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From Seattle to Montreal to Rome: Pines of Rome
20 September, 2012 10:55
My name is Tiffany Parks. I was born and raised in Seattle and completed my studies in Boston and Montréal. I have been living in Rome for the past 8 years.
1. Why did you move abroad?
From the time I was a little girl and I first learned that I had Italian blood (albeit just a quarter) I knew I was destined to live in Italy. I can’t explain how I knew, let’s just say that my entire life I felt led to move here, until I could no longer ignore the urgings anymore, and I just came.
2. How do you make a living?
I am a contributing editor and writer of an English-language magazine here in Rome, and in addition I do freelance writing for various newspapers, magazines and guidebooks, and I give guided tours of tourist attractions. I am also working on my first book.
3. How often do you communicate with home and how?
I communicate mostly by telephone with my parents, and email and social media with my friends and other family members. I probably talk to my mother once a week, my father a bit less. I love the idea of Skype in theory, but I actually hate using it.
4. What's your favorite thing about being an expat in Rome?
My favorite thing about being an expat in Rome is that beauty, history and art are all around me, almost everywhere I look. I am a very visual person and seeing such glorious beauty in the art, architecture and nature around me is very stimulating and inspiring for my own endeavors. There is also sense of continuity in living in such an ancient city. This helps me put things in perspective. If the building I’m standing next to has been around for 2000 years, it makes my problems seem a lot less important.
5. What’s the worst thing about being an expat in Rome?
The worst thing about being an expat in Rome is the endless amount of bureaucracy we face on a daily basis. Italian bureaucracy is bad enough for natives, but for foreigners it is even worse. To do nearly anything involves waiting in a very long line, filling out endless forms, paying lots of fees and talking to about 20 people, all of whom tell you to do something different, and none of whom are very willing to help you.
6. What do you miss most?
Besides my family and friends, I miss quality foreign cuisine (particularly Mexican), discounts and sales, and friendly, helpful customer service.
7. What did you do to meet people and integrate in your new home?
When I moved here 8 years ago, there was no Facebook and no expat clubs, at least that I knew of, so I had a very hard time meeting people in the first few months. The majority of my friends today I met at work, and are mostly expats as well. Integrating here socially has not been easy as many Italians have the same friends for life and are often not that open to making new friends, particularly with foreigners. Recently I have found that taking classes is a great way to make friends with locals; sharing common interests makes it more likely for friendships to develop.
8. What custom/ habits do you find most strange about your adopted culture?
It’s a cliché (but a true one), but I find most unusual the way Italian mothers slave over their grown children. I don’t think it’s odd that so many adult children live at home, based on many economic factors here, but many live as if they are at a hotel. Most don’t seem to lift a finger to help around the house, nor do they contribute financially. I hate to say it, but it seems to be the mothers themselves who perpetuate this problem as they seem only too willing to slave away into old age for their 40-year-old kids.
9. What is a myth about your adopted country?
This question has stumped me. The reason is because, both in good ways in bad ways, most “myths” about Italian culture have more than just a grain of truth to them. There are always exceptions, the Italian husband who helps around the house (mine actually does, I’m lucky to admit), the Italian wife who doesn’t cook, the workaholic Italian bureaucrat, the Italian girl who decides to move far from her family, but they are just that: exceptions. Most things, both positive and negative, that you would imagine characterize Italians are only too true, at least on the surface. Dig deep enough and stereotypes in any culture become trite, but there is a reason they are there in the first place.
10. Is the cost of living higher or lower than the last country you lived in and how has that made a difference in your life?
Cost of living is higher here than in my home country when average salaries are factored in. Having said that, some things are cheaper, like eating a good, simple meal at a restaurant, buying quality produce or hopping on a train to a nearby city. In my home country I feel that basic financial goals like purchasing a home are much more attainable.
11. What advice would you give other expats?
I would advise other expats, wherever they live, to enjoy every moment of their lives abroad and take in all the beauty and character around them. It is so easy to take it for granted once the novelty wears off, but being grateful for the little things that make our lives as expats so interesting and rich goes a long way towards overall contentment.
12. When and why did you start your blog?
I started my blog two years ago to share with my friends and the world Rome’s history, art, culture and curiosities, which delight me to no end. Rome is the most fascinating city in the world, a constant source of inspiration for me, and many writers throughout history.
Tiffany's blog, Pines of Rome
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