For four decades I lived what I considered to be a contented life of a city girl in my beloved Toronto. The only time I left was to go to some exotic Caribbean island resort to get away from the cold. It was all so convenient and easy; it never crossed my mind to live anywhere else.
Unlike most of my fellow classmates of Italian origin, my family hardly ever took us back to their homeland. Perhaps the hard upbringing of my mother in Sicily had something to do with it. We lived in a non-Italian area.
So why the transformation? I felt the need to see and experience this beautiful and historic Country which had contributed so much to the way I am and the way I look. Later I attended classes in Perugia for one month to learn the language. What possessed me! There I met my husband and moved to live in Italy. The usual story you might think. Well no, not exactly. My husband is not Italian, but a Welshman who had lived in Italy by then for over 15 years and was already fully integrated to the way of life. He was more Italian than I!
At first, I hated everything about it: the language that I couldn’t speak properly, the culture that reminded me of my childhood and the disorganisation which I detested. Worse the pasta, pizza and ‘dolci’ made me put on weight and the summer heat was unbearable because of the lack of air conditioning. It was all so old fashioned. I even had to hang the clothes outside to dry! To make things worse, my husband regularly travelled all over the world as a water specialist, leaving me alone in a village of little more than 2000 people…a far cry to 3.5 million! Everything – and I mean everything – felt so much better in Toronto and I just wanted to go back home!
That was then. Now 10 years on, now in my 50s I have grown to enjoy it and have learned to tolerate, if not exactly appreciate my pet peeves. Why? Partly because we started sharing our time between Italy and the UK where we also have a business and a home. In some ways, driving not included, living in the UK was easier as it was similar to Canada, not least the language, the products and the system. After all, Canada is part of the Commonwealth and shares the same Queen. But my word, life is a bit more grey and constant there compared to Italy and that’s without considering the food and the excessive drinking. Suddenly, Italy didn’t seem so bad after all. I had sun, I enjoy Italian cooking which I never did in Canada, I made friends both Italian and expats and became part of the local community. In other words, I have settled. Even Toronto somehow didn’t seem so perfect anymore and how I ever survived the freezing winters in my mini skirt and high heels, I shudder to think!
So what have I learned? That initially, everything was so different that I kept seeing just the negatives whilst remembering only the good points of the life I knew before. Then slowly I began to appreciate the many positives in my new countries that I hadn’t experienced before and noticed that things appeared to have changed – more correctly perhaps, see again some of the negatives – in Toronto. After all, Italy wouldn’t be Italy without the mix of sun, excitable people and the creative disorganisation in the same way as the UK wouldn’t be the UK without rain and a sense of order. More than anything, I am glad to be living the experience playfully. Mind you, when anyone asks where my home is, I still say Toronto.