First of all, I am a Filipino living in Italy. And I love it!
During one of my job interviews, the HR officer asked me, what will you be in ten years from now? That time I was so young and full ambitions, I answered back, “In ten years I will be a bank officer, have my own house and maybe have a family. All those three happened but getting married took longer. Well, I didn’t know then that my now other half will come from the other part of the world. Will tell you more about it, later. Let’s get back to the “about me”.
I am Nerissa! I am a wife, a mother, and an entrepreneur.
I was born and raised in the Island of Bohol, in the Philippines.
I used to work in the banking industry for almost thirteen years. I love watching movies especially romantic comedies, actions, and thrillers. I’m not so much into sci-fi movies. I am not a sporty person and I actually enjoy being a couch potato and do nothing at all when I can, just like everybody else. I love to read books too but I haven’t read any book for ages and I miss it a lot. I love to cook, bake, and shopping, of course! Well, I’m a woman, who else doesn’t like it? I suppose. Most of all I love to travel the world.
The countries I have lived before
I have never lived anywhere else aside from my home country. I come from a small town in Bohol, home to the famous Chocolate Hills, considered as one of the natural wonders of the world, and the tarsier, one of the smallest primates in the world and listed among the 25 most endangered primates. The Philippines is located in South East Asia, consisting of 7,641 islands with a lot of white sandy beaches to choose from and a lot of natural wonders and a great level of biodiversity.
The reasons why I moved to Italy
Before I tell you the story, I just want to share something about my wedding because it’s not a common wedding ceremony. I was married on my 35th birthday inside a capsule of a moving Ferris wheel in Manila. There were only 6 people inside that capsule: the officiator, two friends as witnesses, another friend as the cameraman, my boyfriend who is my husband now, and I. It was a complete spontaneous wedding, we queued for the tickets and in few minutes we were up overlooking the city at night and did our vows as husband and wife.
I moved to Italy to be with my husband who is an Italian two months after my wedding.
I left my family, friends, career and my house. I was having a lot of questions in my mind: What would be my life there? What should I eat (I was not used to Italian foods, I only knew spaghetti and pizza)? How can I start a conversation with his parents or friends, if I only knew the most basic Italian words like grazie, buongiorno, ti amo and maybe some other five words? I knew no one and did not have any relatives, either. I arrived in Italy during the winter season so adjusting to weather was another matter.
Adjustments and difficulties that I have encountered
In few days after I arrived, I felt welcome and beginning to like my second home. I did a lot of adjustments especially the weather, the food, and life being married to a man with different cultures.
Experiencing my first real snow was amazing.
It’s more than four years that I have been here but I am still not totally adjusted to food. It’s no doubt that Italian cuisines are the best in the world, but being an Asian, a Filipino, rice is a staple. I can cook Italian foods, even the local or regional specialties here in Sicily. My husband teases me saying I cook better than Italians do. Though I can cook Italian dishes, I have not given up on Filipino foods. I usually cook two different dishes, one Italian and one Filipino. I am just lucky that my husband is not hard to please regarding foods. He can eat almost everything except fats from meat. He eats whatever I put on the table.
What I have noticed living in Italy
I have never been to everywhere in Italy but, for some of the people who haven’t, I will tell you it is a beautiful country, in its superlative sense. In fact, Italy is also known as “Il Bel Paese”, The Beautiful Country and it is one of the most visited in the world with the greatest works of art, architecture, gastronomy, cultures, history and an abundance of natural wonders. The pastries here in Sicily are the best in the world.
The Italians are friendly, warm, courteous and family oriented. I was impressed because they always greet you like good morning, good afternoon (buongiorno or salve) even if you are stranger and they always say thank you (grazie) and arrivederci (goodbye). A family is so important that you’ll find that many Italians, live close to their parents or in the same house and it’s common for adults in their twenties and thirties to live with their parents. Just like other Italian families, we often gather weekly for a meal usually at my in-laws’ house. Where I live, people hardly speak any English words so I have a difficulty conversing outside our home. I went twice for an Italian language course but yet my Italian is not perfect.
Italians are considerate. Every time I tell them that I don’t speak Italian well, they answer me ‘piano piano’ (slowly-slowly), which means ‘with time you will learn’.
Learning the Italian language is difficult, they have a lot of rules; in English, we usually add “s” or “es” at the end. In Italy, it depends on the subject if it’s masculine or feminine. I get confused and a bit lazy to learn since my husband is fluent in English. We speak three languages in our home, Italian, English and Tagalog. My daughter speaks and understands English and Italian and some Tagalog words.
One thing also that has taken me back is how they greet each other when they meet, they kiss twice on the cheeks, just like a peek on the cheeks, this is either both men to women or men to men or women to women.
Italians are very well dressed and have a sense of style, you won’t see anyone wearing pajama in the supermarket because it’s simply against their fashion rules. They have to put on nice clothes, nice shoes and a bit of makeup just even going to the supermarket or grocery stores. Sometimes, I feel lazy going out just for the idea of dressing up but I like it once in a while and trying to learn the fashion sense of Italians.
Distinguishing issues I noticed in Italy
When you hear the word Italy, you automatically think of Mafia or Rome, where the Pope lives. Actually, It’s in Vatican City, which is inside the city of Rome. So you assume that Italians are very religious because the Pope lives here but as far as I noticed, Filipinos are far more religious. They don’t go to church religiously. I noticed also during special celebrations like Christmas, the church is not full of parishioners. Some Italians might contradict what I say, but I only based on what I see. Talking about Mafia, it still exists in the South especially here in the Island of Sicily where I live. But obviously not all Italians are Mafioso, they get offended if you use that term referring to them even if it’s a joke.
I noticed that Italians when speaking they talk over the top of others without letting them finish, and almost shouting to each other when in groups and not letting another finish talking before starting to speak.
I saw this mostly in Italian television shows especially when they are discussing, they talk in loud voice like almost shouting. They speak with gestures like they move their hands, hold their heads, move their shoulders and their facial expressions. They simply cannot talk without their hands. Italians speak very loudly in public whether on the bus, in the street or on the phone just like Filipinos.
When driving, they drive too fast and not thinking of potential dangers. They park on sidewalks.
Once, we went to a bigger city and the streets were like a big parking space where cars parked with only small space left to fit one car. My husband said Americans will find it difficult to drive here because the streets are narrow and their cars big. This is not stereotyping, these are things I notice or see and experience from time to time while living in Italy.
What I miss most about my home country
My husband’s family and some friends asked me if I miss the Philippines? I said, a bit. Maybe you ask, why a bit only? Growing up without the presence of my parents and no siblings, I used to live alone in the big city but not lonely. I used to live in a house alone for almost ten years. I used to eat alone in a restaurant, watch a movie alone and travel solo. So when I moved to Italy, I did not have a feeling of fear, maybe some worries in adjusting to a new country because I know I can take care of myself. What I missed from time to time is the food, my friends, family, my work and the shopping malls.
I still cook some Filipino foods, though not all of the ingredients are available here. I miss going out to big malls where I can endlessly roam around with a large number of choices to choose from. I usually purchase online especially if the brand I am looking for has no branch here. It’s very convenient and all will be delivered directly to my doorsteps. I have become an expert on shopping online. I miss working but finding work here is difficult. Like the Philippines, Italy has a high unemployment rate especially on the island of Sicily. After staying here for a couple of weeks or just a few months, I already felt at home.
I love where I live. When I open the windows of our house, I can see the beach in front, the other side is the castle, and then looking South there is Mt Etna, the tallest active volcano in Europe. The view is amazing, so what else should I ask for?
Other things about me
I am a busy bee: I have a little daughter, a husband and a house to take care of and a small apartment for rent to local and international guests Nerissa Holiday Apartment Milazzo. I met some Filipinos that have become my friends and from time to time we meet up and catch up with our lives and share Filipino foods and develop into a support group. I befriended also some friends of my husband that become our constant companions for gatherings on some special occasions or celebrations or even just a get together for a coffee or a gelato.
Every day is a learning process for my new home and I try to improve myself as an individual. I think wherever you are in the world, if you find peace, then you are at home. And I found peace here, of mind and of heart.
Loving life is easy when you are abroad. Where no one knows you and you hold your life in your hands all alone, you are more master of yourself than at any other time. – Hannah Arendt.