And no. Not “that” kind of girlfriend … more like this kind.
I’m asked at least once by each new group of friendly B&Bers how I made the transition from southeast Texas to southern Italy. My response?
“… tougher than I ever imagined.”
There are endless considerations involved with a decision to relocate to a foreign country and issues vary depending on individual motivations. Are you moving as a couple with your significant other? Are you already married and established in your relationship before the move? Do you head off on your own in hopes of finding yourself?
There is a different dynamic involved with each of these situations and everyone has her own story to tell about that adjustment to expat life.
But me? I moved to be with a boy.
That phrase in itself shook my feminist soul but the happily-ever-after idealist in me somehow won. I’m glad she did.
That being said, the transition was tougher than I ever imagined. I’ve never told anyone this (so the World Wide Web seems a good place to start) but there were times I questioned if I could make it. If I should stay. If I could stay.
Was being in love, enough?
Then one day I got an email from a gal who lives 30 minutes from Catanzaro. After a couple of virtual exchanges I knew we’d be friends. After we met, I knew I could stay.
One of the more surprising things about living in Italy was the realization that southern Italian women don’t “hang out” with their friends. They don’t meet up for coffee. They don’t go out to lunch. They don’t “do” drinks.
Luckily, we do.
What began as three American girls meeting up a few times a year for Mexican food and cheap wine has evolved into a comfortable network of blossoming friendships. In the last six months English-speaking expats have exploded onto the Calabrian scene and we now see each other regularly.
We bring each other American goodies when we go home and their moms share suitcase space for important items, such as Crystal Light or the latest Pilates DVD.
We understand each other in a way our Calabrian counterparts can’t comprehend and in ways our stateside amici can’t quite grasp.
In many ways these expat friends have become an extension of my family. We share frustrations, tears and laughter.
We know we’ll get along with each other before we’ve even officially met. We know we will be friends.
At our last roundup a couple of weeks ago, a “new” expat, who has actually lived in Catanzaro for 25 years, met us for aperitivi. During our conversation we realized there are other expats who don’t want to “be found.” They don’t want expat friends. They don’t want to meet for coffee or go shopping or go out for drinks.
This concept is foreign to me. I can’t imagine my life without girlfriends and I can’t fathom a life here in Italy without these gals.
So help me out. Why do you think someone would move to a new country and reject any connection to their home? Why would someone choose NOT to be friends with people from their home country?
Happy Love Thursday!