This is literally the opening line in my short story that was chosen for publication in the anthology "Once Upon An Expat". Aren't you just itching to read the rest?! Well pop over to Amazon and buy the book. You won't regret it, it's filled with heart-wrenching and laugh-inducing stories of strong women, young and old, who've found themselves all over this world and consequently found themselves in interesting situations to say the least! *cough* naked manicure in France *cough*
The world is so small. It's something I'm finding to be more and more true as my expat experience continues and I meet people and hear stories that are either identical to mine or...like in this case, mine in reverse. I stumbled upon Laura's Facebook page when it came up as "Suggested Pages" on my Facebook and the title of "My Canadian Working Holiday Experience" obviously caught my eye as I did the exact same thing here in Italy last year. Laura and I ended up talking and essentially realizing we are living the same life- she is Italian and set on living in Canada, I am Canadian and set on living in Italy. We are both young, twenty-somethings trying to follow a dream to live in a place that is not our own but that we want very much to be. Is it a case of the grass being greener in each other's yard? Well we decided to interview each other and find out!
1. Favorite thing about Canada/Italy.
Jasmine: My favorite thing about Italy is the amount of beauty and history that you can find everywhere, even when you’re not looking for it. Somedays I just turn a corner and happen to see a medieval castle or an old villa covered in wisteria and suddenly my morning drive looks like something from a postcard.
Laura: I love how Canada offers you such beautiful landscapes, you can find, from the same point of view, the ocean and the mountains with even snow on them! It's just breathtaking to watch the sunset on the beach, and then the skyscrapers and the view from the space needle in Vancouver, it's just amazing, I also love how Canadians look always happy and relaxed, no matter what, they always get the time to worry about how your day is going and listen to you, or even just open the door at the mall for you. I just love them.
2. An ideal day in Canada/Italy (or like how you would most prefer to spend a free day).
Jasmine: My ideal day in Italy is probably waking up on the Amalfi Coast and having a creamy cappuccino with a warm brioche overlooking the sea, going to the beach and swimming and tanning all day, having a cold shower and heading out for spaghetti allo scoglio with a cold bottle of pinot grigio. And to top it all off, having a gelato while squishing my toes in the waves breaking on the shoreline.
Laura: I lived in Vancouver Island, Nanaimo for a year, every time I had a free day I loved to explore the nature, get in the car and just go, watching the eagles fly above me and go to the beach, listen to the ocean, with the mountains and the other little islands on the back and the wood behind me. I just love the woods here, you can find trees 600 years old.
3. Favorite food to eat in Canada vs. your favorite food to eat in Italy.
Jasmine: I love all Italian food. I haven’t met a dish that I haven’t liked here. I am particularly impartial to seafood though, so I love being along the Italian coasts and having fresh fish, mussels, clams, octopus etc. When I’m in Canada, I love eating ethnic foods and the salmon sashimi in Vancouver is the absolute best in the world!
Laura: Poutine, I LOVE Poutine, even though people say if you don't eat it in Quebec it is not real Poutine. I also love the salmon in Canada, the best salmon I've ever eaten. In Italy, I love pizza, there is no pizza in the world like the Italian one, and of course, homemade pasta, spaghetti alla chitarra with homemade tomato sauce, carbonare, any kind of pasta. Yes, I am italian.
4. Biggest pet peeve about Canada/Italy.
Jasmine: The bureaucracy. It is really, truly insane how much red tape and bureaucracy exists in this country. I just remember the first time I went to get a codice fiscale ended up becoming three days instead of one because each time I showed up, they would request a different document or photocopies (and of course photocopies have to be done elsewhere because it would be completely illogical for the Agenzia delle Entrata to have one when almost every application requires photocopies…!).
Laura: Canada it's better than Italy in many prespectives, but this thing that everything closes at 2 am max, that's heartbreaking!! We start to party at 2 am! I also don't understand how can Canadian restaurants close their kitchen at 9 pm, that would be the busiest hour in Italy, it has been hard to get used to canadian hours, but of course Canadians sleep much more hours than Italians at night and that's probably why they are so relaxed and we are always so nervous.
5. What you miss most from “home”.
Jasmine: I miss Canada’s insane friendliness and multiculturalism. It’s not that Italians are not friendly, but the service industry is not shaped the same way as in Canada and I’ve encountered very few cashiers who have smiled at me and asked me about my day. The multiculturalism is something that defines Canada, a country built on different cultures and immigration. Most Canadians I know are very knowledgeable and appreciative of a variety of cultures because that is how we grew up whereas Europe in general is only at the point of learning to tolerate differences.
Laura: of course, the food, it's pretty hard to find real Italian food or ingredients in Canada and it was hard at the beginning, I love that you can find restaurant of almost every Country in the world though.
6. What would you change of Italy/Canada if you could?
Jasmine: I wouldn’t change it but I’d love to fast-forward a generation and see what the country is like when the children and the grandchildren of immigrants to Italy have come of age, those that have grown up Italian. I’d love to see Italy embrace ethnic diversity like Canada does, but I know this will require time.
Laura: The geographic location, can you imagine if Vancouver had L.A. weather?
7. Describe Canadians/Italians in one word.
8. One piece of advice to Italians who want to move/travel to Canada and vice versa.
Jasmine: If you’re Canadian and want to move to Italy, my biggest piece of advice is learn the language before moving, or at the very least, the grammatical basics. To say it will make your life and experience exponentially easier is an understatement.
Laura: Just do it! Better lifestyle, more jobs, lots of nature. You need to learn how to deal with the huge distance from home and hour difference but besides that, it's a better world, even just as a human being, you're much more respected in Canada and if you work hard you will be pay back one day, in everything you do. They also don't care if you don't know English so well, they respect anyone anyways, but it's better for you to learn the basic stuff before, for your own goodness.
9. Slang that you learned from your adopted country.
Not even sure if these are considered slang though!
Hey buddy what's up?
Being the third wheel.
I'm out of here.
10. Something you had no idea existed until you lived in Canada/Italy.
Jasmine: There are a lot of things I never knew existed until I lived in Italy:
- an entire section in grocery stores dedicated to intimate soaps
- condom vending machines
- 5 liter jugs of wine
- extremely specialized shops
- poutine, never heard of it before!
- deers walking down the streets and crossing almost as normal people
11. How an angry Canadian would act vs how an angry Italian would act.
Jasmine: An angry Italian doesn’t hold back on emotions or gestures at all. They’d really put in a whole effort to get their point across and the anger would go beyond words, you would see the physical aspect of it as well in body language. There would be no ‘beating around the bush’, an angry Italian says exactly what he/she is thinking whereas Canadians try to be as polite as possible or as politically correct as possible and maybe even ends up apologizing in the end.
Canada: "I'm sorry but I don't agree with what your saying"
Italian: “What?! Are you f*****g kidding me?! You piece of s*** I will kill you! "
Here are more photographs from Laura's life in Canada:
And here is a little "biography" of Laura, written in her own words:
Laura is a 23 years old who grew up in the north of Italy, Turin (shown above). She always pictured herself living in America, no matter where, but on that side of the world. It has been just a dream for many years, but after doing lots of researches and talking with people and studying English with TV series and book as teachers, she decided to apply for the Canadian working-holiday Visa and to try to live and work in Vancouver for a year. This experience was the best of her life, at the point that, once in Italy again, she decided to move again to Canada as a student in the tourism field. She also learnt a good English thanks to the Canadian family who hosted her and became her second family. With her future husband Gianluca, who went visit her in Canada during the year and fell in love with it as well, they decided to risk it all and do what they love, discover Canada and work there for at least 2 years, travelling as much as they can in the days off and exploring the Canadian culture more than ever. They’re getting married on July 2nd and they will leave again to Canada on August 11th to follow their dream together.
Make sure to check out Laura's version of this blog post here. Her blog about her experience in Canada can be found here: https://mycanadianworkingholidayexperience.wordpress.com and her Facebook page is hyperlinked in the intro paragraph to this post!
You come to alot of realizations when you move to Italy. Like I've come to realize how beautiful an invention the dryer machine is, how the concept of a queue is underrated, or how fettucine alfredo is a terrible trick American restaurant chains play on you from the time you're born, the culmination of humiliation which comes when you first try to order it here. Georgette of Girl in Florence had this fantastic article on: Things [we] didn’t do before coming to Italy. One of those things was this gem:
Stop playing the ‘lets compare lives game’
Ok I can’t totally admit that I never do this still, of course that evil traits comes back to haunt me from time to time. But in the states it was much worse. You are taught to go to university, resign yourself to a ton of debt without even complete job security but that’s just how it is. And it’s always about what someone else is doing, how much they’re making etc. At least that’s how I personally felt. While some might claim that doesn’t matter, it kinda does – this being because in America ‘if you just work hard’ as hard as this person, or that person – you might just be a billionaire jetting off to Singapore for a weekend, right? I get that its changing due to the economic crises but I left in 2007. Lets be honest for a second, that is never going to happen in Italy. You either are lucky enough to have money and/or work remotely from this amazing country and you don’t compare as much because – what’s there to compare? We are all more or less in the same boat. Unless you areBerlusconi, then you can steal and cheat and for some crazy reason, enough people still love you.
This particular point is HUGE. I do not compare lives with anyone I know in Italy. You know how back in Canada/USA if you're at a cocktail party, the first question asked is inevitably: so what do you do? And it's not usually asked with honest intentions...let's be honest. We ask that question to size up our conversation partner and to see how we are doing in life relative to them. You may argue this if you've never lived abroad where people don't talk about work or jobs as incessantly as across the Atlantic. But I swear, it's the hard truth. There is a stark difference between here and there. Here, besides my work colleagues, I literally have zero idea as to what my friends do for work. I have literally no idea what their significant other does. AND NO ONE ASKS. I bet you know the jobs of every single person you're friends/acquaintances with right? I know these same fun facts about everyone back home. We display it on Facebook too- real estate conferences, white coat ceremonies, bar calls, whiskey night with the firm partners, post-call wine, #trustmeI'manengineer etc etc. I'm guilty of it too and I find myself still updating my friends on Facebook with job-related info (buy the book Once Upon An Expat!), it's a habit that's engrained in us but one that I think we could do without. I am now very cautious and aware about asking the work question to anyone as I think it's better to be like the Italians in this respect. It actually results in a feeling of community and camaraderie rather than competition, and those two former concepts tend to fit much better around a dinner table and a bottle of wine.
Lately I've been very naughty with the blog and not being consistent with new posts which they say commonly leads to the eventual un-following and demise of all blogs eventually. So I decided to let ya'll know that you can expect a new post on Fridays, I will aim for every Friday but it could also be every second Friday (cut me some slack here, we have a wedding in September to plan for!). But yes, this is just another reason to love Fridays. And remember you can keep more close tabs on things here in Italy over on the Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/questadolcevitablog.
Jasmine is a former pharmacist turned freelance writer, foodie, and fashionista from Alberta, Canada living "the sweet life" in Bergamo, Italy.