I came back from the UK a couple of weeks ago after spending a week traveling the length and breadth of the country for parties, hen dos and family time. It was a chaotic 8 days starting in Brighton, stopping off in Cumbria and ending in Edinburgh. I met up with friends I hadn’t seen for a while, family friends which I hadn’t seen for a long long time, and met friends of friends who then became friends. It was a fantastic 8 days of sunshine (which never happens), catch ups, country walks, city walks, It’s a knock out (soft play for adults) and treasured family time sitting in the garden with a pint.
All this meant that arriving back in Verona at 00:30 (after the plane was delayed in Edinburgh, missing the train in Venice and having to wait in Mestre for the slow regional train while being eaten alive by mosquitos), I was NOT in the best of moods and not happy to be back in my beloved Italy. This feeling took a few days to shake off and it wasn’t until a week later that I fell back into the normal groove.
This wasn’t just the ‘holiday blues’ that we all get after having a nice time away, it was more than that. It made me look at Verona and my life here in another light. For that week nothing seemed to go right, the UK was better in every way (this was pre-brexit) – there people understand me, I understand them (most of the time), I know how things work and I my family are there. Here I get frustrated when I can’t communicate the way I want to, it had been raining a lot, I was tired and just wanted someone to make a good cup of tea WITH milk.
I’ve spoken about this with a lot of people over the last couple of months. People who’ve moved to another country which has become home but never able to replace the home that they left. For me, Cumbria will always be my home. That’s where my family are and where I grew up but in the same breath as saying that – Verona is also home. I was 22 when I arrived and now it’s almost 5 years later and the quirky streets, the people I’ve met and the local delicacies I’ve become accustom to have become normal, and in a way more than just a place where I live. Where there is love there is a home and I feel love both in the UK and here in Italy.
It’s wonderful having two homes. Cumbria and the UK are obviously VERY different from Verona and Italy. I love that they are different and in a way compliment each other. In Verona I can sit along the river Adige, sipping Spritz and munching on taralli, while in Cumbria I can set the world to rights over a mug of tea, take a walk along the beach and get some fish and chips with gravy for tea.
However sometimes I get the feeling that I don’t (and maybe won’t) completely 100% belong to either place. While both are Home to me, I am never going to be completely at home in Italy – I’m British, some things are always going to be a bit weird, Italian TV or freaking out over air conditioning. I’m always going to be a foreigner – una straniera, and struggle with language and certain customs. At the same time, when I go back to the UK there is also an element which is a bit strange and foreign. There are TV programmes, celebrities, cult things that everyone is talking about and I’ve never heard of. I feel like I’ve become snobbish about coffee, food and clothes. Shocked that people go out in the middle of Winter without a coat – even though 8 years earlier I did the same. My speech has become fluctuated with Italianisms and I can’t speak anymore without moving my hands. While this can seem quaint and cute to friends and family, I know that after a while it too can become a bit annoying.
To try and combat this conflict I feel when travelling from one to the other I want to start embracing my two homes rather than put them in competition with each other. Take joy in the fact that they are different and that I can experience deeply these two different cultures and not dwell on the fact that the grass is always greener.
*N.B. I wrote this post a few days before the Brexit vote. Now obviously living abroad in Europe as an expat the future is quite uncertain. I had always been confident of my UK roots which gave me the opportunity to branch out into Europe. I am very sad and disappointed by the result of last Friday but I don’t want to go on a Brexit lament. For now I will sit tight with the other expats in the EU and the Europeans in the UK and wait to hear what will happen next.
At least I can still cheer for Italy in the Euros… Forza Italia!