even shorter than that, it has all come together.
“I can speak Italian. I can go to places like the bank or, I have a car, so I can go to the garage and speak to them in Italian about technical things.
“It is little things like that that really matter and make you feel like you fit in here.
“For the first year or two if you don’t give it a chance you can feel quite lost and scared.
“But I stuck with it – and, now, I have no idea what’s going to happen (this summer when her contract runs out), but thinking of not being here is a bit scary actually because I’m so comfortable.”
One-club feeling at AC Milan, says Grimshaw
The club, Grimshaw says, has a united feeling with the women and men’s teams regularly attending events together – as she recalled chatting with United States star Christian Pulisic.
“It’s a pretty normal thing now,” said Grimshaw. “It’s really good to be part of a club where we’re at dinners and events together.
“It’s a good feeling to have the mutual respect for each other.
“I was having a conversation at the Christmas dinner with Pulisic and our experiences in Milan.
“We were at an event together at the start of the season when he first joined from Chelsea and he was asking about the Italian fans and how they are crazy for football.
“I saw him at Christmas again, so I was asking him how it was going with the fans and the city.
“It’s nice to have those conversations and to talk about our experiences.
“I text my brother, who is a big football fan, saying I had just had a nice conversation with Pulisic – and he’s like to you that’s normal, but even just speaking about it now, it is quite cool.”
Grimshaw was speaking ahead of International Day of Education on January 24 as part of AC Milan‘s RespAct campaign.
Education and football is something that means a great deal to Grimshaw, who credits playing college football at Barry University in Florida as a pivotal part in her journey towards becoming a professional player.
“Before I went to America to study I had no idea that I would become a professional player,” added Grimshaw.
“It was from choosing to go to America and going to university that I had the opportunities in football and then go on to be a professional athlete.
“I’m very happy that I chose that path.”