Sunday, April 24, 2011

"Actually, I live out there"

The statue of the wizard Merlin in my hometown, Carmarthen

It's always strange going home. The first few days I want to go back to Milan, and by the time it gets to the last couple of days or so I want to stay longer. And this time I felt like a fish out of water for longer than usual, due to the amount of time I'd been away for.

Even though I'd been in London at the end of February last year, the last time I'd been back to see my family was Christmas 2009. And a lot of things can change in 16 months. People change, places change - you change. With it only being a week it's then never going to be a normal week home, like the weeks I'd spend during holidays during my time at uni for example. So little time means trying to do as much as possible. Seeing people, days away, meals out. As I said to a sales assistant at Heathrow on the way back - the same conversation created the quote in the title of this post - it was a holiday, a holiday from my normal, everyday life in Milan. My life was upside down compared to the holidaymakers she usually saw.

Trying to get Honey, the family dog, to pose for a photo is no mean feat...!

But in all its strangeness it was still a nice week. I caught up with family and friends I hadn't seen for the best part of a year and a half. Everyone said I'd changed, thanks to my slightly drastic haircut. We went out to eat at a Chinese restaurant we'd been going to since I was around eight years old. We went down to the coast for a day - and had some fantastic ice cream at an ice cream parlour founded by an Italian family! And of course, we went shopping! There's a new shopping centre in my hometown, and I got quite a few bargains (£1 jeggings, thanks New Look!!). And the weather was beautiful, all week!

The amazing sundae at Fecci's, Tenby

But I never felt like I belonged, not like I used to, not like I do in Milan. Regardless of the fact that I was only there for a week, walking around my hometown I felt like a foreigner. I expected the strange looks that I still sometimes get in Milan, from not looking like the rest of the population. Well, I certainly wasn't dressed like everyone else - everyone else was walking around in their summery clothes whilst I was still in jeans and a jacket!

And I missed being in Italy. Little habitual things that I used to take for granted such as listening to Italian radio. It's nice to be back. I'm used to it here, I know what to expect. I guess that's just one of the things that you have to learn to deal with if you're away from your home country for so long - feeling like a stranger in your own country.


Welshcakes Limoncello said...

Yes, it's culture shock in reverse and I know exactly how you feel! You describe it very well. We're all still in jackets down here, too. Buona Pasqua.

Nerys said...

Hi Welscakes! Thanks, it's difficult to explain to someone who doesn't know what it's like. You can't really imagine it until you've gone through it!

Anonymous said...


I know how it feels like because I went through it as well.

When I lived in Ireland it was always strange to go back to Italy to me, to go on holiday in my hometown.
Looking forward to seeing my family, and after 2 days there, feeling like a foreigner, unable to get used to the places I had lived, attended school, had friends.
Always too Irish when in Italy and too Italian when in Ireland, looking for some roots somewhere.

Going back and forth frequently (3-4 times a year) helped me to feel less lost while in Italy, but still I think I don't belong my hometown any longer.

By the way: I'm in Cardiff now.
I kind of like it so far.


Nerys said...

Hi Fabal, Cardiff's nice, not been there for a few years now though. You've summed up how it is for me too, I'm too British here, I stand out with my blonde hair and blue eyes, and back home I feel too foreign.

Member_D said...

Well I've been here for an amazing 25 years now, so... It's something you never get used to. When people say "home" or "casa" you never quite know what they are referring to. Italians will say "vai a casa per Pasqua?" so I'll say "sono sempre a casa". But then in UK they'll say "how long are you home for?".... The culture shock was worse even say 15 years ago before internet and satellite TV!

Nerys said...

Wow, 25 years, that's as long as my entire life!! Sorry if I've made you feel old but I'm impressed!

I tend to confuse people when I use the word 'casa', they're like 'casa qui?' or 'casa casa?'. The idea of having two 'case' still takes some getting used to.

I can imagine - at home we don't have either!! I felt completely cut off from Italy.

lonngarm said...

Hi! So i am not alone then in feeling a stranger when i go back to manchester then..even though there are things i miss,there are more positive aspects living here(parma) and when i meet up back 'home' it's quite transparent the difference between us culture wise.

Nerys said...

Hi! Absolutely not, I know other people who have gone through similar experiences. You're right, I think the differences between Italians and Brits is more obvious when I go back to Britain, maybe it's because I'm becoming too Italian?

gary said...

Mind you i don't regret for a.minute coming out here,work apart and the pay(and maybe a few other things..) there are more positives,though i reckon rome e milano are miles better places to live than parma! It's a bit snobbish here to tell you the truth! Still miss some of the food believe it o not,though i found a good shop in viareggio that has almost all the favourites!

Member_D said...

Vive la difference!! Yes, luckily we still have our differences. It's just that you can feel a tad closer nowadays if you want to. Long gone are the days I had to read yesterday's newspapers.

Nerys said...

They're not that long ago - when I did my Erasmus year in Urbino there was no internet connection in the halls, so to keep up with news at home I had to often rely on the BBC World Service on MW or papers from the days before!

Viareggio, really? Wouldn't have thought there'd be that much of a market there, but looks like I'm wrong!

Member_D said...

I know what you mean about 'small town snobbery' but that's something you get used to..sort of!
Nerys your title reminds of when once I was at the boarding gate at Stansted and I realised I'd left a bag a few miles back in departure lounge so I asked if i could go back and fetch it - they said 'no, you can collect it when you come back from Italy' and my reply was......!

Nerys said...

Yes, sort of... I suppose if you've grown up with it you do sort of get used to it. But still, I like the anonimity of living in a big city and not having everyone within a 10 mile radius know everything about you and what you've been up to recently.

It's funny though, how living in Italy's something completely (or nearly) normal for us, wheras for other people it's so surprising. Other people's fascination still amuses me in a way.

Member_D said...

Yes me too.. and even more people who ask me 'don't you ever consider coming back?'...which actually I might have in recent months haha but it's hardly on the cards when you've got family, job, kids, friends etc... I mean it would be the same as there...wouldn't it?
I guess your situation is different Nerys . Do you intend staying on for YOU still see yourself living here in 25 years?!?!?

Nerys said...

One thing I found strange when I went home last month was that nobody asked me when I was planning on coming back for good. I think everybody's sort of accepted that I'm over here for the long run.

That's it with me, I could quite easily pack my bags and leave, even though I have a job here and friends, I don't have family or a boyfriend or anthing, so in many ways it would seem easier to leave here than it did leaving 'home' to come to Italy.

I don't really have any long term plans, I might be sort of drifting along too much, but at least for now I don't see any reason to leave.