A girl walked into a bar. It was me, I was that girl. When I first moved here to Bergamo to be with the love of my life and live out this beautiful fairytale I never would have expected running into this American guy working in a bar up in Città Alta. I walked in, we spoke Italian to one another, and it wasn’t until he exclaimed ‘oh crap!’ when he dropped something that I realized he was one of the few Americans that live here. I was so interested in his story. His mother was American and his father was Italian, so he was one of the lucky ones, a dual citizen who was born with both cultures and both languages. However, I was extremely surprised by his response after I asked, “what’s it like?!” He said, “it’s not always great. When I’m in America, I’m the Italian, and when I’m in Italy, I’m the American. Sometimes I feel like I don’t belong anywhere. I’m stuck in the middle.” I kinda brushed it off like, well that’s cool, you’re always special, you get the best of both worlds. I didn’t quite understand until years later.
Being an expat opens up a whole world of possibilities, cultures, experiences, adventures and so much more. We are a rare breed of really fortunate people. However, there is a downside, as there is with almost every wonderful thing. Although that American/Italian guy wasn’t quite an expat, he deals with a very real issue that I am finding to be true amongst myself and a lot of my expat friends. Being stuck in the middle of two worlds.
Every once in awhile a spout of depression will set over me. Feelings of being extremely alone, or unfulfilled take over. I want my family. At this moment, I want to just hop in the car to visit my grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins. I want to have dinner at my parents’ houses. I want to be surrounded by other Americans, do a target run, grab a Starbucks, wear a big promotional t-shirt and sweatpants to a bagel shop, eat crappy American food, drive past the beach on the way home from work. I want my old ‘normal’. I want everyone to be speaking English around me. This sadness is for something that doesn’t exist anymore. It’s almost a mourning because my old ‘normal’ can’t be my everyday ‘normal’ anymore. It’s only half of me now. What was once my ‘whole normal’ is now only ‘half normal’.
Alberto often throws out the idea of moving back to Florida when this happens, but it’s just not a solution. Because that doesn’t include my beautiful life that we have created together here in Italy. It doesn’t include our new beautiful home. It doesn’t include his parents that have only now been blessed to have a grandchild. It doesn’t include the half of me that loves speaking Italian, our friends here that have become family, our perfect neighborhood, the fact that living in Italy means that I get the vacation time to visit the other half more often, the maternity leave to be with my child(ren), morning runs to the local bar for a brioche and cappuccino, real Italian food. It reminds me that there is no solution because I have the luck of being torn.
When I go back to Florida, I now feel the cultural differences and after a short amount of time, miss my home in Bergamo. When I am home in Bergamo, I feel the cultural differences and will always miss Florida. The fact is, I’m not quite Italian, but I am no longer only an American.
I am an expat
Being torn between two worlds
For better or worse
As an expat we can only have half of ourselves at a time. We have to count our blessings, but know that our feelings are valid too.
Hey expats, do you feel me here? What are your thoughts? How do you cope?