Monday, November 28, 2011


I had a pretty miserable weekend for reasons that I don't want to go into now. By Saturday evening I felt like packing everything in and going back home. That's one of the problems that I've found living abroad, little things can make life very difficult, things that shouldn't really be that important can throw you. One word that sums up life in Italy can be 'challenging'.

Challenging not only because you're living in a foreign country, but sometimes Italy just seems to make things difficult just for the sheer hell of it. I won't even get started on the beaurocracy and how, when I went to sort out my residency as required by law, what they wanted from me wasn't much short of a pound of flesh; but there's silly little everyday things that can wear you down. Italy doesn't have the same history of immigration as the UK and some other countries in Europe, historically Italians left this country in search of a better life, not the other way round; and it definitely shows.

For a start it's the people who challenge your presence in Italy. Often at lunchtime, just down the street from my office, there's a pensioner walking his dog. And he always stares at me. A proper full-on stare threatening stare until he physically can't move his neck any more for his eyes to carry on staring at me as I go down the street. I've seen him doing the same to another foreign lady, so it's not just me, but he doesn't bat an eyelid when Italian women go past him.

It's the people at the post office who lean forward and squint their eyes when you start talking to them. It's the random men who want to talk to you purely because you're blonde. It's the people of all ages who look at you on the metro. It's the people who don't believe you can speak a word of Italian even though you have a degree in it. There's a whole list of ridiculous petty little things. On a bad day even little things like this can make you question what you're doing in a country that will never treat you like a normal person, never mind accept you.

You've got to have a lot of love for this country if you want to live here. And I do, if I didn't I wouldn't still be here after three-and-a-bit years. It does wear you down at times though. But every time it does I just have to stop and think for a minute, it doesn't take me long to realise how lucky I am to be living in this country. It isn't perfect, but where is?


Maria Augusta said...

Well, I am Italian and I am in London now. I feel like you, so see: every place is the same! :)

Nerys said...

Ciao Maria! It's just a part of living abroad unfortunately, little things cause bigger problems than they would do in your home country!

Anonymous said...

Ever thought to dye your hair?
Dark brown... and nobody will notice you around.

I'm only kidding of course, but yeah, I suppose it's very annoying.
I find pretty a shame the Italian habit of making loud appreciations when girls/women are around: it seems some males just obey their hormones.

Days ago I read a funny story, about an Italian girl originally from India, who spent some time in Canada. She said in Canada she was seen and considered as an Italian, even by other Indians, whereas in Italy she is still considered as an Indian.

Definitely Italy is not UK or Canada: old generations tend to be a bit mind-closed and not used yet to foreign faces.


Patty said...

true about the staring, but we italian women now have to bear the staring of the african/eastern european immigrants which can be rather scary at times. In Italy we say: 'tutto il mondo รจ paese' meaning that every country in the world is the same.

mark said...

Interesting posting, as ever. Obviously I don't get the "blonde girl being stared at" thing but I know what you mean about life being "challenging" and Italians making life difficult just for the heck of it!
Another one that gets me is the "superiority" of poeple once they get behind a desk - see "comune" office workers, post office clerks, teachers and the like - not to mention people in uniform! Sure, uniforms require respect but... there's more than one way of gaining respect.

Nerys said...

Hi Mark! I completely agree, it's like sometimes Italians go about trying to gain respect the wrong way, and just come across as being patronising.