Sadly, this is not the case but I do have an instance to share for today’s blog post that is a searing example of what someone who looks like me (by this I mean not-white) encounters on a daily basis. Now don’t think this is a whining post. It is not. I am completely cognizant of the fact that I live in Italy and that this comes with the territory but I am writing this post to show you what the territory looks like because I don’t think many people actually do get beyond the confines of Chiantishire or past the literal yet metaphorical square box that is Piazza San Marco.
Today I went to the post office. There was a kind older man there and I smiled like a polite person does. He smiled back and I was thinking that this post office experience was off to a rather exceptional start. Well he continued to smile and stare and smile and stare and smile and STARE and I just knew what was coming. The dreaded phrase “di dove sei?” (where are you from?). One of these days I swear I’m going to say from Mars. I responded back with the truth, that I’m Canadian. The conversation trickled on with small talk about how cold it is (for God’s sake people, learn a new fun fact about Canada) and then moved to the part where I have to hand over a document which almost 90% of the time ends up being your carta d’identità, an identity card, that conveniently has your “job” listed right on it. Mine says “insegnante” (teacher). So the man, understandably so, asks me what I teach. I tell him in English.
And here’s the punch line, here is WHAT IT IS LIKE TO LIVE IN ITALY. He says “ah certo, perché sei quasi madrelingua” (ah of course, because you’re ALMOST a mothertongue). Yes folks, because I am Asian, that means I cannot possibly be an English native-speaker, it is completely unfathomable. And you might be thinking, come now, you’re over exaggerating but let me ask: how would you like to be automatically put into a category, compared to a very fixed set of rules and assumptions on what it means and what it looks like to be from a certain country or of a certain background and then made to fit into a different one that you don’t identify with at all? I’ll tell you the answer, you wouldn’t like it. And it might be alright the first, second, and even the twentieth time but it sure as hell is not cute or laughable or entertaining the hundredth time. And then you might be faced with the need to “explain yourself”. As in, I often have to explain how I was born in Canada and why my family moved there and when and what generation grew up there. As an Asian-Canadian, this is what it’s like to live in Italy, you are berated with questions that are unanswerable because people are not accepting of your answer. Why is your English so good? You can’t answer because it’s your native language. You have to say it’s because you studied hard in school. Why do you call yourself Canadian if your family is Chinese? You can’t say it’s because you were born and raised in Canada, nope, you have to say because your great-great grandparents moved from China to Canada in a year you can’t even remember.
This is my Italy, a place that looks at me with furrowed brow and inquisitive glances and most (worst) of all, suspicion, and asks where I’m from and why I’m here and the underlying question under all of that is this: where do you belong? To be successful at this expat thing and really this life thing, I’ve learnt that there’s only one answer to that question- WHEREVER THE FUCK I WANT.
This is part of the #DolceVitaBloggers Linkup - #14 March 2019. Add any Italy-related post to the linkup party below and join the fun. We are looking forward to another year of this wonderful community. Our goal is to connect over our shared love of Italy. Thank you all who have participated before, and those who join in the future!
If you have any questions, please feel free to leave a comment below!
Past #DolceVitaBlogger Link-Ups:
#DolceVitaBloggers Linkup – #13 February 2019
#DolceVitaBloggers Linkup – #12 January 2019
#DolceVitaBloggers Linkup – #11 October 2018 – Hilarious Travel Mishaps
#DolceVitaBloggers Linkup – #10 September 2018 – Favourite Italian Recipe
#DolceVitaBloggers Linkup - #9 August 2018 - Culture Shock
#DolceVitaBloggers Linkup - #8 July 2018 - La Dolce Vita
#DolceVitaBloggers Linkup - #7 June 2018 - Hidden Gems in Italy
#DolceVitaBloggers Linkup - #6 May 2018 - Five Italian Words
#DolceVitaBloggers Linkup - #5 April 2018 - The Perfect Day in Italy
#DolceVitaBloggers Linkup - #4 March 2018 - International Women's Day
#DolceVitaBloggers Linkup - #3 February 2018 - A Love Letter to Italy
#DolceVitaBloggers Linkup - #2 January 2018 - Favourite Italian City
#DolceVitaBloggers Linkup - #1 December 2017 - 'The Italian Connection