Some time ago I was interviewed for Multicoolty Italia. They do an amazing job interviewing expats all around the world, but with main focus on foreigners in Italy. You find the interview in italian here: La Mia Vita e' piu ricca oggi
Please like their page here: https://www.facebook.com/multicoolty.italia/?fref=ts
Translation in English
"Today my Life is Richer"
My name is Johanna, I come from Sweden but in my veins runs finnish blood. I'm in Italy, Sicily, since 2009. Self-employeed in the organic sector in agriculture and tourism. I'm preparing two new activities and also started writing books.
I wanted a real challenge in life and Sicily seemed to be the right place. I'd say that I got what I asked for and even more. In Sicily, learned a lot about life seen from a different perspective and learned even more about myself. I chose Sicily because I saw Inspector Montalbano in Sweden and fell in love with the beautiful things I saw, the area of Ragusa! Then I moved there as a start.
What was it like to learn Italian?
Easy because the grammar is very similar to finnish. But I'll never speak perfect Italian because I speak different languages every day. I learned it myself: with the magazines that interest me and talking to people. Sicilians are great because they correct me if I'm wrong. So you learn quickly. Then it took me a bit 'of time to understand that here they speak Sicilian, which is very different from Italian. I was a bit' confused at first.
Do you think that speaking Italian living in Italy is important?
It's essential wherever you decide to live. Otherwise you never know how a country functions and you will always have problems if you don't understand people. Also for the respect of the new country you have to learn.
Which problems did you meet when you arrived in Italy?
Everything, because the system and the life in Sicily is totally the opposite from Sweden. It worries me to see that the local people don't want to know their rights and duties. Often we foreigners learn the system better, so you can also protect yourself against a corrupt system and know how to get around.
What do you like about Italy?
Here I learned to value things. In Sweden we have an incredible consumerism, buy and throw away. Here I learned the value of money and saving, because I saw true poverty. I like the people, they are very kind to us foreigners. I like the sun, the food, the Sicilian mountains and the rich history. Here I also started to appreciate Sweden and understand how lucky we are there. There you go blind because you live in the system and everything goes smoothly. Here I learned to fight, to defend myself, I lost my swedish naivity because the world is not as at home.
What do you don't like?
I don't like the church and the family system, two structures that destroy the person from the first day. I don't like ignorance, laziness and how people mistreat their own land, a land so beautiful. Here often lacks the grit, perhaps because of the "mammismo", children do not learn to fight the system nor to stand on their feet. Not everybody, but many.
What about the Italians?
The people are very kind to us foreigners. You laugh a lot with the Sicilians. When they trust, you begin to meet fantastic people. Very easy to work here with men. I didn't have "classical" problems so far and I don't think there will ever be. The Sicilians give you everything when they see you do something for their territory.
One thing that makes me tired is that people always want to give advice and sometimes men don't understand a No!! Ignorance and mammismo does so much damage. The phenomenon of the "Italian mama's boy" is famous all over the world, but I couldn't imagine so alarming. Double-sided, one side out and another behind and hidden. Difficult to have female friends here. I have only two after 7 years !! Often they not even greet. I believe that women learn that other women are rivals or something similar.
Have you ever had an experience of "racism" in Italy?
Only once I have heard a man complain about immigrants, but it's very rare in Sicily. Sicilians do much for immigrants and it's a shame that they are left alone. Against me ever, only some women give bad comments because they often think bad of us foreign women, but I don't consider it as real "racism". Only that they don't know what the world is like.
What surprises you about the Italian culture?
Ignorance towards the environment, neighbors and themselves. Parents teach their children that everything is the fault of politicians, so take away their hope for the future at the beginning. Then they see us foreigners do many things here and don't understand how it is possible.
True religions here are football and food. Still don't understand how you can eat so much: I once tried to eat as the Sicilians and will not do that again, it was an experience close to death.
Patience to the incorrectness in society. Why don't the people rebel? The Sicilians always want to help foreigners, this is a very nice thing.
What did you have to give up when you moved in Italy?
Ever ything in my life: the family is far away, good salary, house, career etc. But it was worth it, because the things that I know now, I would not have been able to learn otherwise. My life is richer today.
You feel "integrated" in Italian society?
Yes, immediately. It's easy to integrate into society. It all depends on yourself. You have to go out, be curious, the phone doesn't ring ... you have to make calls at the beginning. I'm a very open person, I get in touch with people wherever I go.
How has your lifestyle changed in Italy?
I live a very Scandinavian style, otherwise I'd go back in time. I put some things of Sicilian culture in my life: relax more, eat healthier, give time to people, greet the neighbors etc. The world circles even if I don't answer the phone. Here I learned lots of patience, because if the road is broken you go another day or do a longer ride. Here it doesn't work as in Sweden and if you live here to wait for a change, life will become very difficult. You have to take Sicily as it is and create your reality as you want.
Do you like italian food?
Sicilian cuisine is one of the best and healthiest in the world. The first year I gained almost 10 kg, but I was happy because I was too skinny before. I love to eat and I turn off the phone during lunch and dinner.
In Italy, do you eat Italian food or continue to eat the food from your country?
I eat foods from around the world. I grew up that way. Thanks to Ikea, and the Internet I can send things here. Then also my family and friends bring swedish foods.
What did you think of Italy and Italians before moving?
Now Italy is well known in the world, but Sicily was different. There isn't much information online. I didn't think so much, just threw myself in the system and in society. I took things as they came: good things and bad, then I made my way.
Do you think you will return to your country of origin?
Yes, at least half time. I'm working to be able to live in Sicily and also in Northern Europe. I want to do things for my country and I have a couple of ideas. Then I'd like to create a family and Scandinavia would be the place.
What do you miss most about your country?
A system that works. People smiling on the streets. Sweden doesn't lack anything and you can find anything you can imagine. I miss female friends and public offices who answer the phone. Cleanliness, respect for others and a strong people. Men with whom you can have an intelligent conversation without trying more ... not all are like that, but many. True love that isn't meant to "settle down well."
Which stereotype of Italians has been confirmed?
Hospitality, playful, great eaters. Difficult mother-in-laws, crazy I would say. Machismo ridiculous.
Do you think the multicultural society can exist?
Multiculturalism exists since the time of the vikings, we have always been great travelers. In Sicily passes and people living from around the world, since the times of the greeks Sicily was multicultural. Everybody has been and passed here. So, what more has to be done?
The modern model of multiculturalism they want to create now I don't think will work, because it has no human purpose, but only the interests of politicians and corporations. In Italy there are other things to be resolved before we talk about multiculturalism.
What is "multiculturalism" for you?
How was the ancient Rome; every religion/culture was next to each other and each one took care of their business. Then something very bad happened. In Sweden we had a nice multiculturalism only 10 years ago, but now we use ridiculous words as "racism" and "phobia" if officially you say that you don't support Islam. But things are changing. In multiculturalism everything must be told, criticized and respected ... otherwise it is not.
Multiculturalism exists in your country of origin?
Before yes, but today not entirely. If you want to know the modern trends and political intentions for the future it is good follow Sweden because from there begins all things new and crazyness. There you must live with a "cold head". We already have the third sex in the system and now trying to find new words to describe female masturbation. A country very interesting I think. You have to be very open.
Why are some Italians afraid of strangers?
If we talk about what is happening today, I do not think it's fear. They just want to protect their culture and origins, that is ok. The world is varied and colorful, that why it is nice. We can not say to a people to give up their native only to insert a new one. The new is welcome, but must live together with what already exists. Then with time everything will be adjusted without us having to force things, with respect and love, you can create many things.
What do you think of the relationship in the mixed couples?
For me it is very difficult here in Sicily. Many men / families are not accustomed to a woman to be independent, to have an opinion, who can repair the car and build a house, comes and goes as she wishes etc. For me it was very difficult, I left it and put focus on northern European. My experiences are not positive. They don't hate me as a person, but they don't know how to handle my freedom. In Sicily things are changing; young people have traveled and speaks English. They're often more open and "modern".
What differences are there between Swedish and Italian culture?
In almost all. Sicily already in general is different from Milan. Milan is more "German" while Sicily is still very "Arab". Scandinavia is seen as the best area in the world where to be born and grow up, and I agree. We're secular, but there's a lot of tolerance for other cultures and religions, in Sicily it's more difficult because for example the Vatican stops development. Here as a foreigner it's good to be in tourist areas because the locals are "accustomed".
Between Sicily and Scandinavia everything is different; as we talk, eat, think, how you do things, the environment, animals, family, respect, civility, men, women, traffic, the behavior ...
Drive through Catania and see how they park the car, and then go to Ikea and see cars in a perfect row. I always laugh about this. Everything depends of the "management".