Today we welcome a new contributor to People of the World. Simona Morachioli is from Italy but currently lives in Germany, and she put her cross cultural experience to work in this interview with a fellow Italian living abroad, Cecilia.
Cecilia, tell us a bit about you. How would your friends describe you?
I am Cecilia, I am 28 years old and I come from a small & beautiful town in Italy. Since 2009, due to my studies or to business reasons, I have been living in 5 different Countries: Holland (Amsterdam), Belgium (Brussels), Germany (Frankfurt), England (London) and Spain (Barcelona- where I currently live, pursuing my second Master degree).
My friends would describe me as an outgoing person, who loves travelling and experiencing new things all the time. In my free time, I enjoy attending fitness classes, hanging out with my friends in front of a glass of Bailey’s and Skyping with my family.
What is the pitch and the peak of being always on the move ?
The pitch of being always on the move is that after a while it gets difficult to understand where you belong to. But that is a peak as well.
On one hand, I am exposed to a lot of different inputs that continuously enrich me. On the other hand, I became a sort of cultural hybrid who does not have defined boundaries.
When I talk about inputs, I refer to the fact that I manage to experience situations that go beyond not only the lifestyle of my little home town, but also the one of bigger Italian cities. I manage to get rid of my Country’s typical thinking and culture. I am happy about this, because Italy has a strong National Identity, which is great, but this sometimes prevents it to be open towards the outside world. I wanted to go beyond that limit.
What was the first cultural clash you experienced?
I settled down in England more than in the other countries, because I was planning to stay there for a longer period of time. Therefore, by trying to establish some roots, I experienced my real first cultural clash there.
In particular, I realized that the English or maybe Londoner social habits are very different compared to mine. Among other aspects, I would say that one that stroke me the most is the fact that people are extremely polite but this politeness is also a way to create some distance. It was quite tough for me at the beginning to adapt to it. I felt I had to ban some aspects of my personality. Another example is the lunch break- for Italians that is one of the key social and informal interaction moment at work. But at my workplace everyone had lunch at his or her own desk, therefore I had no real chance to get to know people further and better. The after-work beer time at the pub did not make up for that need for me.
What do you miss the most about Italy?
I do not miss something that is peculiar of my country. What I miss the most is the safety net that my family represents for me. Which is being sure that if anything happens to me, they would be around the corner to help me. I do not miss them on a daily basis, but I do (a lot) in certain situations.
In which country did you feel home the most?
I would say I felt home the most in England, and in London in particular. The city offers me all the opportunities my personality needs. Also, the local culture copes really well with my characteristics, as being always organized, tidy and neat.
I felt home also in Barcelona, but with mixed feelings. The city is very similar to an Italian one when it comes to its good values, but also when it comes to its flaws. It was unexpectedly complicated to adapt to the flaws after living in London.
What was the toughest country to integrate yourself with?
I would say Holland- it was difficult to adapt to the social habits, which were very different from mine. The language barrier also did not help.
Interestingly enough, Cataluña was also tough. I found it quite closed minded, clearly focusing in trying to not change and move forward. People do not want to speak English nor Spanish, only Catalan. Although a lot of International people established there, in particular in Barcelona, Cataluña is not eager to open up towards what comes from outside.
Tell me a word for every place you lived in.
Holland, Amsterdam: Silence & Peacefulness (of bike rides)
Belgium, Brussels: Contradictions. It is an international city that does not integrate this internationality in a harmonic way, but rather in a chaotic way.
Germany, Frankfurt: Perfectionism. Almost suffocating.
England, London: Endless (opportunities and challenges)
Spain, Barcelona: Paradox. A city lying in between the economic bankruptcy and the need to have fun at any cost.
An Italian holiday you never miss
Christmas at home with my family is a must I would never skip.
The most interesting/useful thing you learnt abroad that you would keep with you forever.
I would say it is the principle of “never judge”. Leaving Italy and experiencing so many different cultures taught me to respect myself and respect the others. I do not express any judgment based on outfits, behaviours, lifestyles, and nationalities- while I used to that more when I lived in Italy.
Also, the concept of “foreigner” does not exist anymore, since I am one as well.
What is your favourite non-Italian food?
I would say Indian food. I really like it because it is a combination of food, taste and flavours that do not belong to my culture.
For example- mixing meat with rice or pour big quantities of sauces (which are not olive oil!) on any dish is something nobody in Italy would ever do!
Do you ever feel homesick? What do you do in those moments?
I rarely feel homesick as such. What hurts me the most is that I would love my family to be where I am. I try to regularly skype with them and to organize trip for them to come and see me wherever I am.
I guess one of the reasons I do not feel homesick that much, is because all my close friends are either in London (where I planning to settle after Barcelona) or around the world- so not in my hometown nor in Italy. And I actually like being able to visit them in their new homes, or set up “meeting points” around the world to catch up.
What would you bring with you from each country.
Being able to ride my bike everywhere (and in a safe way) from Holland.
Frites (french fries) from Belgium
Being able to survive by speaking English in a non-speaking English Country from Germany
The feeling of continuous movement from England.
The easygoing feeling from Spain.
If you look ahead of you what do you see?
London, New York and the seaside of my hometown (but only for vacations!)
A Taiwanese student in the USA
Turkey as seen from the East
What I found strange: an Italian in England
About the authorsimona
3 comments for “An Italian in Europe”
Thanks for this interview and your interesting questions, Simona. And Cecilia, thanks for your thoughtful and open answers. I also moved from London to Barcelona and I found it was a difficult transition. By the way, I was wondering how come you lived in so many places? Was it for your job?
Hi Lucy! I’m relieved you also found the transition to be quite difficult, I was afraid I was the only one complaining about Barcelona – especially as an Italian!
The reasons why I’ve moved around so much are basically university and work. I’ve figured I should get as much experience as possible before deciding where to settle down… What took you to Barcelona instead ? 🙂
Hi Cecilia! I was also studying for a master’s degree, then afterwards I stayed to work for a while. But I was not working for a Spanish or Catalan company so I guess I didn’t integrate as well as I could have done.