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About Me, Part Three

November 10, 2010

San Gimignano, the city of many towers

As you can tell if you’ve been reading this blog faithfully for the past ten days, I dream of Italy.  Every day and every night.  And I have been for the past two years–since I spent my life-changing semester abroad in Florence.  After I graduated from Middlebury with my trusty Italian & English joint degree, I started searching for the best way to get myself back there.

I looked into a variety of different jobs and internships and I eventually settled on the au pair option.  For those of you who aren’t familiar with it, the au pair is a young woman who lives with a family and cares for their children in exchange for food, lodging, and pocket money.  In my case, the family in question is located in Parma, a city that many call food capital of Italy.  I will be caring for their two children and teaching them English after they get home from school, and I will live in a guest house on the family’s property.  In my free time, I’ll be traveling, eating, writing entries for this blog, and smiling every day.  I can’t wait.  My plane departs on Jan 3, 2011.

Giardino Ducale, Parma (photo credit Renata F. Oliveira, Flickr)

 

I really wanted to live with an Italian family because I had such a positive experience living with my host family in a small town outside of Florence in 2008.  The concept of “family” is completely different between Italians and Americans (Italian-Americans come pretty close.)  Family is one of the core values driving Italian culture (some of the others being food, talking, la bella figura, church [although this is decreasing in importance in the present generation], relaxation, couples [connected to family but including dating couples], and the woman-dominated home.)

Italian children typically live with their parents throughout college and university (anywhere from 3 to 6+ years), often until they marry.  Italians seek to remain in the same city or town, and at minimum the same region, in which they grew up, and in which their entire extended family resides.    This creates an immediate social network and a sense of belonging that simply doesn’t exist in American culture.  If you ask an American “Who are you?” he or she will probably respond with some combination of career, hobbies, and an idea of who they want to become.  If you ask an Italian, I believe the response will focus on family and geography rather than career.  Most Italians already know who they are, and aren’t trying to be anyone else.  They don’t rush through college (they can retake failed exams with no penalty), and they certainly don’t rush through a meal–ever.

A Sunday walk through the countryside

 

 

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5 Comments leave one →
  1. November 10, 2010 5:56 pm

    Beautiful post, Beth. Thanks for sharing 🙂

  2. Katherina permalink
    November 10, 2010 6:07 pm

    I really like how , and what, you write, allthough, things are changing.: more and more italians want to leave the country, the situation for newly grads is not very easy, if we stay at home very long is also because there is not the material chance to start living on our own… I’d say that the family thing is truer in the south, where its still strongly radicated the mentality of the family- tribù.
    however, bellissimo blog beth!
    also, come visit in ferrara!

  3. Bunny, your cat permalink
    November 10, 2010 6:37 pm

    meow!! You are awesome!

  4. November 10, 2010 6:43 pm

    Thank you all! Bunny, I don’t know how you managed to just comment on this post, since right now you are staring at me creepily from outside the window.

    Thanks for your perspective, Katherina… I know that Italy is catching up to America and the traditional values are fading away, but compared to life in the US, I think it’s still a slower pace, which is what I love about it. I will definitely be visiting you in Ferrara!

  5. Sara permalink
    November 11, 2010 11:56 pm

    I wish americans lingered over more things.

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