Tuesday, March 25, 2014

A re-pat back in Italy: when frustration starts kicking in

I am sure it must have happened to you too.
You are back in your own home country and after a first period that felt very much like being on a holiday, where you consider yourself still like a visitor and not a local, now it starts sinking in that this is it, you are not going anywhere, you are staying. You also are a local, a reluctant one maybe. You are part of the picture you have been observing from the outside, like the painter who suddenly realizes he is part of the painting he has been drawing all along. What looked fascinating and peculiar, it is now turning into something bothering and irritating.
It has been quite some time since I returned from my experience abroad but I haven't grown accustomed to life back at home. As a matter of fact, there are things that drive me nuts about being back at home, things I didn't miss abroad even when I was miserable. Being in Italy has its advantages -otherwise I wouldn't have come back :) - but it also has its flaws and these are the top four which make me drool like a dog with rabies:
1) Undisciplined drivers: they don't stop on the zebra crossing, which sign is interpreted more like a suggestion to speed up in order to avoid awaiting pedestrians rather than as an actual stop sign. So I find myself shouting and giving fingers to everyone who doesn't let me cross the road safely (probably something very Italian!). No wonder tourists are shocked to see Italians driving!
2) Queue jumpers: there is always the smart ass who thinks he can skip the line. Is it so difficult to respect the order of arrival?!? It happened once at the movie theater, shortly after coming back from the USA, where I didn't miss the chance to tell off the guy who skipped the line. 
3) State employees: you go into an office, three or four people are gathered around for their coffee break. You ask for something but they tell you it is someone else's job and the person is not there. Time is the most precious thing we have and I hate people who make me waste time with stupid excuses to hide their incompetence and inefficiency. 
4) Uncertainty and chaos about rules, which is an epidemic disease that affects the whole country and everyone seems subjugated by it. It is like playing a board game and the rules of the game keep on changing while the game is on. Let me give you some examples of what I have been going through. Taxes is one: an easy topic to target but not for the reason you might think ;). In Italy there is a chronic confusion about what to pay and how much, especially if you have your own business and even more so now with all these prime ministers changing at the speed of light. I am more than happy to pay my share and see my money wisely used by and for the community where I am living. It is my DUTY and responsibility but I have the RIGHT to know how much is expected from me. It is impossible to plan one's life from a financial perspective without knowing AHEAD how much is due to the State. 
Another aspect concerns notorious open competitions whose only purpose is to squeeze money out from people who don't have any. The demeaning aspect is when you pass the open competition but you don't make it to the first 3 positions let's say (the logic of arbitrary numbers is something obscure to the masses but clear to ones who established this regulatory principle); and you have to start all over again. So you are back to square one, to get a qualification through a course which is expensive and will take you exactly where you already were by passing the open competition fair and square. In fact, these courses organized by universities are real money machines with no basic organization. In this specific case, attendees got to know their schedule only after paying a heavy enrollment fee and guess what?! The first class was scheduled 48 h later! I forgot, attendance is mandatory but for some classes there is no calendar yet! As if people don't have a life to live and things to plan. 
 The list can be longer but these issues only show how insufferable I, as a re-pat, have become towards my own culture. I refuse to oblige and go along with these...how shall we call them??...cultural peculiarities; well, whatever label we might use, I feel I don't fit in this picture. If I could tolerate certain behaviors before going abroad, even though I never approved of them, now I find myself fighting them. With the only result to show my bad temper and having accomplished nothing. I painfully become aware that I am an outsider in my own country and I am struggling to come out of the picture I had been observing from the outside. That's when I am meditating a second chance abroad.

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