Posts Tagged ‘Expats in Italy’

American In Rome

I don’t like the word “Expat” –  it feels exclusionary, divisive and, dare I say it, a bit elitist. 

I never liked being a member of a clique in school either, preferring to spread myself around, hopping from one social and ethic circle to another.

1ex·pa·tri·ate verb \ek-ˈspā-trē-ˌāt\

1: banish, exile

2: to withdraw (oneself) from residence in or allegiance to one’s native country

…Nope, that doesn’t quite define me.

Look, it’s perfectly obvious that I am not from around here (especially when I open my mouth) so I see no real need to announce it, label it, or hide behind it.

Go ahead and call me an “American”, call me a “Straniera” (foreigner), call me “crazy”, but don’t call me “Expat”. 


Photograph “American Girl” by Ruth Orkin, 1951


by Toni DeBella


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“You’re an expatriate. You’ve lost touch with the soil. You get precious. Fake European standards have ruined you. You drink yourself to death. You become obsessed by sex. You spend all your time talking, not working. You are an expatriate, see? You hang around cafés.” 

– Ernest Hemmingway

Ahhh…the adventure and discovery of learning about my newly-adopted nation and how it functions – from the everyday (taking a number at the post office) and mundane (small town news and gossip travels like wildfire), to the intricacies of governmental bureaucracy (it took me an entire afternoon and ten forms to deposit money in a bank account).  Mastery of a new system takes an adjustment period.  How long my learning curve will be is entirely in my hands.  My passport may say I am Italian now, but I know this is a legal technicality.  I am a stranger learning to live the way people live here and it isn’t always straightforward.

A rosy outlook, tongue-biting and an almost Pollyannaish mind set is how I roll these days.  Like muttering about the August sun shining bright and hot – complain if you will, but the sun will continue to beat down on you.  My days are about sink or swim, and being educated one mistake at a time. You live, you learn.

by Toni DeBella

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