The expats in Italy are some of the most charming, outgoing, caring people I’ve come across in my travels-and no, I’m not biased.
Well, maybe I’m a little biased, but don’t let that stop you. Read on.
The thing is, for the last three and a half years I’ve been part of this elite group of people who chose to uproot their lives “back home,” and replant some seeds here in the bel paese.
We commiserate with each other over the Italian post office, bureaucracy and never-ending queue lines. We share recipes and tips for making sour cream or pecan pie. We celebrate holidays together and get nostalgic over childhood commercials or cartoons.
And the thing is. I like it like that.
I like being an expat in Italy.
I don’t want to be Italian.
Don’t get me wrong, I know I am far from full integration and strangers on the street still easily recognize my straniera status but my biggest fear is that one day, that will go away.
When I first moved to Italy my father-in-law introduced me to his friend’s wife, a woman from New Jersey who has traveled between her home in Catanzaro and her home in Rome for more than 40 years. She was nice to talk to and I looked forward to having someone around every few months who was “my kind of people.”
But the thing is. She is not my kind of people.
She mispronounces English words, doesn’t cook American food and seems to have forgotten many American traditions and holidays-and geography, but I’ll let that one slide.
I’ve discussed this with some of my expat friends here in Calabria and they’ve assured me I won’t forget what it is like to be American. And I sure hope not.
But last week I was doing some Black Friday shopping on Amazon and found a really cool electronic gadget I was considering buying for my husband. The website was still on my computer later in the day and I mentioned it to my mother.
“I’m not sure if I should get this ,” I told her. “It might be too small.”
“Well, I don’t really know anything about it,” she told me, offering no help whatsoever.
“But what do you think?” I insisted. “It might be too small. It is only eight gigabytes.”
Now. If you just read that last line “It is only eight gigabytes,” and pronounces the “g” like groceries, then you are doing better than me.
(Hangs head in shame.)
I told my mother, “It is only eight gigabytes,” like George or Gym or Georgia.
There was silence.
Then, with some hesitation she asked me, “Uhm, is that like gigabytes?” (Pronounced correctly.)
“Isn’t that what I said?” I asked her, knowing damn well it wasn’t.
“No,” she told me. “You didn’t.”
And so my question to you is this.
How, as expats in Italy who communicate regularly in a language other than our own, who celebrate Italian holidays, cook Italian food and enjoy Italian culture, can we shield ourselves from our biggest expats-in-Italy fears? Or maybe this fear is just mine … ?
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