Making Mixed Babies: Ranting About The Obvious Difficulties Of Raising Multicultural Children

I don’t have children. If you would have asked me if I wanted them in my twenties I would hissed at you, covered my vagina, and ran screaming in the other direction. I would have basically done the exact same thing regarding marriage. I always like the idea of someone wanting to marry me but I never intended on actually sealing the deal. It was just nice to know that if I did want to actually get married someone would have done it, I guess. That’s what being twenty-something, somewhat insecure, and an asshole will do to a person. Anyhow, all of that changed when I met Francesco.

I knew in a very real way that we would be getting married. Sure, that waivered a little here and there with some of his bullshit but I worked through the problems with him instead of shooting him in his sleep which was huge for me. Not shooting your boyfriend is love. In a lot of ways Francesco has changed the way that I think about a lot of things. He’s changed the way I view the importance of family, how I approach and solve problems (I care to actually solve problems without hurting him or his feelings…so that’s new), and I actually want to have children. Well, let me rephrase that to be honest, I would like children in our lives who are of our genetic makeup. I don’t want to actually have babies. Being pregnant, sick, tired, and giving up wine sounds shitty. Then, squeezing some giant thing about of my vagina which is a lot smaller than a baby sounds like torture and something out of an Alien movie. I’d totally adopt but that’s too expensive and nobody would probably give me a baby. The point is that he’s made me want to have a family because I want us to be surrounded by loved ones and family for our entire lives. I want to be seventy and painting with my grandchildren. I’ve never believed that the point to living is breeding, or that women’s job on the planet is to have kids, so I’ve never been that inclined to have a family before. I’ve always seen child-rearing as a massive job of huge importance, of huge responsibility, and not something that people should “just do.” Having children to me is one of the biggest decisions of a person’s life and is therefore kind of terrifying. If you add the potential for cross-cultural, international problems to the mix.

Image: AnAmericanInRome.com (check out the blog, it's great).

Horse Baby Food In Italy. Image: AnAmericanInRome.com (check out the blog, it’s great).

And that’s what we’re fighting about right now. We’re trying to decide on which country we plan on raising our kids in. It doesn’t sound that pressing since we don’t have kids but it kind of is because we’ve been talking about starting a family this year or next year. So, where do we want to be? Which country would we like to be living? Where is the best place to raise children? I’ve talked with a bunch of other expats about this but the topic gets a little insane. People get surprisingly defensive and rabid about Italy when discussing children (certain psychos totally lose their shit. I hope you get an incurable yeast infection). I get it, nobody wants to think that the decision they’ve made was a bad decision and so people don’t want you questioning that decision by asking stupid questions about it. I get it. However, I need to ask and talk about it because it’s a big deal to me. As the child of mixed parents, I know what it’s like growing up with parents from two different planets. This weighs on me. My father immigrated to the US 35 years ago and yet my siblings, my father and I, have problems seeing eye-to-eye over a lot of things. The way we communicate is different, the meanings behind the things we say to each other is often misread or misinterpreted. My father feels like he lacks identity with us and therefore instead of having American kids he encourages us to hate that side of us. “You’re Persian, you don’t have the genetics of an American.” When we do things that he likes, we are Persian, when we make mistakes it’s because our mothers are American. He desperately seeks to have some kind of cultural connection with his children, it bothers him that he can’t understand many of the ways that we think or see the world. He doesn’t understand why I can’t Facetime him every day, or why I’m less than thrilled to Facetime my family in Iran for six hours on Sundays. I love them, they are my family, but I can’t speak on the phone for longer than one hour. What is there to say? “WHAT IS THERE TO SAY!? Just be in the conversation of love! Just laugh and love!” My father cannot understand how his daughter has become so “American,” in her priorities regarding family. My father listens to Iranian music on full blast on his Iphone, he encourages my sisters and I to dance to it while he laughs and claps enthusiastically. Last time I was home he videotaped it and then watched it over and over again. Seems creepy to Americans, but dancing for family is about as Persian as Persian can get, even at 33 years old. It’s not uncommon for expat parents to struggle to relate to their children culturally or for the kids to feel a slight disconnect as well. I’ve grown up with it for my entire life so telling me it doesn’t exist…well…it isn’t true.

And that scares me.

I feel like no matter where we raise our kids there will be a disconnect for either me or Francesco. It’s really about picking the place that is best for the kids but also the place where maybe the cultural impact will be less difficult for us as parents. Both countries have their good points, both have their bad. A lot of expats struggle with this aspect because they see Italy with rose-colored lenses but I simply can’t. I’ve read too many damn articles, too many studies. I have an education in Sociology, I study society, even when I’m not trying to. Nowhere is perfect. Which place will allow us to raise children that are diverse, open-minded, and will allow equal appreciation of Italian, American, and Persian culture? As a person, I’m most concerned with balance, mindfulness and an acceptance towards religion, an equality of the sexes, and the ability to live life without being swallowed by expectations. People say, “Your kids will be how you make them,” but I feel like they’re underestimating the power of social norms. Society shapes you even when you don’t realize you’re being shaped. It shapes how people interact, think, feel, even how they commit suicide. Nothing goes untouched.

Image: Wikipedia

Image: Wikipedia

When I announced that I’d fallen in love with an Italian man, my father said, “You don’t know what you’re doing. Cross-cultural relationships are more difficult than you can imagine.”

For once I have to say that my dad couldn’t have been more right. BAAAAAAAAH! I’m going to stab myself with a fork. Maybe you guys can help me with a pros and cons list?

Lasagne, Suffocation, Pliers, And Wanting To Kill Your Husband (Lovingly)

Being married is fucking hard you guys. One moment I’m remembering our wedding day (all three of them) and I love him so much I could just choke on how cheesy and lame I am. Other moments I catch myself plotting for ways to kill him and threatening to put a pillow over his face when he sleeps. The trick to a happy marriage is to fantasize about those things but only say them 50% of the time. Also, a sense of humor helps. A lot.

——————

Being Italian, F likes to sing, aaaalways. It’s like his favorite thing.

Francesco: aaah aaaaaaah aaah
Me: Babe! I’m working! Please?
Francesco: aaaaaah! I’m singing this African tribal song I just heard. [Looks at me and tries to be all serenade-y]
Me: of death? Is something dying and you’re channeling it’s internal screams?
Francesco: aaaaaah aaaaaaaaaaaah [romantically, AT me]
Me: Awe, that’s sweet. I love you. So much. But if you don’t stop singing I’m going to kill you. Slowly. And someone else will have to express your African song. It will have a domino effect. The entire world will perish. Be a humanitarian and hush, dude.
Francesco: How about you suck it, “dude.”
Me: I’m sorry?
Francesco: I love you. A lot. Snuggle? You look pretty.
Me: Hey, guess what? Married. TIL DEATH. Just let that sink in a little.
Francesco: uuuuuugh. Just one last time though, this is the good part. Aah…OUCH!

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Frequently Asked Questions: Studying, Moving, Working, Loving In Florence, Italy

FAQ

surviving in italy

Every day I get loads of questions ranging from “how do I study in Italy?” to “Is it true that Europeans aren’t circumcised?” I’ve decided to make it easier for all of you who have questions by putting all of the most commonly asked questions here. Please, if you  have a question put it in the comments. Did I miss something? Add it below! I’ll slowly be adding to this page daily. I’m hoping to have it all bulked up with every possible question asap.

Love And Relationships

1) What do your friends/family think about you being married to an Italian?

Most people think that I spend all day eating homemade pasta that little Italian grandmothers drop off in my kitchen every morning. Then I frolic through vineyards, after that my husband romances me with his sexy Italian and we make love in a wildflower field. “You’re so lucky, tell me what it’s like!” People are either really weirded out that I moved away, or are really fascinated with what they believe is my Tuscan romance life. I suppose that part of this is true. Sometimes we eat homemade pasta but we make it ourselves and it only turns out half of the time and then we have to clean up the 2 pounds of flour that litters my kitchen. I have walked through a vineyard once but it was with my father-in-law so that’s not super romantic. My husband and I have totally done “it” outside in a field in Tuscany but it was mostly like, “Oh my God! Hurry up! DO I HEAR HORSE HOOVES!? Can we get arrested for this!? Is it true that snakes fall out of trees here? Sonofabitch! Don’t let a snake near my vagina!” People at home are very attracted to the idea of living in Italy and marrying a “sexy” Italian guy. The reality of all of that is certainly a bit different than the fantasy. It becomes a little frustrating when you struggle (and expats do struggle) and your family and friends are like, “What? But you’re in ITALY!” as if shitty stuff can’t happen to you because ITALY! On the other hand, it’s kind of badass so I get it, and I totally used to be one of those people.

2) Any funny language barriers or stories with your husband’s family and communicating with them? 

There are so many issues with language and my family that I could write an entire blog just about that. If you move to Italy or date an Italian, language is everything. Learn the language way before you come over, learn it even if you both live in the US. Even after you learn it, when it’s your second language and not your mother-tongue there will be mistakes and people will sometimes be patient with you and sometimes not. Once I accidentally told my mother-in-law that I “fucked at my friends house over the weekend,” instead of “I escaped to my friends house.” That was fun. Seriously though, my biggest mistake was not learning Italian  BEFORE I moved to Italy.

3) Is it frowned upon to get married (sign the marriage license) in the US but still hold a wedding ceremony in Italy

It depends on the family. My husband and I had 3 “weddings.” First we got married in a town hall in Salt Lake City, Utah, USA, just to do the legal thing. Then a week later we had a ceremony in Park City, Utah. Six months later we had a ceremony in Cassino, Italy. The reason we did it that way is because it was a lot easier to do it in the US first. Doing a legal marriage in Italy first is kind of a pain in the ass. Were my in-laws happy about it? Nope. They were pretty annoyed actually. However, I don’t think that most parents would care. Many couples do this and most of the time the parents are understanding. Honestly though, having two full out weddings SUCKS so if I could do it again I would just elope and have one wedding that my closest friends and our parents could come to. I’m not religious but like 99% of Italians are catholic and a lot of parents will shit their pants if you don’t get married in a church. The good news is that the church can do a “mixed ceremony” for a catholic marrying someone of another faith or someone who is not religious.

4) Is it difficult to plan a wedding in Italy as an American? 

Planning a wedding in Italy is a lot easier than planning one in the US. Everything is kind of streamlined (at least it was where we got married in Cassino). The place where you buy wedding favors packages everything for you exactly as you want, they even print and attach tags.They also handle wedding invitations (although I made my own because I wanted something really original, and everyone loved them because they’d never seen anything like it before, wedding invites in Italy are kind of lame and very cookie-cutter). The restaurant prints the menu for you and completely decorates the space in your colors (receptions are most often held in a fancy restaurant). They also take care of the wedding cake. The church (99% of weddings are held in churches, priests are not allowed to marry outside of the church like they can in the US), will print the program for you and give it out to guests. The flower place goes and decorates the church for you, supplies it with rice for throwing, etc. Honestly, the only thing you have to do is decide what you want and visit the priest, the favor place, the floral shop, and the restaurant. They take care of everything.

5) Is it true that Europeans are not circumcised?

Yes. That’s true. The only people who do circumcision are: The United States, Jews, Muslims, and some African tribes. The rest of the world chooses to leave their kids’ willies alone. Is it weird? Not really. Dicks are not the hottest body part to begin with. An uncircumcised willy looks exactly like a circumcised one when it’s erect. When it’s not erect it just looks like it’s hiding, or like an elephant trunk. As long as your partner washes his wee-wee (like most normal guys do) you shouldn’t notice a difference. Except that it’s awesome. They have more feeling down there aaand it keeps their business more lubed up so you don’t get all dry and uncomfortable. True story. Why do Americans circumcise? Because they thought that it would stop boys from masturbating (true story). They later decided that it was “more hygienic” but since people shower ever day that doesn’t even make sense.

Getting Married In Italy

13 Things Being Married To An Italian Man Has Taught Me About The World

The Big Cheat : Do Italian Men Cheat?

How I Met My Husband

Greencards/Residency/Immigration For An American Married To An Italian

1) Hi! I Married An Italian In The US! How Do I Become An Italian Resident? 

I’ve written a pretty in-depth page on immigration issues. You can find all of your immigration answers for bringing your Italian partner to the US AND for immigrating to Italy from the US (on a spousal visa).

Everything You Will Want To Know About US And Italian Immigration

Our Immigration Story

2) I’m an American about to marry an Italian and we can’t figure out what would be the best choice–to marry in the US or marry in Italy.We’re together in the US. but I plan to move to Italy. Then in a few years we would like to move and settle down in the States. We’ve read that he can gain US citizenship faster if we marryoutside the US. But then we’ve read that getting married in Italy is a really long and tedious process. So we’re really torn as to what to do.

The best scenario for you guys is going to be to marry in the US. The reason is that it’s a million times easier to marry in the US, it’s faster, and you don’t want to live in Italy without having healthcare, a visa, or the ability to work or whatever. It’s very easy to get a spousal visa in Italy, much more difficult to get one for him for the US. So, if I were you, I’d do what me and my husband did: Get married in the US (it can even be in the city building just to have the paperwork, you can have a big, “real” wedding later like we did), apply to the Italian consulate for you to have a Carta Di Soggiorno/spousal visa. THEN, when you get to Italy, solidify your spousal visa. Then, when you guys are about 6-8 months away from moving back to the US, start the process of applying for his Greencard at the US embassy in Naples. Getting him a Greencard to the US is a royal pain in the ass and will take anywhere from 6 months to 8 months to get it. Then you’re given about 6-8 months to go to the US. WARNING: When you apply in Italy they will want some guarantee that you are still DOMICILED. I wrote about that so make sure you take special care in that area (KEEP your US bank account open, among other things).

Check out my Greencard/Visa Page for details. 

Money/Jobs

1. How do expats make money or get jobs in Italy?

  • Italy is awesome for living but shit for working. Honestly, very, VERY few expats that I know have conventional jobs in Italy for a number of reasons. You have to have the legal ability to work (either by obtaining residency, having a student visa, or a work visa, or citizenship). Italy doesn’t pay well and a normal wage is usually like six or seven euro per hour. Even engineers only make about 30k per year. If you want to be able to maintain something there the best thing to do is work for an American company remotely. That means that you work for an American company online from wherever in the world. That’s what I do and what a lot of my friends do. I work for a marketing firm as a social media strategist and copywriter and then I make money with the whole blog thing too. There are some companies like textbroker.com that can be really great for side money if you do take the “working part time in Italy” route. There are a surprising number of remote positions you can get in the US with some marketing/writing experience. The best option is to create a job: Sell stuff on Etsy, do graphic or web design or wedding photography, or baby photography or something else that is somewhat self-employed for American clients or whomever if your italian is amazing. If you’re a student the best job for you to get is probably at a pub or restaurant but keep in mind you will make around 7 euro per hour and you won’t really get tips. I have friends who make jewelry, who make art, who write or who do random projects on Fiverr.com. Don’t know Fiverr? Check it out.
 
  • A typical option is also to go the Au Pair/nanny route. I haven’t heard any “good” stories about this particular job because Italian kids are BRATS but it’s totally a possibility. You can find some more information on this here: http://www.lifeinitaly.com/how-land-au-pair-job-italy. Make sure you’re safe! You never know what kind of family you’re going to be working for. Make sure it’s legit and you don’t end up in some weird human traffic situation or with a crazy family.
 
  • Teaching English. A lot of my expat friends teach English. Most of them do not teach English at a school, however, most of them do private lessons. There are a few ways to get started: Leave an ad on Ebay (but don’t expect a ton of responses). Italians don’t really function on the interweb the way that we do in the other first world countries. They still stick to the good ole paper posts on billboards thing. One of my good friends made fliers with her phone number and email address and posted them all over the Italian universities, the children’s schools, coffee shops, laundry mats, etc. She’s been making a living off of it for years since. Another friend of mine edits English thesis papers for university students.  She started with a few students and then progressed to many with good referrals. It will take time to do this and you’ll have some competition. It’s probably a good idea to get a TEFL certificate if your goal is to teach English abroad. Keep in mind that these things will grow slowly.
 
  • Another friend of mine has a dog-sitting/dog-walking service. Actually, if you had a really great way of doing a doggy daycare or something this would probably be a good idea. There are literally like no boarding places in Florence. You’d need to have a lot of experience with animals, be reliable, and loving, and prepared that if something bad happened to someone’s dog that they might kill you. Florentines LOVE their dogs and they won’t take neglect or mishaps lightly. Again, you  have to post fliers all over the city, in groomers, vets, dog stores, and in the newspapers. There are plenty of English-speakers with dogs who need a reliable dog-sitter so the possibilities of making a solid business with this is good right now. Again, only do this if you actually LOVE dogs and are really knowledgable about dog training and dog behavior. 
In These Articles I’ve Talked About Working In Italy:
Moving To Italy By Internations
Here is a relevant posts from one of my favorite bloggers: What Not To Expect When Moving To Italy

 

Housing In Florence

There are a number of sites dedicated to finding housing in Florence. Many of them have jacked up prices because they are for students. My husband found all of our apartments on Kijiji.com. It’s helpful to speak Italian because most of the places will be listed in Italian, however, you can always use Google Translate. I also wrote a little about housing in Florence here: Moving To Florence, Studying And Living 

Italian Language

1. How did you learn Italian?

I took a class at the school I was attending and bought some books after I’d arrived. Super DUMB. I did it the stupid way so don’t do what I did. I just kind of tried to study on my own and pick up what I could by listening to other people. I didn’t even start learning Italian until I’d arrived in Italy, I only took one class, and I was often too shy to talk with people for a long time. Don’t do that. Start learning Italian NOW. Buy books, watch movies, listen to music, start now, way before you go to Italy.

2. Do you think I should learn Italian now or after I get there.

NOW. Start learning the moment you decide you might want to move to Italy. I have a list of recommended books as well. Definitely read them because you’ll arrive without looking like an idiot. Learning Italian is the most important thing in moving to Italy. If you’re still trying to figure out how to get to Italy, or how to stay there, I’d recommend going to a language school. This will not only fulfill your visa requirements so you can stay on a student visa but it will also make your life so much easier you won’t even believe it. Seriously, language school is the shit.

Italian Hand Gestures And Body Language 

Italian Music, Movies To Help With Language 

If You Want To Live In Italy You Need To Learn Italian

Crime

1. Is Italy dangerous?

Compared to the US? No. There are some areas that are more dangerous than others but for the most part Italy is very safe. As with any country if you’re a woman you should be more careful about rapists and perverts. Don’t go out drinking alone and don’t go anywhere with men alone. Bad idea anywhere in the world. If you go to look at an apartment for rent bring someone with you. Just don’t be alone with strangers.

2. I read a book called “The Reluctant Tuscan” by Phil Doran. From my understanding, it sounds like Italians like to try to hustle you for your money. Does that apply everywhere? I’m wondering because I’d like to visit next year and maybe stay for a month. If I found a place online and I’m given a rate, when I get there is it possible they’d try to charge a different rate?

I’ve personally never really experienced anything like this in my five years in Florence but I’ve certainly heard stories. I’ve heard mostly good things with Airbnb or some of the apartments in Florence available for long term rental though. I think it’s the same in Italy as it is with any large city, you just have to keep your eyes open. It’s also not a bad thing to learn some Italian just in case. Duolingo, Babbel, or Rosetta Stone are all great for learning before your trip. 🙂 Italians are less sneaky if they know that you can speak some of their language.
 
3. I’ve heard that Italians add money onto restaurant bills.
 
There is something called the “coperto” or “servizio” that they add on. It’s a service charge and it’s the reason you don’t have to tip in Italy.
 
 

 Being An Expat

1. How did you end up in Italy?

I arrived as a student for a year at SACI Florence and then continued on with a student visa for various schools such as FUJI Studios. Then I married an Italian guy a few years later and remained on a spousal visa (see above in the immigration section for immigration details).

Keep Calm And Move To Italy

How To Survive being An Expat 

Schools And Studying Abroad

1. What are some good schools for studying in Italy?

There are so many international schools in Florence that it’s really just about doing your research to find the right one. If you speak Italian you can go to the University of Florence (which is probably your cheapest choice) but all of your classes will be in Italian. If you want an English speaking or International school you’ll probably find what you’re looking for here on Studentville.it

2. I will be going to study Italian at Lorenzo de` Medici. I’m 18 years old and will be traveling alone from the Pisa airport to Florence. I am pretty nervous. I already have taken four years of Italian and know the language pretty well, but this is my first time abroad and I guess I’m just seeking a bit of reassurance from someone who knows Italy (especially Florence) extremely well.

Italy is a very safe country and surprisingly a lot of the population speaks at least some English. Especially in Florence. It’s a huge student hub and is full of schools and students studying there. You’ll meet a group of other students as soon as you arrive and you’ll feel fine. Honestly, just use the same caution you use at home. Be weary of the guys hitting on you constantly, just be rude and tell them, “No! Basta!” and they’ll go away. Use the same caution you would use at home. Don’t get drunk alone, don’t walk home alone at night and don’t go anywhere alone with men you’ve just met. You’ll be able to drink alcohol legally but it’s not the best time to experiment with getting shitfaced drunk because there are a lot of guys who will definitely take advantage of your situation (there are really shady guys who actually seek out drunk students so use good judgement and the buddy system). Also, you might need this: http://www.seat61.com/Italy-trains.htm#.U59Lso1dU7o to figure out the train system. It’s a quick trip and your school is actually very close to the Florence Santa Maria Novella train station where you’ll get off (careful, there are multiple Florence train stops. You want the SMN stop).
 
3. Are there any ways to get scholarships to study in Florence?
 
Yes, there are scholarship opportunities but they are usually academic so you’ll have to check with each individual school, or they are country-based. For example, I know that Canada has a program to help Canadians study abroad. It totally makes me wish I were Canadian. Check with your country, you might be pleasantly surprised.

 

 

 

Then I Had A Nervous Breakdown: A Collective Post By Some Of Italy’s Best Known Expat Bloggers

IF YOU DON’T LAUGH, YOU’LL CRY

 By the blogger who brought you, Married To Italy

 There’s living in Italy (queue the mandolin and beautiful people serving copious amounts of delicious food and wine)… and there’s LIVING IN ITALY (queue the honking cars and 10 kilos of pasta weight). One can be very very different from the other. In one scenario, you are Diane Lane in that stupid Tuscan movie that everyone loves so much. In the other scenario you’re me, getting yelled at by the neighbor every day, “a couple your age should have a child, not a dog!”

Why does Italy look so glorious through the veil of a newly divorced American woman who has enough money to do nothing except restore a Tuscan villa? BECAUSE SHE’S NEWLY DIVORCED! She can dream about that sexy dude in the white linen suit without having to get the inevitable Lambrusco stains out and talk to his mamma every day. She hardly speaks or understands any Italian, so she can pass every day in blissful ignorance of the stuff people are saying about the way she dresses in town. She has no concept of what a “brutta figura” is, so she doesn’t notice when people judge her for speaking directly.  She still thinks that lack of boundaries is charming!

There’s a lesser known sequel to ‘Under the Tuscan Sun’. It’s set a few years later, after she is remarried to that sexy Italian man and is welcomed into a traditional Italian family.

It’s called ‘Screw This Place’.

Now, don’t get me wrong. My marito is awesome. I have no idea what I would do without him. But, as I think many people will agree, marriage is not just about the love between two people…  you want to know what it’s REALLY like to be married to an Italian?

Let’s examine that dream image you have in your head. You know the one I’m talking about. The one where you find yourself face to face with a gorgeous, tall, dark, swarthy Mediterranean piece of eye candy (that’s you, my love)… his white shirt unbuttoned and flowing the light breeze of a sunny Italian morning. You’ve just entered the kitchen after a night of delirious love making to find him preparing a breakfast of fruit and wild berries with a little vase of freshly picked flowers from the Tuscan hills that are practically rolling right out of the living room’s open doors.

Really let that image settle in…

and then follow these simple instructions for me…

1. Remove the hills and replace the view out the window with an old lady hanging underwear on a clothing line and yelling at you, while peering into your apartment as much as possible so she can judge your subpar cleaning methods and un-ironed sheets. That whole Tuscan hill thing is bullpoop. Tuscan hills make up less than 8% of the land mass of Italy; the residents of Tuscan hills make up 6%, more than half of which are living in a dense town or city; half of the less than 1% of Italians living in detached villas on the top of a rolling Tuscan hill are a gender which you are most likely not interested in… or are married already. So get over the idea that you’re going to meet some gorgeous Italian who just happens to own a luxurious villa perched upon a hill.

Please, let’s be realistic. Remove the hills, replace them with a nosey neighbor, and we’re a little closer to accuracy.

2. Get rid of the sun. “Sunny Italia” is a myth that only applies to the southern half of the country, and even then not necessarily in winter.

Keep in mind, Rome is more or less the same latitude as New York. Six months out of the year my sunny Texan self has to endure days and days of endless grey storm clouds, nebbia, and general yuckiness. So, yeah, take away the sun… but then take it away for EVERY winter FOR THE REST OF YOUR LIFE. This is where seasonal depression enters, and as the years pass you start to become a bitter, bitter person.

Keep imagining your scene… but with the nosey neighbor instead of hills, and the clouds instead of the sun…

3. No sooner does that light breeze pick up the corner of his shirt and start to pull back against his chest… than his mamma comes bolting through the door with a scarf to wrap around his neck and a stern warning about the drafts!

Italians have an intense fear of any sort of air movement, and it is said to cause all kinds of ailments. For sure, your dreamy Italian man would not be caught half-naked in any sort of breeze. His mamma will have felt the air movement ahead of time and noted from her balcony that your patio door was open, rushing over to offer her help in this time of crisis.

She will have “knopened” the door (that’s when the person knocks WHILE opening the door), because there are no boundaries when it comes to La Famiglia. Everything that you imagined to be appropriate up until now is completely thrown out the window. It is not only socially acceptable for a family to be all up in each other’s business, it is encouraged and even desired! A family that is not all up your grill probably doesn’t like you very much.

Remember: good intentions are expressed via meddling; love is shown with force-feeding.

So now you’re closed up in this tiny apartment, it’s doing that freezing-rain-fog thing outside, and your dream man’s mamma is offering to cook up a little pork for lunch (yes, it’s 9am, but it’s never too early to start discussing the next meal). He turns to you… gazes into your eyes… and says, “my mamma’s arrosto maiale is the best!”.

You can now start to see how that dream you had can easily slip into a nightmare if you aren’t careful. While my rant here is somewhat sarcastic and tongue-in-cheek (one might even say bitter), the point is this:

Even with the most wonderful Italian man in the world at your side, it will be a constant struggle to recognize, communicate, and really understand why these cultural differences are so appalling that they’ve been classified as a form of shock. If you don’t realize now that the dream you had in your head is just a wall blocking your view from reality, you will very likely hit that realization at full speed. You may even (to borrow a phrase from Misty) “freak the fuck out”, a sentiment with which I am QUITE familiar.

Sometimes it’s so ridiculous that if you don’t laugh, you’ll cry. Every marriage requires work, but I believe that a cross-cultural marriage with an Italian also requires a healthy sense of humor.

And an occasional meltdown.

AUTHOR BIO:

Minitaly

 

 

 

 

 

‘M’ is a 30-something (something low) American Texpat, living and working in her husband’s tiny hometown in the province of Reggio Emilia. Her blog, Married to Italy, is home to her rants and raves and serves as her therapeutic search for hilarity amongst the chaos.

 

 

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THEN I FINALLY HAD A NERVOUS BREAKDOWN

By Rick Zullo of Rick’s Rome

The problem with Italian bureaucracy is not that it’s so dense…which it is, but I guess that could be said for most bureaucracy anywhere in the world.  No, the endearing feature that gives the Italian brand of red-tape its own special degree of aggravation is that nobody seems to know the procedures, least of all the people whose job it is to do so.  While you might think that this would produce some degree of compassion among these employees, the fact is that many of them appear to gain pleasure from their own incompetence.

On four previous attempts to submit my residency application, the civic employee who was charged to help me and my fellow stranieri did little to hide her contempt for my type; which is to say anyone who interfered with her rigid schedule of coffee and cigarette breaks.  She found any and every possible excuse to thwart my efforts with no inclination towards actually assisting me in the matter.

Nonetheless, I was optimistic on my fifth attempt.  I had my forms filled out properly, my tax stamp from the tobacco shop affixed in the right location, a certified copy of EVERY PAGE of my passport (yes, even the blank ones), and a sample of my blood for DNA analysis.  Everything was perfect, no doubt.  Proudly, I presented all of this to the pathetic little underling, trying to conceal my satisfaction.

As she leafed through my papers, an evil grin slowly emerged from the corner of her mouth.  “Signore, mi dispiace, ma quest inchiostro non e’ nero.  E’ scuro, si, ma mi sembra una tonalita’ di blu.  Deve rifarlo.”  Sir, I’m sorry, but this ink isn’t black.  It’s dark, yes, but it looks to be a shade of blue.  You must redo it.

And then I had a nervous breakdown.

AUTHOR BIO

unnamed

 

 

 

 

 

Rick Zullo is an American expat living in Rome. Born in Chicago and raised in Florida, he came to the Caput Mundi in 2010 and forgot to go back. When he’s not exploring his adoptive hometown or writing for his blog, he spends his time teaching the world English, one Roman at a time.  Rick is also the author of the silly little eBook, “Live Like an Italian,” available on Amazon.  Visit Rick’s blog at rickzullo.com, or connect with him on Facebook or Twitter.

 

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EVERYTHING WAS COOL, THEN I FREAKED THE F%£& OUT

 by M. Elizabeth Evans of Surviving In Italy

 My first year in Italy was pretty rad so I wasn’t ready for things to be less than ideal.  It wasn’t until I became serious with my husband that I really started to struggle. I was thrown into a southern Italian family and an Italian friend group with the assumption that I’d be accepted and in no time everyone would love me and we’d all be buddies. I was an idiot. It wasn’t long before I started thinking about shooting myself or at least getting addicted to heroin as every day I felt more and more like a small voice in my husband’s ear instead of three-dimensional person.

Everything that I’d ever been taught was polite was interpreted as rude, I was bossed around, treated like a child. I was the outsider and none of my feeble attempts would help me to fit in. I couldn’t be myself anymore. I was weary to talk because my go-to subjects were always inappropriate somehow. Sarcasm? The hell? Everyone always talked to me with a “knowing” smile. My husband, admittedly, was embarrassed that I was American. Neither his friends, nor his family, took our relationship seriously. I was temporary, I was “fun,” I was disposable. Then they realized that the disposable thing wasn’t getting trashed. Things changed but instead of acceptance it was more like bitter defeat.

Instead of avoiding the people who disliked our union instead we attached ourselves to them. We spent every vacation, every holiday, every other weekend, with his parents whose favorite thing to do in life is criticize. The family engulfed us. They controlled our life in subtle ways and large ones. My husband (then boyfriend) was okay with it, it was “normal,” but for an American, spending half of every vacation with your in-laws is unheard of, asking parental advice for every decision in your thirties is on par with a mental illness. It really got bad when his parents chose an apartment that they thought we should buy, they demanded I become Catholic (which I didn’t) and they fully expect our children to be indoctrinated, something that has already been brought up more than once. A simple, “no” should suffice but it doesn’t so I have to say,“If anyone is going to talk with my kids about masturbation, it’s going to be me, not a forty year old man who hasn’t had sex in three decades,” and that just offends everyone. My husband never wanted to speak up because he felt spoiled and ungrateful to disagree with them.

Nothing was sacred. My mother-in-law would poke at my body and comment on it, I need a new hairstyle, I wear too much black. My father-in-law yells because I won’t fetch for my husband, I won’t clean up after him, I wouldn’t press his shirts (because it’s the 1600’s and his penis prevents him from pressing his own damn shirt?), for drinking coffee in the morning before taking a shower. When we came to the US my in-laws unpacked my luggage and repacked it while I stood by yelling, because, “I’m lazy, disorganized and don’t know how to pack.” They tried to talk my husband out of marrying me. When they came to our home in Florence, my mother-in-law would bring decor to furnish our home, orange and brown, and then reorganize as she saw fit. She would move my hand towels, I’d move thm back. It went on for days, the battle of the towels.

Then, one day, I flipped the fuck out. I started packing my bags about the ten millionth time I was told my place as a woman and how my place was iron and clean (because it’s 1534). My husband married me because I’m not a “typical Italian woman,” so please, stop trying to make me one. My freak out caused a reaction of freak outs. It lead to my husband freaking out and then my in-laws . There was screaming, crying, wall punching and at some point I think someone even threw spaghetti. In the end they realized that they wouldn’t win the battle they thought they were fighting. It’s the little things that make life worth living. In the face of adversary scream, “THIS WAS PERSIA!” and win with boundaries.

The most difficult part of moving to Italy was the communication barrier, learning to laugh at the fact that I’m always “weird,” and becoming part of an Italian family and learning how to put my foot down. The fact that I was willing to stand up for myself made them choose their battles more wisely. Italians are tough, if you’re going to live in peace you have to set boundaries, stick with them, and be unmovable. In my husband’s family it worked. Now, they still drive me crazy, of course, but it’s an amount that I can sanely manage. We’re all happier now and I can focus on the parts of Italy that I like instead of suffering through one nervous breakdown after another.

AUTHOR BIO:

MEHEAD

 

 

 

 

M. Elizabeth Evans is an American expat trapped between two worlds with her badass husband, his chest hair, and their poodle. She is a writer and partner of House Of Ossimori. Her award-winning blog Surviving In Italy, aims to honestly portray her life in Italy, the sober times, the drunken times, the yelling, food, family, and on occasion her obsession with the majestic Capybara. She’s also terrible at writing Bios. Someone do it for her next time, okay?

 

 

 

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Conversations With M.E.: Because Communication Is The Cornerstone Of A Healthy Relationship

Since I have more weird conversations in any given day than any healthy person should have in a year I’m going to start posting these regularly. These are just for fun, they were not serious conversations, and nobody has been injured or de-vaginalized (totally coined this awesome new word) as a result.

1.

Me: You’re forty minutes late for dinner.

F: Yeah, I know. I suck! I’m sorry.

Me: Hmm.

F: Seriously. I am sorry dat you had to await me forty minutes.

Me: Is that why you were late?

F: Why?

Me: Because you had to time travel back to nineteen-century England to bring back an outdated word to use in your lame apology.

F: You’re an asshole.

Me: Tis’ true.

F: Sigh.

2.

Mother-In-Law: Do you like having F home everyday now that he is working from home?

Me: Yeah. It’s nice. When he’s annoying Ho Scopato a casa di un mio amico*.

Mother-In-Law: What?

Me: Ho Scopato a casa di un mio amico.

Mother-In-Law: [turning to my husband] What?

Me: OH SHIT! NO! NO! NO! I meant SONO SCAPPATA A CASA DI UN MIO AMICO!* SONO SCAPPATA! Damnit!

Mother-In-Law: Are you ever going to learn Italian?

F: It’s more funny this way.

*ho scopato a casa di un mio amico=I fucked at my (male) friend’s house.

*sono scappata a casa di un mio amico=I escaped to my (male) friend’s house

3.

Me: I think I figured out why I’m so nervous that Oliver is going to die.

F: Oh?

Me: Yeah, because every dog I’ve ever loved has died.

F: You don’t need to worry about it.

Me: Yeah I know…

F: Because he’s going to die eventually for sure. I mean, EVERYONE DIES. So don’t even tink about it. Just know that everyone around you will die.

Me: Wow. I almost thought you were going to say something consoling.

F: It’s kinda of funny when you tink about it.

Me: Your mental instability?

F: No. Dat you tought I was going to say-a some-a ting consoling.

Me: Touchè

4.

F: I like kissing you. Your skin is so soft.

Me. Yeah. Yours is, hairy. What would happen if your hair suddenly started to grow inward and it invaded your brain?

F: I don’t-a know.

Me. And you had to hire a brain surgeon to give you a haircut.

F: Let’s not talk anymore, okay?

Me. Okay. Goodnight.

5.

F: I’m going out with my friends for a drink tonight? Okay?

Me: Cool. Have fun. Without me.

F: Obviously you’re always invited.

Me: No, no, I have to work on my book. I have to write an entire chapter about rejection. And you. And rejection.

F: Do you want to come?

Me: I thought you’d never ask, but you know what? I’d rather not. In all seriousness I do have to work on my book.

F: And you made this big ting because?

Me: Guilt is funny?

6.

Me: So you came home really late last night.

F: Yeah.

Me: Which is fine. As long as you didn’t sleep with anyone.

F: Why would I do that?

Me: You have a penis. But just try to be altruistic.

F: I wouldn’t do anything to hurt you?

Me: No, no, not for ME. I meant for whatever girl. Because, I will cut out her vagina and then send it to you in a box. A box in a box, that’s actually kind of funny. Anyways, logistically, I don’t even know how one would go about removing someone’s vagina so imagine the experimental chopping that would go into my vindictiveness. Seriously, poor girl. That’s someone’s daughter Francesco. That’s someone’s daughter.

F: Ah, that’s why I love you.

Me: You’re sick.

7.

Me: So, I got another email asking how I am able to be married to an Italian because they cheat.

F: Yeah?

Me: Mhmm, and I started thinking of what would happen if we moved to the US. American girls love an accent, and quiet guys and you basically hate talking and you’re kind of adorable. Women will be dripping from you. But that’s okay because I think I have a solution.

F: Kill everyone?

Me: No! Actually, I think I’ll just start telling everyone that you have an array of STD’s. Like, ALL of the

Sexually transmitted disease

Sexually transmitted disease (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

incurable ones.

F: Dat doesn’t make-a sense because you are married to me.

Me: Right. But I mean, that’s fine. I hate dudes anyways and I don’t really want anyone near “her” anyways. Especially in her condition. I mean, you cannot believe the things going on down there,
what with all those infections and everything.

F: That is disgusting.

Me: Right? How could you do that to me, to her, to us?

F: Please stop talking.

Me: We trusted you.

F: I don’t want to leave the apartment ever again.

Me: And why would you when we can stay inside and exchange virus’?

F: UUUGH!

8.

Me: The guy that plays Bill from True Blood IS BRITISH.

F: Yeah. It’s weird.

Me: And Alexander Skarsgard is Swedish.

English: Alexander Skarsgard at Tribeca Film F...

English: Alexander Skarsgard at Tribeca Film Festival 2010 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

F: True.

Me: I was just thinking of how cool it would be to be married to a European.

F: [blink, blink, blink]

Me: Oh, wow! Yeah. I’m pretty far gone.

F: Sigh.

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Royalty, Dragons, Wine And Fire: Getting All Romantic In Chianti

As a wedding gift one of my oldest, dearest friends gifted us a free night at a really cute little Inn, Castello Di Tornano, in Chianti. F and I decided to finally go last weekend. It’s a beautiful drive from Florence through Chianti. Everyone should do it at least once in their life, preferably in the summer.

When we arrived we took a stroll through the hills. I found wild boar shit which I was kind of excited about.  I felt like a super-tracker, if there is ever a Zombie takeover I’ll survive because I can hunt things. Like a cheetah. I ran up the hill following the boar doodie and hoof tracks , thinking about that sad movie where the dog is attacked by wild boars and then gets rabies. Where The Red Fern Grows? Is that it? or Old Yeller? I don’t know. Something depressing. At the top of the hill F told me to stop stalking the animals  because “it is weird,” and I was all, “you won’t think it’s so weird when you’re starving and I have like three hundred wild boars.” Then he said I can’t watch The Walking Dead anymore. I pouted for a minute and then we were romantic under an olive tree because, ya know, the wild.

Our cute little Inn

Our cute little Inn

We went to a little village nearby for dinner. The village was a ghost town, like post-apocalyptic empty. I don’t know if anyone really lives there. The  city consisted of one empty street lined on both sides with small business’ on the ground floor for wine, paintings, and other tourist things and apartments above. There were no lights or people talking inside the apartments, only darkness and an old man having an inappropriately long conversation with his labrador under the only lamp at the end of the street. It seemed like a movie set. We popped into the only bar for coffee and learned that we didn’t need to search any further because it was also the town bakery and  restaurant, so we stayed for dinner and dined outside.  The highlight of our dinner was our waitress, a cute woman from Morocco, who spent a lot of time making fun an Italian woman behind her back, calling her “electric” with an eye roll. I liked the insult and noted that I should use it in the future. We laughed so she liked us and subsequently fed us 300 bags of chips.

After dinner I convinced F to start a fire. In our room. In the fireplace. I did not have him ignite a nearby forest. At least, not this time. It took him an hour of intensive laboring and forty rolls of toilet paper to get the fire going and for a moment I’d given up on the idea and crawled into bed. Then he scared the shit out of me when he jumped and screamed while banging on his chest, “FIRE! I created FIRE! My a babe wanted deh fire AND I GAVE AIR DUH FIRE!” So, he was super proud of himself and all “one with his caveman”. Then I convinced him to put the bed in front of the fire place, “so it would be like camping” And we did. And it was awesome.

The next morning we visited castle Ricasoli, where the family who invented Chianti Classico still lives today. Or as I like to call them, rivalry. While F and I wandered the gardens in the back he spoke in an old English accent (or tried to, not easy with his Italian accent) and pretended to be aristocratic and I was all, seriously, you have to stop before everyone looks outside and wonders why I married a peasant and I’ll have to go into a lengthy explanation of how you’re down-to-earth and how I wanted someone new and different.” As we walked around the front I noticed some odd decisions regarding the fortification of the castle wall. Off with his head! And the drapes? All will suffer my wrath! 

F: This is awesome huh babe? I mean, could you imagine living here?

ME: Yes. I can. I finally feel at home. If given the opportunity I would totally reclaim this place. Fix the drapes, and kill whoever decided that this wall was adequate defense. I mean seriously!? Do you know how easy it would be to breach the front wall?! An army of humans, or trolls, nobody is safe!

F: You know, the scary thing is that you used the word, reclaim, and that you really believe everything that you’re saying right now.

ME:  I would ride on the back of a dragon. All would love me.

F: Oookay. Could I live in your castle?

ME: No. No you can’t. Wait, actually, could I FINALLY have a Capybara?

F: Dio mio! Yes. FINE. If you own a castle and you let me live in it you can finally have that stupid giant rat you want.

ME: You know what? He’s not stupid and I’d watch my mouth if I were you. The Queen is easily angered. You can have that tower over there. But you can’t live in the main part, that’s for me and Dwayne.

F: Sigh. Whatever. So you belong here with this family, huh? Are you like the long-lost daughter or something?

ME: This family? Fuck no! These guys have been living here for like thirty generations. Do you think that they have Chianti royalty meet-and-greets or use FB? No. They don’t. So basically everyone inside is super inbred. In fact, I’m sure it’s super exciting at this point if someone is born without tentacles. The octopus clan. No thanks. Though I’m sure it makes them worthy adversaries being able to hold like eight swords at a time.

F: Right.

ME: This kingdom is as good as mine. Follow me or perish.

F: Sigh.

Am I right?

Am I right?

Note: The Chianti Classico by Ricasoli is incredibly good wine. Come and drink it.