Tuesday, July 10, 2007

living or visiting ?

Life is pretty frantic at the moment. In fact, the last four weeks have been down right exhausting. Things are good, but much like Italian drivers, Aff and I could probably do with a slight easing of the foot off the accelerator. It's difficult though. We have 6 months (well, 4 months now) in this city. Since the moment we arrived here, I have realised that this is really quite an awkward time period. Is 6 months in a city considered "living" in it ? or is it just an extended visit. I think Aff and I both believed we were coming to Genova to live for 6 months, rather than just visit. I still think this is true, but I have since come to realise that with only 6 months here, perhaps the "visiting" mentality isn't such a bad thing either.

The biggest challenge I have faced is of course the language. It is difficult to live in Italy without the language, and if you are living here, then it is difficult to not feel obliged to learn it - and fair enough I guess. If you are visiting though, I don't think too many Italians would expect this, beyond perhaps a few basic phrases to buy milk, and get an all day bus ticket. So which category are Aff and I in ? When I arrived, my thoughts were, "I must learn the language if I am going to make friends with people here". When I mention this to Italians I have met, their first response is usually, "why? you are only here for 6 months". After hearing that response a few times, I realise that in the eyes of those who actually live here, I am very much a visitor.

While this might sound like something to be disappointed about, I have actually found releasing myself from this need to feel like I am living in Genova quite a weight off my shoulder. Much of the franticness of the last few weeks has been motivated mostly by my personal need to be meeting people and making as many friends as I can. In my mind, to say no, or not attend something is to risk missing an opportunity to get to know people better. Of course, this might be true, but why do I care so much if I am only here for 6 months anyway. Why do I need to be best mates with every single person I meet ? why do I feel like I need a best mate at all ... particularly if I am just visiting ? Even if I was living here, I doubt I would easily find this in my first 6 months.

This doesn't mean I shut up shop, and not talk to anyone. Nor does it mean I quit my language lessons. Both these things have been the most rewarding parts of my experience in Genova so far .. but also the most stressful. Perhaps viewing these things not so much as ends in themselves, but rather as bonuses along the way is the better way to go. Aff and I have many priorities to balance while we are here, and while our time here has been good so far, I think we have both probably sacrificed a few things in favour of learning the language, and constantly trying to make new friends .. the worst of these probably being spending time with each other, and just taking in where we are.

With four months to go, I am happy that I am starting to work these priority conflicts out now. I suspect life will always feel a bit frantic while we are here. Genova is a pretty frantic place. At least with some realistic perspectives on what it means to spend 6 months in a foreign city, I am starting to work out what I am actually here to do, and what really matters .. something that will probably also be useful to me when I get home as well.

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Blogger Enrico said...

Chris, are you sure you worked everything out? Let's talk better sometimes about this post, why not during an aperitivo...;-)

7/11/2007 09:14:00 AM

Blogger Capital Ideas Australia said...

Ahh! You've gotten all deep & philosophical, European & cultured. Me-thinks you are not quite the stand-out foreigner you suspect. If you fancy a taste of crass&tacky Aussie maaaaaate stuff check out my very first blog. (At long last!)

7/12/2007 02:42:00 PM

Anonymous mands said...

I considered my nine month stint in Ireland "staying" there - not visiting, nor living. I understand your perspective - I say enjoy the realisation that it is not "living". I know I was more relaxed about meeting people etc that way and thoroughly enjoyed the quieter times, which you don't experience at home. Mind you, I did frequent pubs more than other time in my life..!

7/13/2007 01:00:00 PM

Anonymous Lee-Fay said...

Does living in a place mean having friends there? doing what the locals do? speaking the language? eating the local grub? Does visiting mean seeing the sights and little more? I suspect that there is a grey boundary between the two. Whatever works for your current situation.... enjoy and relax....

7/18/2007 02:13:00 PM

Anonymous rob m said...

How's the language learning going?

7/19/2007 02:00:00 PM

Blogger macca said...

Ciao Rob, Mio Italiano va bene, ma solo parlo poco Italian :(

7/19/2007 05:45:00 PM


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