Canadian Mentality vs. Italian Reality: An Overview


Not Just Another Although my tongue-twister of a last name and love for all things Italian maybe make me not quite as “purely Canadian” as they come, I’m still very, very, very Canadian. And happy to be so. If you missed this about me, go back and read here and here and here to get a feel for my particular type of patriotism.

Me, decked out in my completely

Me, decked out in my completely “Canadian” garb visiting the Canadian WW1 Memorial at Vimy Ridge.

You won’t often hear me say a word against Canada. Although I’m currently living in Italy after working hard to get here, I have no problem publishing here on the Internet that, all things considered and in my humble opinion, Canada is the best country in the world. There.

But I will say, Canada, that you have recently let me down.

Before all my fellow Canucks get up in arms, per favore (please) let me explain.

I grew up in the suburbs of the GTA (Greater Toronto Area) surrounded by a loving family. I attended public schools, was heavily involved with Air Cadets (an amazing youth organization with a large focus on leadership and good citizenship), had a great university education and had a pretty happy/normal Canadian-kid upbringing, complete with Tim Horton’s, ice skating, camping trips and the odd sighting of the Northern Lights. So far, so good.

All this was done in Canadian society. Where people are generally humble, polite and helpful. Where things generally work the way they should. Where information is given freely, and where a definitive answer usually does exist. Where laws and rules are understandable, and are generally respected. Where we are taught to be open-minded and accepting. Where we are generally trusting. Where multiculturalism and diversity are generally praised. Where navigating life is, for so many of us, generally fairly easy.

I say generally because we certainly can’t paint every person and every situation with the same brush (even if it is a good one) and there are always exceptions. I don’t want to say that life is all flowers and rainbows in Canada but, it really is a great country to live in, on many levels and for many reasons that most of us probably take for granted. I know I certainly did.

And while I wouldn’t trade my Canadian upbringing for anything, I can say that it did not, however, stand me in good stead to deal with the realities of living in Italy.

Because all those things I listed, those underlying currents in Canadian society, (the multiculturalism and whatnot, not the Tim Horton’s and ice skating, etc.) are not always present to the same degree in Italian society. Ask almost any North-American expat who lives in Italy and they’ll probably agree with me. Life here is harder. It just is. And the same default settings you use for navigating life in Canada won’t get you very far here.

So, like a sailor getting my sea legs, I’ve been wobbling around Italy bashing into things as the country pitches and rolls, while in Canada I manage a pretty bump-free existence. (And no, the bumping and bashing cannot be attributed to my much higher Prosecco intake over here).

When I think about the bureaucracy and red tape I had to wade through just to get my Permesso di Soggiorno (Permit to Stay) it makes me more than cringe. I get the sweats. The Permesso di Soggiorno sweats. Yes, other expats in Italy, you know what I’m talking about!

Ridiculously happy to finally have my Permesso di Soggiorno (Permit to Stay).

Ridiculously happy to finally have my Permesso di Soggiorno (Permit to Stay). That’s my permesso on the left. And my celebratory millefoglie on the right!

The more I think about this topic, the more I feel like I can’t express everything I want to in one simple blog post, so this may turn into a bit of a series. It’ll be entertaining, I promise.

Attenzione, però! (Watch out!) Although it may sound like I’m doing a hearty amount of complaining (or any amount of complaining, because on here I’m usually pretty upbeat) I’m still very happy with my choice to move to Italy. Extolling the virtues of life in lo stivale (The Boot a.k.a. Italy) will once again become the main focus of this blog after I get these comparative cultural musings out.

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3 thoughts on “Canadian Mentality vs. Italian Reality: An Overview

  1. Shoot your last name is a walk in the park. Try having Pugliese as a last name. It has been massacred so many times. The teachers would reach the “P’s” and pause. They’d begin with Pug, Puig — I’d finally take pity on them and say “here”. I’ve been tempted to get my dual citizenship. I was born there and became a US citizen. Now we can have dual citizenships. That would make visiting easier. I look forward to reading your adventures.

  2. I recently misplaced my Permesso. That set me on a round of things to do…go to the Questura, who sent me to the police to make a declaration, who sent me to the Carabinieri, who said come back tomorrow. I did, got the required piece of paper, returned to the Questura only to be told I had to do the whole procedure again. I went to the office to get new forms filled out, she was busy. I made an appointment for 2 days in advance. In the meantime my husband found my Permesso in Australia and posted it to me.
    I cancelled my appointment, went back to the Carabinieri and am now trying without success to retrieve my package from the hideous service that is called the Post Office.
    Don’t ever lose your Permesso! I have no idea whether it was correct that I had to reapply or the woman at the Questura was playing with me…anything is possible.

  3. Hi there,
    I can completely relate!
    About living in Canada – I moved here in my early 30s and I know we live a good life here! I moved from India, so I know EXACTLY what Italy will do to an organized Canadian brain! India also takes bureaucracy to a whole different level.
    About having a unique last name and living in Canada. 🙂 I like Italy a LOT and I only visit occasionally, but I can see how things can be crazy!
    Congratulations on getting your permesso!

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