Sugar coated truth

I’ve recently taken part in an emotionally charged and heated debate about ranting and bashing Italy on an expatriate website. But let me take a step back here for a moment and set the stage. Ever since the film “Under the Tuscan Sun” many people who don’t live in Italy think that this is in fact the perfect place to live. Before I moved here myself, I had very large rose coloured glasses on too (but I fell in love with an Italian man so obviously was quite biased)

I’m not saying that Italy doesn’t have some wonderful things to offer. What I’m saying is that for some reason some people are reluctant to accept the truth and reality of what this country is really like. I’m not talking about a summer home or visits while vacationing. I’m talking about living here day in and day out and completely immersing yourself into the culture.

From what I gathered, some members of this expat group became offended enough to leave the group altogether because they got tired of the ranting and outright digs towards Italians and the culture. I suppose some generalizations were made and therefore it got some upset.

And so, I felt it was my duty to post here what I refer to as the ‘sugar coated truth’. Italy is a beautiful country with great wine and food. The people mostly walk everywhere and I rarely see anyone I would consider to be obese. They grow fresh crops and take pride in providing wholesome meals. The life here has a simplicity that I admire.

Now for the downside. Italians are facing globalization which directly threatens this simplicity. But if they want to stay afloat and have a strong economy then they have little choice but to change their ways. They are overrun with crowded cities, an abandoned countryside, overpriced goods, high taxes and a corrupt government.

Italian customer service is appalling. Get in a car and you are sure to be cut off at least twice during a two kilometer trip. Cars are double-parked everywhere and public transit goes on strike monthly. In fact, today the gas stations are striking. So when does an Italian get ahead or even a break from all this madness?

Some on this website commented that it was okay to bash the lousy customer service but not okay to bash the people…to which my response was, “what???” Customer service is not some invisible entity…it is operated by PEOPLE! I also commented that even Italians complain about other Italians so why is it offensive when an expat does it?

I have met some wonderful Italians. But generally speaking if it weren’t for the love of my husband I’m not sure if I would continue to make this country my home. It simply wears you down. Which is why in some ways I understand the aggressive behaviour and crappy customer service.

But here is my sugar coated truth to the Italian people. Start taking responsibility for the mess your country is in. Stop thinking only about yourself and start thinking about your neighbour. If you are having a crappy day then take a moment to reflect on what you can do to change what’s making you unhappy instead of spewing rudeness and misery to the rest of us. The next time you honk at the car ahead because it is going too slow for you think about the last time you needed to slow down to find an address. Will waiting an extra 3 minutes truly ruin your day?

And here is a dose of reality to those expats and wannabe expats. Yes, life is not all roses here and if you haven’t figured that out yet then good for you, enjoy your ignorance while you can…it took me three years. If you are miserable here then go ahead and rant, we’ve all had bad days. Just be respectful to what generalizations you make in the heat of your anger and frustration.

To those wannabe expats, please consider this post a dose of friendly reality and the sugar coated truth.

Respectfully, Leah


About lmarmstrong66

I'm a blogger, painter, writer, singer. For the love of all things in nature and creativity.
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13 Responses to Sugar coated truth

  1. ggnitaly84 says:

    I also thought that thread on Italian reflections got a little out of control on both ends. Its really hard for everyone to agree because I think many people have had completely different experiences in Italy. For example, I might have been on the more negative *rant side of things a few years ago when I hated my job and just took a lot of things personally but now that my Italian is fluent and I have work that I really love and great friends, it’s totally different {I agree 100% about the driving btw}. I will say that on that particular board I did see a lot of what I thought were kind of mean generalizations “why don’t Italians ever smile” that maybe if it was on someone’s personal FB wall would have been well whatever, but in that particular setting may paint the wrong picture for a first time member. It’s a hard one that’s for sure, I think there is probably a lot of information nowadays, just by opening the paper, that Italy is by no means a “dream” world to live but rather a place full of struggle and a difficult road ahead…

    • Yes, I totally agree about the location too. Here in Genoa it is very closed and has the highest population of geriatrics. It is certainly not the friendliest place in Italy. When I am in Tuscany I can feel a shift in the air and in the people immediately.

      I have not frequented the IRG site that much but that thread hit a bit of a nerve with me. I certainly don’t support a lack of respect to a nation or its people but I’m not going to gloss over the facts either just to make someone else feel better. I was a bit put off when there were comments made about my right to comment simply because I was not a frequent commenter on other posts.

      Anyway, that is why I decided to write my own post here and clear my own head on those issues that I felt strongly about.

      Take care and thanks for stopping by 🙂
      Ciao, Leah

      • ggnitaly84 says:

        I have actually never been to Genoa but I would actually like to visit :-). All I know about the city are the scary tunnels from Tuscany to South of France passing through. I actually didn’t like that someone said something about the non-frequent commenters, that’s annoying, it’s a closed group so if they add you, everyone has a right to comment in my opinion. comment away 🙂

      • Genoa is an odd, quirky city with lots of hidden charm. Then of course we also have the sea! It’s an open invitation if you ever want to come this way 🙂
        I have a cozy couch in my one bedroom apt. And of course my husband is hardly ever here…or in the summer we can hang out at our country house (you would get your own room there).
        Later dudette 🙂

      • ggnitaly84 says:

        wow thank you for the invite! I may take you up on that sometime, I have been a fan of your blog {love the name} for some time. I myself have strong-willed future MIL so I can relate!!!

  2. Leah, new to your blog and I look forward to reading and exploring 🙂 Regarding this post of yours: brava! Well-said. I myself was privvy to that IRG craziness and all I can say is that it seemed a war between the Italy-is-fabulous-at-all-costs zealots and the right-to-rant set. As is often the case, Reality lies somewhere in between, and I thing “real”, true expats get this and tend to take things with a grain of salt–whether they’re rants against Italy/Italians or raves of the under the Tuscan Sun variety. Meh. Personally, I’ve always wondered how much expat “cred” it takes to earn the right to criticize the system (according to some): I’ve been here 12 years, have kids born and raised here and in the public schools, have worked and paid taxes and earned Itaiian citizenship–far as I’m concerned, this gives me the right to bitch, just like I think a legal Mexican immigrant to the States has the right to bitch. It also affords me the light by which to see life in Italy realistically–in all its incomparable beauty and squalor.

    • I totally agree Elizabeth. For the first three years I lived with my Mother in law. I never paid a bill or had a bank account. I drove only occasionally and my job was not so serious with little pay. Only when I finally got a place of my own and started to experience life truly as an expat here to stay did I begin to realize what life was really like here. Call it a quick dose of reality that I resisted as long as I could!
      Thanks for stopping by 🙂
      Cheers, Leah.

      • I didn’t mean to imply that only a certain kind of expat experience is valid–though I understand what you’re saying about seeing all sides of Italy more fully once one is more immersed in the culture. It’s just that on that thread there was a lot of “you’re a guest in this country so act accordingly” (i.e. stai zitto) and quite frankly I’ve never viewed being an immersed expat as being a “guest”. (Obviously I believe that one should be respectful towards others anywhere in the world–that goes without saying). Tourists are guests. Residents–expat or otherwise–are just that: residents. And all of them, born and bred Italians or us relative newbies–have the right to form and express opinions, some of which others may or may not want to hear 😉 It’s life!

        Love your blog’s title, by the way!

  3. Thank you for telling the truth. I don’t even bother telling people back home what it’s like here because they refuse to believe me. I live down south, which I may say with experience that it’s even worse here. Three things great about Italy – the sea, the beauty and the culture. Don’t get me started on the food – it’s great, but all cuisines are great, if they are made with fresh ingredients and with passion. You can’t live day to day live with those things – you need more, hope, prosperity, civic service, consideration for neighbours and the environment, less egocentrism, etc.., most of all a government that works for the people and not against the people. I could go on but the only reason I stay here is for my husband but in the end one needs to live and thrive, not just live and survive. And I often find that I and many others here (mostly Italians) are just surviving. In conclusion, everyone has their own priorities in life on what makes them happy, and I believe life is about thriving.

    • I totally agree with you. I think Italians have struggled for centuries and they have learned to trust no one so the nation is broken is many ways. Where does one even start on rebuilding a trusting society when people like Berlosconi keep getting re-elected? Sad.

      My siblings want me to move back to Canada. I’m pretty sure I would have by now if it wasn’t for my husband. Although, it is sunny and dry today and in Canada it is probably snowing, haha.

    • Wow, Kim–you really nailed it! Thriving as opposed to surviving. Words of wisdom indeed. I may quote you in a future blog post! 🙂

  4. Sara Amrhein says:

    Wow! What can I say? Where do I start? First I guess it would be to say that I love you! And second would that I swear you just reached inside my head and said everything that I have been clumsily trying to express on my own blog. In fact I have written several post over the years addressing many of these same issues. There are so many reasons why the country is in its current state of misery, from the corruption as you mentioned, to the perpetual Peter Pan syndrome, to the mammone. They are all collective reasons. I’ve been here for 12 years now and what I can say about those who don’t want to accept the truth or an opinion that is less then a fluffed up ‘La Vita e Bella’ outlook is that they really don’t have much to contribute to the conversation intellectually and the only response is to get offended, very much the same way some Americans do when I criticize my country, its the ‘well if you don’t like it then leave’ mentality which really leaves us no where and will never solve a single problem. What many people fail to realize is that when criticisms are made, its not through hatred but rather love. I love Italy, I love Florence and I don’t want to leave but per l’amor di dio its really hard around here sometimes and the Florentines and their attitudes is enough to upset even the Dalai Lama himself! I could really go on and on but I’ll stop there. Thank you for a great post Leah and remember what Dr. Suess says, Be who you are and say what you feel because those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind! Good luck and maybe we will meet one day!

    • Hi Sara,

      Thanks for your comments I really appreciate them 🙂
      Indeed, nowhere is perfect but Italy needs a lot of work, haha
      Luckily, my family in Canada realize that life here is not as glamorous as it sounds and they sometimes even shake their heads and ask me to move back!

      Ciao, Leah

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