Thursday, November 02, 2006


A friend of a friend has apparently said - not at all maliciously - that, to do what I have done [left everything to come and live here] I must be a person who had not put down roots in Britain. [For those of you who are new to this blog, I suppose the way I have done it is a bit unusual: I haven't moved into a colony of Brits, or even to a place where foreign settlers are common; I don't have a property or "safety net" in the UK and I couldn't go back even if I wanted to; it would just be impossible both financially and logistically.] The remark got me thinking as it seems to me to point to other differences between the two cultures.

Many Sicilians never leave the island and it occurs to me that I probably wouldn't, either, had I been born here. After all, they have at least six months of continuous sunshine every year and the winters are mild; they have clean beaches, lovely countryside, fabulous food and beautiful, historic towns. And so, to go on holiday, many of them simply decamp to their second or third houses in the countryside or at the sea. Why should they want to go anywhere else?

British people, even if they live a rich and comfortable life in Britain, do travel more and partly they do this for the sun. And, of course, many Britons move abroad or have a home abroad these days. Could it be that we are just more adventurous?

The other factor that ties Sicilians to their birthplace is the extended family that most of them have. I mentioned last week that young people in Italy as a whole live with their parents for much longer than they do in Britain. When they go to university, many but not all go to the one nearest their home town. And when they do leave home for good, many choose to live near their parents. All festivals are celebrated with large family gatherings. It is true that I don't have a family in Britain, but I don't think that would have stopped me as, had I been lucky enough to have my parents still living, they would have been glad to come with me and would probably have raced me to the plane! [This assumes that they would have been in good health, of course.]

But what exactly are "roots"? I've written before that my cultural assumptions and many of my automatic cultural reactions will always be British but you can learn and adopt the best ways of your new culture, too. That doesn't mean that you forget who and what you are. Moving here does not mean that I do not feel a love and gratitude towards my own country , or that I am not concerned about what happens to it. But I do think that you can develop a deep love for more than one place. My "roots" have given me my values and beliefs and these are things that you carry with you. Possibly they have also given me the ability to change cultures. Perhaps the Italian concept of "roots" is closer to the British and American one of "home". "Home is where the heart is" and my heart is here.

I'd be interested to know what readers think.


Anonymous said...

My first career was in the Army. I travelled extensively. My first tour in Germany, I met and fell in love with my wife. We have been stationed in the states twice, but my last assignment was in Germany. I retired here and worked as a civil servant for the military until I retired a second time. We've been in Germany since 79 and usually visit the states every couple of years. I like Germany and the states, but really not sure where we will retire when my wife finally retires from her job. We both love to travel and have visited northern Italy. As you say, home is where the heart is.

LZ Blogger said...

I personally just LOVE to travel! And I admire those who are able to do it! I don't however enjoy business travel at all! I have left jobs just because I no longer wanted to travel (on business). But I would think that a travel agent job might be a FUN job! ~ jb///

Ballpoint Wren said...

I now will imagine you as one of those individuals with fully developed roots she can pull up when she needs to, and move elsewhere and plant them. You just aren't bound to one place like some other people are.

I do know that if I lived in a cold place (like Steve's!) that I would MOVE. I don't like snow.

Anonymous said...

I think you are very brave and courageous to make the move you did.

Regarding roots, my mother is from Greece and met my father when he was a soldier serving in WW2. She was only 16 when they married and she moved to England, hoping her parents could come too at a later date. They were refused residency, so she stayed alone and had a very happy marriage. I say "had" because my father died 4 years ago.

Her problem is that she does not feel or look Greek any more, she is very fair and the locals mistake her for being a German. She does not even speak her native tongue like a native any more.

Neither does she feel English, she is too warm hearted and bubbly and loves family life, just like in Italy. It is so precious.

Welshcakes Limoncello said...

Hi, Steve, how nice to read your love story. Lz blogger, I can imagine that business travel must get wearying after a while. Hi, Bonnie. I only like snow to look at! Ellee, thanks for sharing the story of your mother. As you say, family life is precious.


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