Life on both sides of the pond

Reflections of a thirteen-year-old ex-pat

Jared Turkus
March 23, 2006

Life in Italy and life in the U.S. are two completely different worlds. When I was a little kid, living in Northern California, I thought there was no other place like home. I thought all of my future lay within the country that I was standing in. I was wrong though - big time! When I was eight and we came to Italy, at first I didn’t like anything about it. After we had been in Florence less than a year, my parents told me that we were going to extend our stay for another year or longer. I responded by saying to them, ‘I agreed to come to Italy for one year, but I miss our house. I miss my school. I miss my friends. This is my childhood and I want to go home’.  Then, as four years went by, I slowly grew accustomed to the Italian culture. Living on both sides of the pond has been a lot of fun. This great experience leads me to only one dilemma - where am I going to live for the rest of my education? This is a tough decision because when I am in Italy, a wave of nostalgia hits me out of nowhere, and when I am in the U.S., I long for Italy. I’ve finally realized that each place has its pros and cons. A pro about Italy is that the scenery and living environment are much more beautiful than in the U.S. In America, many properties are divided into quarter-acre lots and have no land surrounding them. The architecture is often uninteresting, so there is a sameness that gets dull.


Another pro about Italy is that we can take our dog Luke almost anywhere, and he is welcomed kindly in cafés, restaurants, hotels and on hiking trails. In America, a lot of hiking trails prohibit dogs, and if you bring them, they must have a leash. We can never bring our dog to a café, restaurant or hotel in America, so it is much nicer for pet owners and pets here.


A con about Italy is that organization is terrible. For example, the law is not strictly enforced. You could run a red light, and no one would warn you or tell you to stop. You could not pay rent in Italy, and you could get away with it for years. In America, if you run a red light, you will probably get a $300 fine at least. Also, the police hide in America, so you never know when it is okay to break the law. Here, in Italy, there are obvious ‘speed traps’. When people are driving, they speed and then slow down for the speed traps. Another pro about law enforcement in America is if you don’t pay rent, you will be physically evicted from the house in a matter of weeks. Law enforcement seems more present in America.


A pro about America is that there are a lot of international cuisines. For example, you can get Chinese, Japanese, Thai, Mexican or American food. In Italy, it is difficult to find anything but Italian food. Italian food is healthy, delicious, it makes your mouth water, but after a while, you start to crave other tastes.


A con about America is that the salespeople are not as friendly - they’re almost like robots. It’s as if their masters tell them to ‘just sell the merchandise to the people so we can make some money’. It seems the only objective in sales in America is to make money. In Italy, people are friendlier, more personal. For example, the shopkeepers here socialize with you. Most of them ask me, ‘How are you today?’ They engage you in conversation and seem genuinely interested in helping you, not just making a profit like in America.


Lastly, it seems that family is a little more of a priority in Italy. Sundays are days reserved for families. Sundays are spent playing a family game or going out for lunch. In America, stores and restaurants are open every day, so Sundays are not special family days and can be wasted with running errands and doing the same things you do on the other days of the week.


In closing, the solution is to have a home in both places and enjoy where you are at that moment.

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