Cold Feet or What?

09/28/2012 - 09:28

One or two things raise their ugly heads whilst dreaming of moving abroad. Homesickness, yes I'm sure everyone has pangs of it . Quite a few people retire to Italy in later years, but after a while of living there, do they then dream of say, Bluebell woods, a pint at their local, watching their grandchildren grow up and missing the family back in the U.K. Missing their own language and their own humour. Not being able to discuss in depth points of view with their Italian neighbours, and dreaming of a cool night in the middle of those overpoweringly hot ones...Do you find that you make friendships amongst the Ex-pat community and stay within that group? Does it not limit your Italian language skills? Can you actually totally fit in amongst the Italians...or are you seen as the Inglese. I find Italians to be quite conformists after a certain age and a little unyielding. Also, isn't there a lot of racism in Italy?Whilst I was on one of my visits I met an English ex-pat who came over with her husband and enjoyed 7 years of bliss until her husband suddenly and unexpectedly died. They had no family in Italy. She felt alone &, as she had left most of the conversation to her husband, could speak very little Italian. What to do? Houses are not selling in Italy as well as they were. So, she was stuck in Italy. Although her neighbours tried to help they could not really comfort her. I suppose that whilst one has the "choice" to stay or go back home that's fine but once the choice is taken away... She has no other option, no second home in the U.K, no family with enough room to put her up, even if she wanted it. .Maybe the dream of living abroad, as so many things are, just something for the wealthy. I imagine normal people, those without huge wads of cash to fall back on, have to be less impulsive and weigh up all the pros and cons before jumping in as well as ensuring there is a plan B, or a plan C, or even a plan D. Yes, it's great that your Italian neighbours will bring you fresh veg and vino and water your plants but they cannot be expected to care for you when you are ill or alone. Just a couple of the things I worry about when I lie awake planning my dream move to Italy.



  I sympathise with Dave's death, but hardly think that an attack on Italians is the way to best present a case for an expat view of Italy.  Surely this only points out the problems with people trying to live an English life in Italy, do you not agree? Problems that can only ever end in the tears of the expat trying to live here, whilst refusing to engage with real life here in Italy. Tell your "friend" that she should learn Italian, engage fully with her community and start to live here as though her life depends upon it. Like every Italian does.

My answer does not apply to me,as i consider myself perfectly integrated and speak/write/read Italian etc.But,from my experience i see that;many ex-pats miss  pubs,marmite,their own language/humour seeing relatives...actually the list is very long.Interestingly it seems to be not quite the same for germans,dutch and americans maybe because they do not have rose tinted glasses or maybe they do their homework first or maybe they choose more populous areas where there can be more interaction,or maybe because they feel more citizens of the world.The things i see, that many (brits) buy homes in the most quiet rural areas imaginable where the chance of building relations is right from the start handicapped,can you imagine in the remotest parts of Scotland or Wales you're going to meet for the most part a few local farmers and their families..not a lot of other people about let alone services as you're used to.If one lived in say Verona or Turin to name only a couple of places you'd find a modern updated quite cosmopolitan society nowadays, far from the stereotypes of Italy you may know of.So if your intention is to bury yourself in the countryside you get what you see otherwise try living here for a year or two ,get the feel of the place that way,get a part time job (they still exist)or simply spend extended periods until you feel comfortable with your choice because if you have these doubts now they risk only getting stronger in time ..and there is no Plan B. or costs a lot to move house,moving back can prove even more of the problems i see is the problem of "aimlessness" ie. people who were once presumably busy move over and do..nothing.Work can be a motorway into society,it doesn't have to be a good job,it could be waiting in a local restaurant at lunch times,or in a bar,or doing hair washing for the hairdresser but you would meet people and build friendships and learn quickly the language,become a blood donor they're all very friendly at the local blood bank and they do little excursions too,favour a butcher over a supermarket you'll be forced to talk,eat italian,think italian,buy a daily newspaper and try to read it,listen to radio3 they have great programmes with people who talk well.Italy is much more of a classless society than the UK nobody would look down on you because you work in the bar or the local shop,if you have the time and don't need the money there's loads of volontary work looking after people of all kinds even immigrants and the like from Africa/asia where language could be useful.Intoduce yourself in the local municipality get to know them they can be useful when you need permission to put up a shed (it seems)don't wait for neighbours or local people to leave bags of veg on your doorstep be proactive bring them a present -bake a cake something simple big presents are embarassing in italy for those who receive.All of that would give you a completely different perspective on life here you wouldn't feel like another expat shut in a house ........................................  

In our case, we moved lock stock and barrel over here (to Italy), started learning Italian with a teacher every week before we arrived, continued with another teacher once arriving here and...................I'm useless with languages. Our immediate neighbours speak only 'dialetto'............we do have a large circle of friends who are English speaking and we see them regularly. We have made lots of Italian friends (and acquaintances) and have hosted three different Italian families around our dinner tables (one brought their own food and would not eat ours !!). But all in all we get by very well and just cannot see why we would ever go back to blighty. HOWEVER.....I would think that if 'something' serious happened to either of us, that would change our view dramatically. You make the most of what you have I suppose ? S

A few sweeping statements regarding this isn't there? Integration is not easy for some as it has a lot to do with personality, and no matter where you are one may have difficulty 'fitting in'. Our Italian relations in the UK are a prime example as most have been there 40 odd years and still are very much Italian (how they eat, speak, behave etc) and what is wrong with that?? They get by quite happily. This forum is full of people who want others to live as they do and simply put, they should mind their own business. If a person feels awkward it striking up a conversation in another language, does that make them a looser or a quitter.... The world is full of different people and I do believe it is wrong to judge others by ones own standards (and some have pretty poor standards on here). As Sebastiano rightly says the best way to learn the language and feel at home with customs etc, is to go out there TRY and get a job or use your local facilities; but some will not feel comfortable with this  and they have to deal with this; but no way should anyone be discouraged from making that jump and trying to live out here, the experience alone can be life changing. It's up to the individual to make it either good or bad.

  I cant disagree with much of what you say Sebastiano, especially the rose tinted glasses & the need for research. Those are the reasons & more I have been delaying making a decision. I can’t see how only the Brits are getting it wrong though. Is there something you see in the Brit mentality, character, intellect that gets them to make ill-considered & foolish decisions which they live to regret? Mind you, they did vote for Maggie Thatcher. I think as I suggested earlier that the wealthier you are the greater the chances of success. Money gives you choice which allows you freedom which is a pretty major route to happiness.  In that respect, Americans, Dutch & German economies have for many years been steadily growing while the UK’s with its overburdened welfare state & unchecked immigration has been spiralling down & the rats have been jumping ship in droves.  The only people that don’t want to leave are the Bankers. Work can be a motorway to society. What a great line. I dont know how old you are but I’m old enough to be sick of work & I doubt if many of the Brit retirees in Italy would want to work even if they could get it. I don’t know what Beery spice is on about. I didnt mention Abruzzo or any Dave & I didnt attack Italians?The lady was not my friend just someone I met briefly and by what I learned was in no position to be gadding  about behaving like every other Italian. It seems like its a complex subject & people hold passionate views. But why so much passion? I say Bravo Flip. You seem to have a healthy attitude & a balanced viewpoint. No agenda, no angst, no holier than thou, no do it like me, no your all a bunch of no hope losers. Thank you. Pass the Marmite please.

Bella, I suspect the widow you refer to does have some options. In the worst case, if she decides that her Italian dream died with her late husband, she can sell up and go back to a place that feels more like home. True, the housing market here is not exactly fizzing at the moment, but if her house is habitable and not in a totally awful place, I'd be surprised if it was actually impossible to sell her house, no matter what price tag she put on it. The money she'd get from the sale might well be a lot less than what she and her late husband put into the property and that would be galling, but it seems to me it's all a matter of priorities: if she's utterly miserable in her Italian house and she's certain that living in Britain would make her life at least tolerable, perhaps it would be better for her to be living in a tiny, grotty flat in, say, Solihull rather than to be lying dead by her own hand in a lovely Italian home? Less dramatically, if she thinks that the lack of social interaction with the people living around her is what's making her miserable, she could decide to get out there and force herself to integrate. I don't make that suggestion lightly. Having gone through the spousal bereavement process myself, I understand that it is all too easy to get mired in a cycle of misery and depression. Also, since I've always been a bit of a misanthrope and I've never been great on socialising in any of the countries I've lived in, I would find it very difficult to start hanging out at our village bar/cafe now. But then I'm not the one feeling miserable due to isolation; I quite enjoy the peace and I'm happy that our Italian neighbours haven't attempted to force me to conform with the local norms. I am amused when people chastise expat Brits for not living correctly in Italy. It seems that some people do genuinely believe that the only proper way to approach Italy is to seek to become more Italian than the Italians. They bring to mind a few US servicemen I knew who, on being posted to Scotland, immediately went out and bought a full formal kilt outfit and started to take lessons on how to play the bagpipes. But still, even if they became able to stage a one-man Burns Supper complete with haggis they had made and poetry recitations in historically accurate Lowland Scots, they would always remain the product of their Polish-Swedish-Irish-German genes and their upbringing in Pittsburgh, Denver or Dallas. And still most Scots would see them as just another Yank sailor. I'm not Italian and I have no aspirations to become Italian. Even if I did, I know I will never be seen as Italian by my neighbours. And, as long as the political and social climate remains relatively hospitable to stranieri, that matters to me not a jot. However, as Flip says, there are those who feel very strongly that an approach such as mine to living in Italy is wrong – outrageously so, in fact – because it doesn't agree with their opinions about the correct way to fully appreciate the wonders of Italy and Italians. I can think of several reasons why some people might be so fanatical on this point, but as long as they're not taking me hostage at gunpoint to go listen to "Tosca", physically forcing me to eat at the local sagra della tripa or threatening me with physical violence if I don't agree that Mussolini was a misunderstood political genius, such people and their opinions simply don't matter to me. Finally, I don't think that Brits have a particular problem with living as expats. I was born and grew up in the States, so I am very familiar with immigrants. Historically, every one of the ethnic and national groups in the USA started out by living together in communities where their native language was spoken, the food of the immigrants' childhoods was prepared and business was conducted largely internal to the group. As most people know, there is a huge Italian-American community and they're renowned for maintaining – and adapting – their culinary traditions in the New World. I suppose some fanatical Italian chauvinists might believe that they continue to cook Italian simply because it is beyond all doubt the best food in the world, but the truth is that Italian Americans continue to cook and eat Italian food because it is what they enjoy and that's largely due to it being the sort of food they've known from their earliest childhood. I see no difference between someone of Italian descent living in New Jersey relishing linguine alle vongole and an expat Brit living in Liguria waking up hankering for a breakfast of soft boiled egg and Marmite soldiers. It's simply human nature to enjoy the flavours, sounds and smells that bring to mind the earliest feelings of "home". Al

Bella, take no notice of Sneerylice - he has "issues" and probably believes you are me and I am his nemesis - he is only correct about one of those things.  wink Allan Mason, on the other hand, always writes with complete honesty and gives a very balanced viewpoint.  I know whose postings I would take notice of.

I'm firmly in the marmite camp! I think it's hard to fully integrate as so much socialising is done within the family in rural Italy. I am sure in cities it is different. We have moved to somewhere a bit more populous in Italy so our daughter can grow up somewhere a bit more cosmopolitan. I'm not yearning for London but not having to drive 50km to buy her shoes is an added advantage too! I know a few couple who have retired here then Grandchildren have come along and they feel very torn. Some have even returned to their home country as they felt they were missing out. I think if you are of retirement age that is a consideration. Plus I agree with Sebastian. Even if you are retired, having some kind of part-time work or even volunteering is a great way to get to know people. I'm afraid us Brits who lived there during the 80's can't give blood in Italy. I think it's to do with BSE but I was refused...

Why do you need to feel you have 'integrated'; we have Sicilians living in our village and they will always be Sicilian first and Italian second, the same as some Albanian friends we have. As long as you can communicate, get along with others and strike up some sort of friendship, people will accept you for what you are. You shouldn't have to feel like you are a fully paid up, card carrying 'Italian' to be comfortable here, be an individual, and sod what people like Custard Slice say.

Integration isn't about pretending you're an Italian! For me it is just about being able to take part in society as I would have in the UK. Having friends, socialising, expressing myself etc etc.

AND I would just like to point out that, being from Yorkshire I don't actually speak fluent English either so why pretend to be 'somert' you are not? My neighbours like me, I like them. Jobs a gud un! Still wouldn't have Marmite int house tho!

AND I would just like to point out that, being from Yorkshire I don't actually speak fluent English either so why pretend to be 'somert' you are not? My neighbours like me, I like them. Jobs a gud un! In Italy and even in Yorkshire most educated people from regions also speak  the 'proper' language. Locals tend to exaggerate the difficulties.

I hate Marmite, Vegemite tastes better. And I love Italy, but I find Nutella absolutely awful. It is a matter of personal choices and circumstances... or fate. Integration, asssimilation, these are just words. It all depends on how each one adapts to what surrounds us, and how flexible we are. "Ubi bene, ibi patria", where I feel good, there is my home. Currently, I am in Bagni di Lucca and having a great time. We will also go to Praiano. On Sunday, we had a great lunch in Portofino. Enjoying every minute and I think that this is what we have to keep in mind. Life is short... where is the Prosecco? cheeky