When we were travelling the world as expats before the world wide web british expats gathered in various watering holes in the city in which they lived and discussed life, the locals, the terrible foreign expats and the perceived hardships of the posting. Now they do it on expat forums and I, like many, am an avid reader of them. The one down here in Puglia is a site called Puglia Posse and today a brave soul has started a discussion on expats v Italians and who he prefers to mix with. Perhaps unsurprisingly he himself has come down on the side of Italians which I guess means I won’t get a christmas card from him this year. It is a subject that often ignites such forums along with simple topics like ‘the UK is better than …..” written by returnees ( traitors) after they have left the said city or country. Worse still in stirring up a forum is ‘ my new country ( not the UK ) is better than …’ I am never sure whether the owner of the site doesn’t just plant one of these once a month to stir things up when the readership falls. But it is an interesting question.
When we retired after I had had my triple by-pass etc ( hence the walks and the medicinal half bottle of red wine each day) we went to Cyprus to live. We settled in Birmingham by the Sea or Pissouri as the very few remaining Cypriots that lived in the village called it. It was not for us but it was the place of dreams to most of the expats that lived there. They could buy an English paper every morning , purchase every brand of english food in the local supermarket, drink in an english pub in the evening and eat an english sunday lunch of a roast and three veg at a host of “local” restaurants. There was no requirement to learn the language and the Cypriots would not speak to an expat in greek even if one bothered to try. The local forum there was Cyprus Living and I confess I still glance at it a few times a week.
We therefore came to Italy to try and learn the language, enjoy the food and wine and try to mix mainly with the locals who we hoped would see us as a novelty rather than a cash cow as seemed the case in Cyprus. I, however carry no illusion that I will ever become an Italian or indeed really want to be. I enjoy their life style and the sense of family but I am sure the language will always be a barrier . We will be friends with some but never close to them the way they are with each other for they have lived with their friends and relatives all their lives and we are probably a ship that is passing by however long we stay here. The average non work posted expat from the UK lasts 3-5 years in their new country of choice according to government figures before normally returning to the UK. This is especially true of what I call ” new lifers” who come abroad in search of what they hope is a better life citing all kinds of perceived problems with the UK and are gone within a year or so when they realise that no country is perfect, the winters are bloody cold and most importantly there is no social security net. So expats v Italians well for me a bit of both if that ‘s not a cop out . I enjoy a night out with a group of expats once a month just as I enjoy sitting at an Italian family table eating and trying to understand what is being said but mainly just soaking up the atmosphere. And boy I like their music