Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about the differences between the Italian idea of home and the American one. Here, it is more common than not to find someone who was born, raised, and is living and probably will die in the same town. People may move around sometimes for work, but even then, often will return to their hometowns to live. There is a pride in being a Something—Orvietano, Fiorentino, Romano, etc. Dialects vary from town to town, and being able to speak that dialect is even greater indication that one is accepted as part of that local culture. It is not unusual to hear of someone moving to another town not their own, even an Italian, and be considered “foreign.” (One of our guides, who was from a town near Siena, moved to Siena and they called her that, in fact.)
It seems that to be born, raised and die in one place is stigmatized on some level. Is it because, as a culture, ambition is praised and staying in one place forever indicates some lack of ambition or skill? Is it an issue of individuality? Our neighbor here works at an Agip station. His son does the same. Would American culture perceive doing the same thing as one’s father a matter of individuality? Is that young man not achieving his greatest potential because he chooses the same way his father did?
I was born and raised in Tucson. I am proud to say it, and I have felt in the past that there are many people who just can’t wait to get out of whatever town they’re from. Is the American spirit of adventure more deeply ingrained than that of Italians? Here, it is common for Italian youth to continue living at home until their late twenties, or marriage. If you met a guy at a bar, and he was almost 30 and lived with his parents, what would you think about him? What are the assumptions we make as Americans? Why?
To me, home can mean a lot of things. Tucson as my home is indeed where my heart is: my family mostly is there, friends are starting to disperse but not all, the streaking light of sunsets, warm Thanksgivings and familiarity are all still in Tucson. Here in Orvieto, our apartment is also my home, but I consider it more transient. Orvieto as a town is my European home—I can give directions, I know what bars to avoid because of the hiked tourist prices, I don’t feel like a tourist at all anymore. That doesn’t mean that I understand all the cultural nuances, but I am comfortable here. I imagine that I will have many more homes in my future. I wonder sometimes if Tucson will always be my true home, though. Will it depend on if my parents stay there? Will it depend on length of time alone in which one stays in a place?
Italy and the US are essentially incomparable in terms of cultural development and social patterns. Italy itself is a younger unified nation than we are, but a much older people, and I know that is a large factor in the divergent viewpoints. Our country was founded on the principles of unity. It’s in our name—the UNITED States. Not to say that the US doesn’t have its own regional cultures. It does. But not to the extent that Italy does.
At this point, I’d like to invite you, my readers (whoever you may be), to comment on your ideas of home. Do Americans hold prejudices (or not) against the “born and raised” thing? Does it matter? What does home mean to you?
This also can serve as a way for me to see who else is reading this, other than my parents and Jeremy’s. 🙂