Sunday 21 February 2010

The luck of being foreign

Many Italians, who come from small towns tell me that I am lucky. I am foreign so I can do what I want. I can live with my partner and no one says a thing, I can drink 100 glasses of wine at the bar and no one is going to report back to my parents, I don't have to go to church, I don't have to stay at home every night...basically I can do anything I want and not justify myself to anyone.

The Italians (and I am generalising here) think I am lucky as there is no way they could live with their partner before getting married! The shock and scandal of it all! The first time I met bel fidanzato's parents I slept in his bedroom - in twin beds. Many people were shocked as this was the first time I had been introduced to the family and here I was in his bedroom. After a year together his mother obviously had heard us pushing the twin beds apart in the morning so what did she do....she bought us a double bed. She didn't buy the double bed cause I am foreign and us foreigners like to sleep in big beds, she didn't give me any special treatment...she just saw the way things were, that we were a serious couple and that regardless of what anyone said, we would do things our rather then pretend to not "see", she accepted us as we were, and bought us a double bed.

So everyone says I am lucky because I am a foreigner and it's true but not how they think. Italians (I'm still generalising here, and talking about people from a small town) think people let me bend the rules because I am foreign but it's not true. The truth is that I have always done what I want and if people have a problem with it then too bad. I don't care if people whisper and gossip behind my back, I don't have to worry about making a bella figura because I don't care.

So I am lucky to be a foreigner - not because I get special treatment, but because I have different views and values from many Italians therefore can do what I want. So many Italians that I have met in small towns have said that they could never do what I do, but I want to ask them this - have they ever asked? If they want to live with their partner have they asked their families what they think. If they don't want to get married have they explained why? If they don't want to go to church, have they ever said why?

So many people in small Italian towns lead double lives. If they go on holidays with their partners they book a double room, if they live up north for work they share an apartment, but when they come home...well when they come home everything changes. No one speaks of the 'things' they do outside of the town. If you can't see it then maybe, just maybe it's not true - who knows - not me that's for sure!


Jone said...

Italians have always had double standards moreso in the south and even worse the ones that came out to Australia 30 40 or 50 years ago. In my experience Italians do everything that other people do in western countries do, live together, have babies out or wedlock, take drugs, drink, have affairs, etc etc. Most try desperately to hide this or make excuses (well their families do) so as not to show a "brutta figura" they can't help themselves. You're lucky because those rules don't apply to you, just be yourself and be aware of those who try and make you feel like your're doing something wrong.
You sound like you have great parents and great parents in law who love you both and that's all that matters

Anonymous said...

Great post Leanne. I don't think it is true that you can do what you want here in Italy. But being a foreigner serves as an excuse if you don't understand what expectations are. Then the locals can say, well what can you expect of a 'straniera'!

LindyLouMac said...

I find that family values here are still very old fashioned and along way behind those of the UK. If you stop and think about it though, maybe that is not such a bad thing.

Beautiful colours in the photo Leanne

nuccia said...

Such a great post! You're right about the fact that small town Italians do everything (or did) anyone else does - just not at home and it's just not talked about! Thumbs up to your in laws!

Anonymous said...

Leanne, don't forget you have gone to live in theone of the most poor region of Europe.I really admire your courage. Many girls from Calabria come into the north regions not just for work only but even to run away from this mentality. Good luck . I hope Calabria is going to change and becomes a European region as the others with the help of people like you.


Cherrye at My Bella Vita said...

The whole double life thing is so true down here but in more than just who is sleeping with who and when.

People who don't like each other, pretend to be best friends. People who don't have money, throw massive parties ... it goes on and on. Nice post, Leanne.

Leanne was in Italy now in Australia said...

Hi Jone,
You hit the nail on the head with your comment!

Hi Cathy,
It's true what you say, people don't really care what I do as I am from a different country so maybe it's not my fault that I do things a certain way!

Hi LindyLouMac,
Family values are a lot different here, and that is one of the up sides of Italy when compared to a lot of other countries.

Hi nuccia,
Yes, my in-laws are quite 'modern' and I realise this now more then ever!

Hi Riccardo,
Thanks for writing this comment. I too hope that one day Calabria catches up with the rest of Italy as the region has so much to offer...fingers crossed!

Hi Cherrye at My Bella Vita,
You are so right! People do the opposite here...poor people go out with the biggest fur coats in the world!