Friday, 4 July 2014

Home and away

Why couldn't I get a cup of tea apart from the abomination that is Lipton? Why did Italian plugs, bought in Italy, not fit Italian sockets without an adaptor? Why, when the apartment was empty and I had told the estate agent we needed to move in by the 17th, would they not let me sign the contract until the 21st?

I was beaten by culture shock and craving a mini-break in orderly England. So I booked a flight to London without thinking about the date.

Later, I realised its significance.

Having a ball

I had booked for the day England and Italy were due to meet at the World Cup.

Although the flight did not clash with the match, I had forfeited the chance to enjoy the friendly rivalry of watching the game in Italy with Italians. Initially, I was disappointed. In light of the result, I am relieved.

England's Wayne Rooney. I find this picture oddly hypnotic

For anyone unaware, England lost 2-1 to Italy. Then we lost to Uruguay. For the English to stand a chance of qualifying from the group, Italy had to do us a favour by beating Costa Rica. Italy lost.

Then they lost again.

So, almost before I knew it, the country where I was born and the country where I live were both out of the tournament. And that was that.

People tell me this World Cup is one of the best in memory. I wouldn't know.

There's no TV in my apartment and we are still waiting for WiFi to be installed. I see players' pictures on back pages, I hear cheers coming from neighbouring houses, I catch snatches of matches in bars... But I am removed.

Emigration is entwined with separation. You desert your friends, your family, your country and your comfort zone. The separation that comes of not having a TV or working Internet connection is just another thing to adapt to.

Tackling problems

If you emigrate of your own free will, as I did, you can't complain too much. But things do wear you down.

And sometimes there are days when it's one little thing after another. Like you wake up and the pollen’s high (the pollen’s almost always high here) so your head swells like a spacehopper and your sinuses throb as you leave the house, and the humidity (it’s always humid here) has you soaked in sweat by the time you arrive at the office... And your morning's non-stop. Then in your lunch hour you go to the phone shop to muddle through a conversation about tariffs in your broken Italian. But the shop's shut for lunch, so you can't. And you don’t have time to eat. 

Non-Brits, a Space Hopper is the thing this woman is sitting on

Back at work, you're too busy to grab a coffee from the vending machine or go to the toilet the whole afternoon. And you leave the office late and your Italian class has already begun, so you run half an hour across town because the public transport doesn’t go to where the school is. And you’re sweating the whole way. 

You haven’t had time to do your homework. And you start talking in Greek during class (quite fluent Greek – arguably the highlight of your day) because you’re so shattered you've lost track of what language you're meant to be speaking. And the class overruns and you’re late getting home for dinner and... blah blah blah. Yada yada yada.

Passing completion rate

I came to Italy knowing it wasn’t all going to be Tuscan sunsets and limoncello. And it's not that I'm complaining (how could I when the limoncello is €4 a bottle?) But if you want to know what it’s really like in the early days of moving to a new country where you don’t speak the language, the reality is that some days and some weeks are tough. So my next couple of blogs will be for people who are considering moving abroad. I'll be explaining what you can do to make it as easy as possible.

Don't worry. It's not so bad. On the plus side, I’m going to Lake Como at the weekend.

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