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Gia-Gina Across the Pond

So I've decided to follow my husband to his native Italy. Follow our adventures as we eat, drink, travel, adapt to and explore this remarkable country. Part food blog, part photo blog but mostly my rants and raves. After our two years in Italy, we relocated across the Atlantic "pond" and are back in the States.

Friday, September 30, 2005

Warm and Fuzzy

I got up incredibly late today. Deme went to visit my old cat at my sister’s house last night and sent me a text message that he had arrived. I woke up inexplicably and checked my text messages, then asked him to call me. It was 5 a.m. of course I could not get back to bed.

When I finally heaved myself out of bed, it was 11 a.m. I immediately set out to start some water for tea as well as switch on my laptop. I was elated to see all the comments on my blog as well as a few thoughtful e-mails in my box. A warm and fuzzy feeling took me over. Thank you everyone for the comments and e-mails. Alan in Hawaii received my package and blogged it. Meladie, a long time friend and co-worker of my husband, sent me a sweet comment. Now I just have to get her e-mail address from Deme so I can send her a note.

I am a warm person, the first one to help you move, to come and clean your house if you are sick, pick up groceries, cook for you if you need it, help with laundry, come over for a Fall rake the leaves party, lend an ear if you need to unload, all of this just because I want to hang out with you. I have lots of time, if not today then tomorrow but my life does not center on things or activities, it centers on people. Part of the reason I’ve been feeling lonely is that it’s been hard to make friends.

When I talk to people on the street, they often don’t talk back. I had to be coaxed not to talk to too many people in Seattle because I would not get my errands done.

When I give my number out, no one calls. “When I say here’s my number, call me.” I really mean it, don’t worry about bothering me, I want to hear from you.

When I say “let’s have coffee” I mean soon, not in 3 months. Don’t say it just to be nice, say it if you really mean it.

Many people value their personal time, as do I, but if I stay stop on over, then go ahead, call ahead but feel free. I can tidy up and freshen up in 5 min flat.

Come over for a movie, coffee, a quick visit, tea, a short walk, a bite to eat, to borrow a book, anything…..I don’t want anything from you, don’t need to borrow money, don’t need transportation, just some good quality companionship. Don’t be suspicious. We can meet in a public place, no worries.

Yesterday I called no less than 15 English schools in Torino. I was offering myself as a tutor, free of charge to anyone who wanted to practice English, learn about American idioms, work on their pronunciation etc… Only three took my number. All the others said, “Sorry we do not offer that service to our students.” What!! Free practice with a native speaker, no cost. What a strange reaction! I am willing to travel to the school too. See why I am having a hard time?
All the warm, fuzzy vibes coming from the Internet is making up for the chill here. Thank you everyone.

P.S. I know that I am getting a few Spammers but as long at it’s only 2-3 a week, I will keep the word verification off, since I think it slows things down.


At 4:52 AM, Blogger dario said...

So hard to understand you.
Torino is a big town where people is very reserved. But i had friends in Torino when i used to live there. Maybe i was particularily lucky? I don't know.
As i think it is in America, people in Italy and so it is in Turin, is more interested in work, family and other activities they like than spending their time in a good way as hang over with friend. Unfortunately.
I had a good friend over there. He was busy all the time, because he was a teacher of Philosophy, he trained a volleyball team, he took English lessons, he took care of a group of teenager immigrants from eastern Europe trying to build a life in Italy, he worked as a volunteer in Amnesty International, he was involved in the local section of Rifondazione Comunista political party.
He was doing all those things because he was interested in them, and he had a lot of human relationship with a lot of people with who had a some subjects in common.
Oh... and he was a friend of mine because his girlfriend was my neighbor.

It seems to me that this is how things happen over this side of the world.
I am not enough familiar with life in US to know how it is in the other side.


At 5:19 AM, Blogger dario said...

Aehm... "hang on" i meant, not "hang over"... sorry for my miserable english.

At 5:49 AM, Anonymous Laurie said...

Gina, just remember that Piemonte is not the rest of Italy. It may be different for Dario, but in my experience (and Sav's....40 some odd years of living here) one has but to cross the border into Liguria or Emila Romagna, or or or or.....and see friendlier faces and hear friendler voices. Of course there will always (thankfully!) be exceptions to this. And yes, I agree with Dario that italians cling to closer family relations and tend to hunker down with their families possibly more than many americans (although I think your very close knit family does
not apply here) - and thus have less time for non family members. Hang tough, you are doing and saying all the right things. And Torino IS changing - I have seen it over the 25 odd years I have been visiting before I moved here. Slowly it is opening up. ciao ciao !!

At 9:43 AM, Blogger Cynthia Rae said...

I wish we lived a little closer. Although I live in a small town, I too have had problems making friends. I was always very friendly in America (and always talking to strangers). It is a bit different here and then there is the language barrier. UGH!

Maybe one afternoon (when the men are busy with work) we could meet along the way for lunch.

Good luck and give it time. You seem like a very nice person. I am sure you will make a ton of new friends.


At 10:35 AM, Blogger melusina said...

I have had the same problem here in Greece. I have been here 3 years and haven't made a friend of my own yet. Sure, I can talk to my husband's friends, and my sister-in-law is great, but I need my own friends.

My big problem is not understanding Greek well, and shyness. Add those two together and it is impossible. Not to mention that regardless, it is usually pretty uncommon to make new friends when you are older. If I had stayed in America I would have probably stuck with the same group of friends for the rest of my life.

Hopefully you'll make some friends soon, you sound like a friendly and loving person. Shouldn't be too hard for you. =)

At 11:48 AM, Blogger Mona said...

Gia-gina. You are a warm person, and I didn't have to read your blog to know it. I went to ma'ona's blog this morning and found a picture of the package you sent him on his website! So amazing! What a treat! I was lucky enough to receive my first package from Barbara of winosandfoodies, all the way from NZ, and was so amazed when I asked her what I could do for her, and she said NOTHING! There are some nice people left in this world, thank goodness. Maybe next time say you'd like to charge $200/hr for tutoring and maybe they'll bite!

At 3:30 PM, Blogger Christine said...


I know how you feel. I am the first person to help people out, but in the rare occassion that I need someone, I can hardly get a rise! I give my number out to people I've met, if I find them interesting, and because I am a friendly person who likes making new friends and going out. But do they call? Do they ****!!!
Hang in there, girl!


At 4:38 PM, Anonymous trench said...

I've always thought of you having a very big heart. Im a people person myself. I hate being isolated too long. Thats why I've never left Guam. So family oriented. You know what I mean! take care!

At 6:17 PM, Anonymous Ping said...

Hey Gina!

I have been in India for the last three years and it's so hard to make "real friends". The locals here want to be your friends because they can get "something" from you, especially money. Also being married to an American makes people more "friendly".

From reading your blog you are a very warm, kind and caring person. It will take some time, let's hope not any longer, that people in your neighborhood, people you meet at the groceries or anywhere will eventually see your friendlyness. The hardess part is keeping it up on reaching out to the people. Am I making any sense?

Here's my email: laostickyricebowl@yahoo.com

If you have any thing I can send you please feel free to ask me.

At 11:34 PM, Blogger dario said...

You say that people in Italy (or atleast in Turin) are not as much friendly as you would like... Laurie agrees with you about people in Piemonte in general...
Cinthya Rae offers to meet you someday, although she does not live next to you...
Melusina says that people in Greece ar not very friendly too...
Christine, which look like a warm person as you are, has the same problem in London...
Trench also hates being alone, and he never left Guam for that reason...
Ping, who lives in India, finds very hard to make friends over there...

This is the Geography of the attitude to make friends... not a very happy picture, eh?

I also noticed the two previous comments (Smallman and Anonymous). They are spam, ok, but it is interesting to read the content of the messages: It seems that some automatic generated text tries to attract the attention of any unknown person offering a placebo of human relationship... That is a mirror of the fact that looking for human relationships is a common attitude of a lot of people, i think.

This problem all over the world... except US, look like, since you miss living over there so much...

At 11:45 PM, Blogger Gia-Gina said...

I think I may have offended you in my complaints about Italy. Still they are my experience and I am being as sincere as possible.
Last night I went out to dinner with a Brazilian lady, her husband and 2 small children. They are from near Seattle and he is in Turin for work. Roberta stated she has a problem making friends too and she has been in the states for 8 years.
I never said the US was perfect, where I lived the people were very friendly and curious. They loved to learn about new people and new foods. Differeces were seen as an asset nor a defect, like here, I hate to say it but it is true. I reach our to everyone, not just ex-pats, it just so happens than ex-pat answer me and Italians don't.

At 5:06 AM, Blogger dario said...

I am not offended, don't worry.
Home-sickness? Maybe, i can understand that feeling, even if i did never live for long time outside the italian borders.
In italy, for sure, there are some areas where people are more friendly and some other where they are less. For example i remember some holidays i spent in the little town of Nemoli, in Basilicata, where one of my friend has some relatives. In those holidays it was difficult just to do whatever i wanted because everybody was inviting me for dinner, lunch, a chat or simply a coffee. I used to go away trying not to pass in the center just not to be noticed that i was going some place.
In Turin it was hard to make new relationships, except work colleagues and neighborhood. I think that is typical of all big towns of the north. But i had few friends, which introduced me to other friends.

What i instead noticed is that it is really difficult for me to find in your blog just a little word about something you like in Italy. You do not like shops, food, burochracy, weather... You do not like people. I wonder if it is for that reason that you don't have Italian friends...
Reading your blog i have the opinion that you don't like italians, not that italians do not like you.
Expats answer because they feel the same homesickness? Maybe...
You blog on an American website, in English... Maybe it is for that reason that hardly italians answer?

It's just a suggestion... Why not to try to find the positive side of the place you live and the people you meet? I think that could be a first step to begin to integrate. If you ever would like to.

Other than that i cannot say... you know that if we used to live next each other my wife and me could be good friends eh?

At 5:29 AM, Blogger Gia-Gina said...

What you say it true, I speak English so my blog will always be in English, I have a few Italians who reply to me but they are either away from Italy for work and so they can read English and comment.
I like everyone, I talk to everyone, in shops, on the street, but often they don't talk back to me. Can you blame me for being a bit negative after 6 months of this? I like many things about Italy, I have shops that I like, the ones that treat me well and are cordial. There are ways people can make your life/day more pleasent and when they chose to then I chose to spend my money at their establishment. I have no trouble going out of my way to do something just b/c I prefer a cetain bank branch to another. All because one is more helpful than another.
Your comments also let me know that when you were in Torino, you had a hard time too. My husband has a hard time here too since he is from Rome. Oh well, we try the best we can and see what happens I guess. Thanks for all your comments, they have me thinking quite a bit. Also you can email me:

At 6:50 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ciao Gina,
I am also in Piemonte, 50 mins. outside of Torino. I go there now and again to get out of my small town and absorb some city life.
I understand more than you know, I have been here for 2 months with my Italian boyfriend and it is getting tense between us since he is working in a restaurant and I am basically hanging out. I looked into some volunteering in Ivrea so get out and meet people, speak italian more. But it is hard to meet people and then most people I meet are my boyfriends friends.... I think for him it is very difficult bec. he knows I am alone here and so he feels the burden when he is off to spend all his time with me and thus he has no time alone or just him and his friends. I understand his need to have alone time and so I am taking a trip down south next week.

just wanted to add my 10 cents.

At 1:21 AM, Anonymous rowena said...

Oh Christ, so this is what my husband has been up to lately? (Told ya' that I'm getting tired of being in front of the pc). At the risk of possibly irking my dear hubby, I just have to climb into this mass of spaghetti noodles to say that uhm, my experiences in Torino were half good/half bad. Being snubbed at the little grocer was NOT nice. Being welcomed at another one was. I think it just depends on if the people view as "an immigrant" or not. Immigrant meaning the ones coming from Africa, Eastern Europe, and wherever else besides America. A gal from Busto Arsizio corresponded with me a bit and she had negative experiences in the shops there even if the owners knew she was american.

To this day (and I've been here just over two years) there will still be people that give me the 'stink eye' if I greet them with a buongiorno. Or like my fuck-ass neighbor who doesn't even want to acknowledge us at all! I dunno, maybe they don't approve of interracial relationships? Whatever the reason, I think the main thing is just to keep your chin up and always have the good vibes flowing. Look at all that you've accomplished Gia? I'm just stoked!

P.S. Sorry for hogging your comment box...maybe I should be online more often? heh heh ;-)

At 9:59 AM, Anonymous Laurie said...

Rowena and Natalie, when I get home to Torino from NY, we must all get together, together with Gia-Gina. I am so grateful to her for helping create community for all of us!!!

At 2:11 AM, Anonymous Hannah said...

Hi Gina,

You sound like a very nice person so I'm sure you'll have no problems finding friends. I'll be traveling to Rome with my family in about a month from US and I'd be happy to send you anything you might need from the states. I could probably mail it to you. Just let me know.


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