December 15, 2013

Missing Italy, or am I?

Wow, it's been a really long time since I last wrote. Our lives have changed in so many ways, its really hard for me to even streamline what to write about now. Unless you all want to hear about how rad my daughter is. She is already 4 months old, rolling over, laughing, loves Italian music, growing blonde hair and still looks exactly like her father. 

My in laws from Italy came over for a month to meet her and spend time with us. It was such a special time for everyone in so many ways.We ate big lunches almost everyday at home (usually pasta & salad), had dinners with both families which was so special & had not happened since our wedding. Managing the language was a little difficult but we did the best we could because at the end of the day - laughter, happiness, smiling and hugs are universal.

They continually teach me how to be more relaxed, enjoy the simple things in life and not to worry so much. With that being said, I won't lie that sometimes I wish things were more organized and done in a timely manner, my brain just works that way - especially with a newborn. It's not a bad thing that Italians are generally like this, it's just different than how Americans generally are. I am still searching for that healthy balance of our lifestyles of when it's appropriate to be relaxed, and when it's appropriate to get things done in time. 

The first day they met Sofia






Since returning to the US in February I have had many ups & downs emotionally on whether I really wanted to be living here. For any person who is thinking of moving abroad, or an expat who is thinking about coming home I must give you this advice. The grass is NOT always greener on the other side. I have a bad way of glamorizing each country that I am not physically in. I fell in love with Italy 15 years ago, so I moved there. I still love it, but obviously wanted something different so we moved to the United States (which comes with another huge bag of culture shock), and now we think we want to go back to Italy. I guess this will always be the way since we are from two different countries and see the good and bad in both?

We always strive for the perfect life, which it is not.  When in Italy we daydream of convenience, of order, of working hard and being rewarded for it, of having options of being whatever you want to be! What you don't think about is how incredibly impatient people are here, how eating good food takes effort, the sitting culture is normal, and so is sitting in traffic ALL.THE.TIME.

When in United States, we daydream of sitting on the coast of Italy, drinking wine and eating fresh seafood. Taking long walks along the Arno River in Florence. Long lunches every Sunday, and long dinners during the week. What you don't think about is inability of many Italians to create order, to pay you on time (if ever!), schedules to work (trains, buses) and how inconvenient it can be to complete the smallest of tasks like opening a bank account or getting a replacement ATM card. 

Which is better? Can we have both somehow? I feel like we are getting eaten up in a really fast lifestyle in the United States, rushing through the days, not savoring every moment. Where I imagine a lot of headaches (literally) and frustration of being able to save financially for my daughter's future in Italy. For any of you that have been through this, I would love your feedback. We struggle with this, both my husband and I - but in different ways.

For some reason I feel like I need to put a disclaimer on this post. I love Italy and I do love Italians, I also love America and I love Americans. This post is not intended to offend anyone or anyone's culture, it's only my perspective of learning how to balance both.
 
Both families in Atlanta, Georgia USA



10 comments:

Sara Amrhein said...

Well my dear, I think you hit the nail on the head when you asked if it will always be like this? Longing for the other way of life. After living in Florence for four years from 200-2004, I convinced my husband and myself that living in the US was the best option for both of us. We got married there, tried to start a life and find jobs and after three years we decided to retune to Florence. Now after another seven years here, the thought and idea of a better life in the US are suddenly creeping into my head once again. Sometimes We really need to step back and evaluate what it is that we are really looking for in life and what will truly make us happy. In the end, I don't know if we will ever truly feel like we are in the right place. I love Florence and I love all the things you mentioned about living here but after spending 10 days back "home" I once again began to fantasize about an American life. I think what you are feeling is completely normal. It's hard and it may never go away. We love both places. If only life was pfect and we could live 6 months a year in each place!

Christy said...

Thanks Sara, I know you really understand this - to the fullest degree possible. For you, what are the things that keep you in Italy? and what are the things that make you long to come back to the States?

Christy said...

oh! and I agree with you 6 months in each would be utopia!

Sara Amrhein said...

Geeze, I just noticed all my typos in the first comment :/ sorry! For me, the reasons for staying in Italy are several; I think the most important would be the healthcare, my experience here has greatly surpassed that of the US and wanting to start a family, many friends have had wonderful experiences with the pre and post natal care. Another is that Italy in general and Florence especially has a low violent crime rate, meaning I feel very safe here. And along the lines of health, the food; I feel healthier in Italy, my diet is healthier without even trying, there is so much freshness all around that I don't even need to think about it. I know you mentioned this as well, but I think its worth mentioning again. And lastly, as an artist, Italy is full of inspiration and appreciation for the arts. As for the US, well it would be nice to be in a place where my many years of education was actually recognized and rewarded. I also miss a society where laws are made and then enforced and people follow them making for an organized and (mostly) functioning culture. And as an (aspiring) business owner i know that the US provides more opportunity for long term sustainability. I could go on, there are many points to consider and you are absolutely right, the grass is not always greener. I hate to say it my dear but I fear that there is no longer hope for us! We will be externally homesick no matter where we are! Baci bella, a tutta la famiglia.

LoveLiveLearn said...

Christy! I usually never write on the blogs, but this time I kind felt...I wanted to...First, your family is freaking beautiful congrats! I remember meeting you 3 years ago, and its really incredible how much has changed;)
I hate to be so practical...but here I go...I have no idea what your financial situation is, or what your work situation is, but I can tell you that...Making your decision should include a few things: What will you do for work? Do you have help for the baby here? Are you ok with speaking fluent Italian and talking to the teachers at the schools? Do you have finances for international school which costs 15,000 a year? Do you want to rent or own your home?
I don;t know...but you know what I do know? Choose a place, enjoy it, and just be super thankful for what you do have, cause its A LOT. As well, I imagine that once or twice a year...you can come to visit for an extended period or try to make that happen. As for health insurance, sure its better here, but....if you want private, you still have to pay. And if you need an operation...depending...you have to wait...sometimes on a list for a year...nothing is perfect. But you and your husband know where you feel your best TOGETHER and that is the only thing that is truly important. All this stuff about being relaxed, walking on the arno, picnics ect...its nice...but reality is something very different. Please excuse me for sounding so forward and brutal. Each and every person is in a very different situation. some have family money, some have handed down homes or villas, some have nothing and have to work for every penny...Whereever you are on that scale, in my opion the balance is truly just being happy with what you have instead of always thinking about what you dont or miss. Happy healthy holidays to you and yours chica. She truly is beautiful.

Christy said...

Thanks girls, I really appreciate all the feedback and insight. Often we feel overwhelmed here, sometimes not. Constantly seeking for that healthy balance!

Do you all feel like private schooling is the only option in Italy?

Anonymous said...

I don't know you personally but thought I'd chime in on the education. I might get blasted, but I'd never send my child to an Italian public school. Mainly because I teach the products of this sinking ship. I don't understand the point of going to school max 3-4 hours a day. Saturday school is a joke, and the American in me sees it as a waste of time and family-time usurper. When I hear the kids I teach laugh or roll their eyes because they "had 3 hours of Italian today because the Math teacher wasn't there" or "On Saturdays I have 2 hours of phys ed" or "Oh, I haven't had english in a month, the teacher is ill and they can't find a supplente" and don't even get me started on the lazy-arse approach to 'english' through high school studying lit and only lit, wherein most students copy or read excerpts of texts online to get through the stupid interrogations. The strikes, the instability, the lack of imagination, the lack of funds....families paying for schoolbooks?! graffiti ridden walls, cramped desks/rooms.... I don't think I can afford the Int'l School but some other private schools are what I am considering. They are not perfect, but there is stability, more organization, and above all....freaking toilet paper! :-/
It's sad because my friends and fiancee` are products of the public school system and are intelligent, but the past 10 years have seen such a gross downgrade in everything I.just.can't.

Christy said...

Sara just posted this on FB and its spot on! I thought you all might like to read (and laugh!)
http://survivinginitaly.com/2013/12/27/18-differences-between-living-in-italy-and-the-united-states/

Kate said...

I'm catching up on your posts, so I'm a little late chiming in here, but this is something that we talk about every. single. day. It's really a shame that we can't have a grab bag of everything we love about both cultures and locations, isn't it? I think was Rob and I are hoping/planning/dreaming of is having the option to bounce back and forth every 4-5 years or as opportunity knocks.

The hard part is that, as you wrote, the grass will *always* be greener. You'll miss the things you don't have when you are in one place and vice versa.

There is a *chance* we will be moving to your neck of the woods. Perhaps the four of us can recreate lazy weekend lunches with prosecco?

Elizabeth Petrosian said...

Ciao Christy, haven't been over to your blog in a while, sorry--let me say congratulations! Your daughter is a one sweet cucciolo :-)

Italy vs. America is an entirely personal thorn in one's backside, one that--as others have said--will never really go away. You really just have to evaluate what's important to you at this stage in your life (knowing that at a later stage, that might vey well change). All I can offer is my own take on the matter:

When my kids were babies/young I thought being around family was the most important, and since I have practiaclly none of my own, this meant my Italian husband's family in Italy. We stayed in Italy at great sacrifice to ourselves, especially me (if you know my story with the FIL, then you know what I'm talking about). In retrospect, this decision had its good and bad. The kids went to an Italian elementary school, which was certainly a sweet enough experience, but it did almost nothing to challenge my kids intellectually, open their minds, stimulate passions or extracurricular interests. Not a horrible experience, just the sweet end of mediocre. Once we looked ahead to my son going to middle school (of which I have never heard good things, from either expats or Italians), well, that galvanized us in making plans to go back to the States.

Also, I have a daughter and--no offense to anyone--I did not want to raise a daughter in Italy. The U.S. isn't perfect, but girls just have way more opportunity here to do all kinds of things. The mentality is different.

Ok, now for the grownups: in Italy we were, in a word, stagnating. Face it, there is almost no room for creativity and entrepreneurial enterprise. It's practically a Sisyphean battle to just mail a f***ing letter or package--imagine starting and growing a business! We moved to Portland and within months started a business that is experiencing success in the form of appreciative and enthusiastic reviews; thankfully it is really taking off. There is the exciting feeling all around us of people doing interesting creative things and the whole atmosphere just fosters it, breeds it. Talent and effort are appreciated, rewarded (at least to some degree)--you can well imagine how wonderful this feels after so many years of dealing with a mentality that beats you down with "Why bother? Too hard, impossible, no one will care" etc.

My kids are thriving and are able to do many affordable extracurricular activities; their world is expanding; they seem stimulated and motivated and actually excited about school. Only downside--and this is a big one--is that in America these days you have to worry about school shootings. Or being shot while you're at the mall, or in a theater. Crazy.

I would point out that there's no way in hell I would live just anywhere in the States--some places are definitely better than others in terms of attitude, mentality, food, opportunities, etc.

I share my experience knowing that it is simply what's working for us right now. It's certainly not for everyone, all the time. Bottom line is you do your best to make the choice that best suits your family in the present. And just learn to live with the blessing/curse that allows you to choose between two countries. :-)

All the best to you, Elizabeth

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