So you’ve got your heart set on moving to Italy. I get it. I mean, I don’t….but I do; a bit. It’s romantic, has great weather (during the summer), good food, good wine, great old art and buildings (if you’re into that sort of thing). It’s THE place where you can really find yourself and write your own “Under the Tuscan Sun”. I can just see the rolling hills from my rustic villa now.
Let me tell you something.
There are some things you need to know before taking the plunge in il bel paese; things, that you will read here, scoff at, think “no, there is no way I would have any problem with that!” and continue filling out your immigration papers.
I will lay it out for you.
I will do this because I was not someone who ever dreamed about living here. Or was moved by history and works of art, who wanted to walk down cobblestone streets and have a quick espresso and hope to be hit on by passionate Italian men with their snappy shoes and wild gestures.
I’m here for entirely other reasons which I will share with you another time.
The point is – for whatever your guidebooks, forums, and rose colored glasses will tell you, you can’t get away from the (wo)man on the street, those in the know, the hard seasoned expats who’ve soaked up the rays, drank the wine, and pitted the olives before you. Me, in other words.
In layman’s terms – your reading about it, is no substitute for the combined experiences of the rest of us here.
And so, without further ado – I present you the first in a new series:
10 Things You Will Just Have to Suck Up if you Want to Live in Italy
Starting with #10 (last but by no means, the least!)
10. Kiss space goodbye.
When I first moved to Italy I was your typical non-assuming, polite Canadian who always respected people’s space – both mentally, and more importantly, physically. I followed the rules of personal space. I didn’t get too close to people or grab their hand or arm when speaking. I kept people at arms’ length (in all respects, not just figuratively).
I spent the first two years steeling myself to NOT take a step backwards when people would lean in to talk, greet me with a kiss on both cheeks, touch my arm or hand, give me an impulsive hug/shoulder massage, or walk too closely beside me. I still do it now, after 6 years. (Full disclaimer, I’m not hugely demonstrative anyways, so perhaps you won’t find yourself having quite as bad a time as I did in the beginning.)
I knew that I had started to acclimatize though on one of our yearly trips to Canada.
Now, I don’t know if you’ve ever gotten married to someone who is not from your home country (continent, village, province, state, territory, what have you) but each time you visit your country, you find yourself in this weird – “I’m perfectly content to just chill at my parents house and hang out in the backyard and perhaps check out WalMart later” while at the same time feeling this oppressing guilt that your significant other has taken hard earned vacation time and maybe doesn’t want to spend his whole holiday watching “Hoarders” and that one where people bid on storage units, and all of the other trash shows that have somehow invaded A&E. Could just be me though.
So when we landed in Vancouver, my brother and sister-in-law had taken time off and we spent a couple days just doing touristy things. Walking along the sea wall, going to the market on Granville Island, and visiting Grouse Mountain.
Grouse Mountain is a picturesque ski hill cum hiker’s paradise (depending on the season) where my brother happened to propose to my sister-in-law (which they graciously re-enacted for us for photo-ops that we hadn’t asked for) with a small “zoo” complete with bears, and, ummm, other non-descript animals…..and bears. Alessio had had his heart set on seeing a bear in its natural habitat (behind chicken wire as it were) for years, and of ALL his friends, was the only one not to run into one (not literally of course) in any of his trips even though most of his friends had only been there once. Talk about putting the laws of probability to shame.
Anyways – we walked around for a bit, listened in on some other touring Italian families – “Papà – perchè c’è la neve?” (“Dad, why is there snow?”. We were visiting in September. It’s a MOUNTAIN bambino! Move on!) and ended up watching a live show with some of the birds they keep there. Hawks and eagles and the like.
I had Ada with me and because there was a crowd of people, and I’m vertically challenged, I was having trouble seeing what was going on. Alas! What is that I see in the near distance? A spot in the front row?! I rushed with Ada to grab it, sat down, breathed a sigh of relief, wiggled this way and that to make myself comfortable, and only then did I notice the little girl beside me slowly leaning away in the opposite direction horrified.
I had invaded her personal space.
Tune in next week for #9!