It’s my year anniversary of moving here today! So, what better way of marking the occasion than interviewing myself…<first sign of madness?>
Sue: So, a year on Sue….did it go as you expected?
Sue: Well Sue, let me tell you. No it did not! Before I came out, my plan was basically to do a month at the language school, become completely fluent and proficient in Italian, buy a car, move out of the language school accommodation after 2 months and then find somewhere to rent whilst I look for somewhere to buy. In my free time, I would spend my time doing artistic things and writing a novel. It didn’t happen quite like that!
Sue: Mmm…. So what DID happen?
Sue: Well…….I didn’t become remotely fluent in Italian in that month. It turns out I significantly underestimated how long it takes to become conversant in a language (by several years). “Immersion” is not the miracle language learning environment that it’s cracked up to be. I stayed on a further month at the language school to improve and it served as quite a nice social base for meeting new people and for visiting the local area. Eventually I ended up staying at the language school flat for 3 days short of a year having initially been exasperated at the sheer complicatedness of trying to find somewhere to rent, and then actually becoming quite fond of the place. As for buying a car here, you are required to be a resident and that was a long-winded process taking months longer than I think it should do. And it’s difficult to buy a car without having access to a car to travel to find one! So I bought the ‘Nan-mobile’ (my grandmother’s car) back from the UK. With regard to the artistic things, I accidentally committed myself to working as an infant and primary school teacher which has taken up an inordinate amount of time and effort.
Sue: And was that a good idea Sue?
Sue: No Sue, it wasn’t.
Sue: Oh really? Why ever not?
Sue: Well Sue, it’s because the children are happiness-killing nightmares.
Typical lesson. I’ve taken on board advice from my editor (thanks mum) than “happiness killing nightmares” is a bit strong. I’ve decided to keep it in ;-)
Sue: So are you going to do it next year?
Sue: No………. No I will not be doing it again.
Sue: Sounds like a fabulous decision there Sue. So, the teaching seemed like it was a bit of low, but did anything go well in your move to Italy?
Sue: Loads went well. I’ve had a great time this year. In fact, I would say that it’s been my best year yet! Admittedly, the biggest factor in that was giving up “proper work” and allowing myself the freedom to do stuff I actually like doing…
Sue: Er, the teaching Sue….
… was a terrible, terrible mistake. Anyway. I really, REALLY like not having to go to a 9-5 office job. Then there was the move here… I’ve loved living in Camerano and I think this region of Italy is beautiful. I’m really pleased I chose the particular language school that I did – they’re a great bunch there and that definitely helped me with the “transition” to Italy. I’ve also had lots of visits from friends and family which has been lovely too.
Sue: What has been the most difficult thing for you being in Italy?
Sue: People warn you about the bureaucracy here but it never prepares you for what you’ll face. Every tiny thing takes several months longer than you anticipate it will. And I miss my friends and family. Technology has been a life saver – without regular contact with friends and family on Whatsapp, Facebook, Skype and email I’d have felt isolated and depressed but I feel just as ‘in the fold’ as I was before. What has been difficult is when I feel like my friends and family at home have needed my support and I’ve not been there in the UK to give it. I don’t like that I can’t be there in person and that I’m not as readily on hand for things like that as I would have been in the past. Having said that – now that the teaching will be done in a month or so I’ll be a bit freer to go back and forth to visit.
Sue: Are the Italians really the insane drivers that we think they are?
Sue: Yes. Driving here has been traumatic and characterised by frequent near death experiences. However, it has got better. I worry that’s because maybe I’ve become an insane driver too rather than their sudden appreciation of life. I hope not. I take heart in that it still scares me when they drive at speed until they’re touching my rear bumper and then overtake 5 cars around a blind corner.
One example of insane driving…
Sue: Does anything shock you about Italy?
Sue: I have to confess to spending a great deal of time light-hardheartedly poking fun at my new countrymen and I’ve been shocked on a fairly regular basis. This has been the source for a good 6 months worth of “what’s a bit odd” material to include in my weekly blogs.
Some of the ‘shocking’ highlights have been their terrible driving, their bureaucracy, their weird seasonal dress sense (thou shalt not wear flipflops before 1st June even if it is 30 degrees celsius) and their weird dress sense full stop (thou shalt wear a mismatched pastel-coloured chino and shirt combo). They have awful TV – it seems to be back to back terrible game shows with big bosomed blonds prancing about in 10 inch heels. And oddly, Italians don’t really do “greetings”. It’s not guaranteed that you’ll get a hello out of someone when you walk past which I think is odd for a small town or if you’re on a walk in the middle of nowhere. And the custom of asking people you know how they are doesn’t seem to exist here at all unless it’s an official visit!
However, the truth is I feel I can say all that because in my heart there’s so much great stuff about the country and the people here. I should mention it more often. They’re friendly, generous and kind, and they’re helpful if you have problems. They are always interested and eager to hear about people. They organise weird festivals in the summer (the three day Festival of Fish is coming up in the next town in a week or so). They give you free food when you buy a drink. It’s been really interesting living in a new country and there is lots that’s really not like we do things back home. Having said that – when I’m here chatting to new friends and we laugh about a joint experience it serves as an excellent reminder that we are all essentially the same – regardless of upbringing, culture and climate!
Sue: You’re rambling a bit Sue… you should ramble less. So, is there anything you really miss?
Sue: Curry. English Breakfasts. Reasonably priced baked beans. Gravy. Decent tea. And reasonably sized coffee. And of course friends and family :-)
Sue: But it’s offset by?
Sue: Italian Yoghurt, ice-cream, piadinas, peaches, tomatoes, oranges, grissini.
Sue: So you had planned to do arty stuff and write a book – did any of that happen?
Sue: Not as much as I wanted but I’ve just got my online shop up and running now so I’m really pleased and enthusiastic about that. I do like making stuff out of things I’ve found on the beach. It’s fun, it’s free and I feel all environmentally friendly. I put off writing a book because I wanted to get better at Italian and writing in English all day wouldn’t have helped that. However, I’m sort of resigned to my level of Italian at the moment. I do really want to get better but I’m going to give myself less of a hard time about it and maybe it’ll just come.
Sue:Has it been difficult moving from London to a rather tranquil village essentially in the middle of nowhere (according to UK standards)?
Sue: Not at all. I loved London but it is a rather hectic place and I definitely made it more hectic for myself by trying to squeeze in as much as humanly possible. I like this new quieter pace of life a lot. If I lived the life I do now in London I would have felt I was missing things – too many people to see, places to go, courses to do etc. But here, it feels as if even if there were the exhaustive list of things to do, by doing those things I would be missing out on doing Italian things like appreciating the scenery, drinking and eating nice food, relaxing and sunbathing ;-)
Sue: Good. And have you made any friends here Sue?
Sue: Well Sue, I’ve met a bunch of new people, and I hope at least some of them will be life-long buddies. It’s difficult making new friends. The language barrier adds an extra complication and the Italian’s can be quite private sometimes, keeping themselves to themselves. I’ve made a couple of friends doing language swaps which has been good. Friendships are difficult between men and women here – they keep to their own sex usually. A perfect example is when you drive through any village in the summer and there’s clumps of old men on one bench and clumps of old ladies on another (that’s if the ladies are not back at home cooking dinner…if only that was a joke!!!). Having said that, it’s been hard in particular meeting females though and I’m thrilled about stumbling into my new best friend here in a hotel last year, a New Zealander with a fab sense of humour. That’s made a big difference.
Old Lady / Old Man Clumps. Scene in ANY piazza across Italy in the summer.
Sue: So do you think you did the right thing moving to Italy?
Sue: Yes! In April last year I couldn’t even picture my life at the point where it is now – there were too many factors completely new for me to even imagine. But I’m really pleased with how it’s turned out. I do occasionally ask myself if I moved back home (because the UK will always be “home”), where would I live and what would I do? I’d love being near my friends and family again but is that enough? Particularly when I probably speak to many of them as much, if not more now than before.
We spend the bulk of our adult lives working. It tends to end up defining us – what we do, where we live, who we associate with. When you remove the job, it’s easy to feel a bit lost – the reason for waking up everyday has gone and there’s often no reason to be where you are anymore. Given there’s not much of a reason for me to be anywhere……. then well, I’d like to be here in Italy :-)
Sue: Aw Sue, that’s sort of sad that you don’t feel like you “belong” anywhere isn’t it?
Sue: No, it’s OK. I definitely have feeling “lost” moments but it’s more liberating than scary. Returning to the UK would feel like clinging onto the past rather than taking a step forward. I’d have to start out all over again when I’ve only just got myself on my feet here. I think I’ll feel a bit more settled and a bit more “at home” when I have my own house, with my own stuff in it. I can’t wait for that.
Sue: So what’s the new plan?
Sue: Well Sue, good question. I’ve just moved into a new flat by the beach this summer. I intend to have fun, snorkel, sunbathe, do art, write, improve my Italian, make new friends, go out more, travel a bit and I hope before the year is out, to buy a house here. Then, who knows?
Sue: Do you think Italy has changed you Sue?
Sue: Yes, I think it has! This will make me sound incredibly smug, I almost don’t want to say it, but I’m so proud of myself! I set a goal to ‘up-sticks’ and come here by myself and I did it. I thought maybe I was just all talk – but I wasn’t, so I’m happy about that <takes a moment to pat self on back>. So that’s a nice confidence booster and I feel a lot more self-sufficient than before.
Sue: OK, final question – do you have anything to say to your wonderful loyal followers?
Sue: Writing this blog has been excellent! Coming here on my own has been somewhat of a journey of self discovery but I’m a sociable soul at heart and it’s been sharing my experiences on this blog and getting feedback from friends, family and people I’ve never even met that has made my life here as good as it has been. So, a heartfelt thank you to the people who have been following my blog all this time!
Sue: Sue, you’ve gone all soppy and philosophical. Put the wine down.