October 3, 2007

Seduced and abandoned

Two down.

Worn down. Pragmatic. Realistic. Sorry. Confused. Worried. Sad.

I met them again, after nearly a year, at a recent event through the American Women's Association. They are both in their mid-twenties. American. In Rome for a few years trying to make their way -- one in fashion design, the other in business or an international organization. Both want a "future" for which they are willing to work hard, start at the bottom, learn, stretch, grow. Instead they struggle by with English lessons, secretarial tasks and translations while Rome captures and lulls their spirit. Both have Italian men to leave behind.

One talked to an Executive search agency, an international company with an office in Rome. The woman didn't smile. She leaned over her desk and told the smart, educated, energetic younger one to get out while she could. The expert was not encouraging at all -- "a prestigious BA is incomprehensible to the locals and even an MBA would not open doors on its own." Her only suggestion was to get some work experience back in the US and then try again, with a specific skill to sell. "This is not a place to start out" was the final sentence, which my young friend has sadly taken to heart.

The other is not so definite, but has already shipped back most of her things, at least for now. SHe has found opportunities elsewhere.

Arrivederci K and C.

a domani,


Roam2Rome said...

Powerful post. Sad, but so true.

Captured many sides of familiar tales.. Two down? Maybe many more. Still, we dream and dive in...

Piccola said...

If this kind of thing happens to even the citizens of Italy, I imagine it's not out-of-ordinary to happen to a foreigner. My boyfriend has a Masters in his field and is pretty much going nowhere fast. So, he's making plans to come here to be with me and further his career. But, he's torn because he is very close with his family. His parents are from the South, Bari. It's sad, really.

Anonymous said...

Wow, I know how that feels. After many years here in Italy, I've seen many defeated expats go home after trying SO very hard to get somewhere in this country. It makes me wonder... are merit, ability & willingness worth anything here? I have an American friend who is an AMAZING leather artisan, sadly it seems Italians do not appreciate the value of her handmade leather bags so she had to take her goods stateside where many high-end boutiques gushed over her products. Why is that? In the land where quality used to count for everything, it seems like modern day Italy is selling itself out...

Elizabeth said...

Sorry to get everyone so down, I guess I hit a raw nerve. What all of you say is true, and sad, and just plain reality.

Our conversation the other day also included how foreigns are accepted for their usefulness -- Philipinos clean homes, Poles renovate them and Anglo-Saxons spoonfeed Italians their weekly dose of English. When any of these categories gets out of line -- like a Chinese immigrant becoming a doctor, or an American selling leather bags, a subtle barrier appears. You are stepping out of line.

It is a normal immigrant thing, but we (Americans) have a hard time accepting that we are ultimately "extra comunitari" along with the rest of the world outside the UE. It is a bit arrogant of us, we consider ourselves "expats" not immigrants and set ourselves apart.

Anonymous said...

Elizabeth - I think you might have a point about us foreigners being "useful" in certain roles. I never thought of it that way before but I always felt a warm feeling of approval from Italians when I said I was an "English teacher" which I didn't get when I said I was a "lawyer."

I've noticed that a lot of Italians seem quite racist towards Chinese people and I wonder if that's because (at least in Rome) some of them have moved beyond house cleaning and Chinese restaurants and opened other businesses in which they have become quite prosperous. They've gone outside the role assigned to "extracommunitari" through sheer hard work and Italian feel jealous of their success.


Elizabeth said...

The aspiring fashion designer / secretary /English teacher also mentioned that in several recent social situations, Italians have said (jokingly?) that she was trying to take jobs away from Italians....
Maybe this all ties in with the "antipolitical" wave and the serious deficit of jobs for ALL.

Italians always preface comments about extracomunitari with, "io non sono razzista....ma...." . Hard times ahead for all because Italians have no clue what is ahead as the second/third generation of immigrants comes up with their mother-tongue Italian, Italian public school education and expectations that they can find a place in civil society, in the hospitals, banks, offices, not just in the back room washing dishes and cleaning. Italians have not even begun to consider the possibility -- a chinese/italian surgeon at the Policlinico, no way!