It's been a little while since we posted our last Expat Life interview. Sorry for the delay! I'm really happy to share today's heartfelt interview with Kimberly Menozzi, a writer living in Reggio Emilia. When did you first step foot in Italy? December 23rd, 2003.
Why did you come to Italy? To make a long story short: I came here to be with the man who would become my husband just a few months later. We had gotten to know each other after meeting online in May of 2003, and he visited me in the US in August. Before he left for Italy, he invited me to see his home in Reggio Emilia. I accepted, and when I had been here a few weeks, he proposed. We married in February of 2004 and I've been here ever since.
Did you know right away that you wanted to stay here? Yes. The prospect of being in a country I knew next to nothing about, where I didn't speak the language or understand some of the customs was enough to give me pause – but knowing I would be there with the love of my life was what made the place infinitely more appealing.
What have been some of the funniest/craziest/hardest things about adapting to a completely new culture? I'm still getting used to the newsstands. The fact that one can step inside a newsstand and there is little more than a beaded curtain between the sports magazines, children's toys and the "adult" videos/magazines still takes me by surprise, as does the portrayal of women in the media. Sexism is so blatant here, it gets my blood boiling sometimes. That I can also go to the newsstand once in a while and find a nude calendar of some of the male actors/models helps calm me down though. LOL! God bless Luca Argentero and Raoul Bova for that! Here's to equal time!
Also I still haven't been able to buy clothes here. I have to purchase clothes whenever I'm in the US because, being a full-figured woman (ahem) I have difficulty finding affordable, well-made clothes for myself here. Then again, I don't really like the styles of clothes here to begin with. Yes, I'm quite strange, I know. I just don't care about fashion. People always want to know how folks ended up in Italy and how they are able to stay. What do you do for a living that allows you such an international lifestyle? I don't think I could call it a "lifestyle", as such. I married an Italian man and didn't expect him to go to the US. I chose to come here instead. I work for a language school and I write my novels when I'm not teaching, and that gives me the little bit of extra cash I need to go home to the US for a couple of months each summer to see family and friends. With careful budgeting and planning we get by – and we refresh our wardrobes each August when my husband joins me in the US because clothing is cheaper than in Italy. We save money in spite of buying two airline tickets! It's crazy!
How does Italy -- and where in particular you live in Italy -- influence your writing and what inspires you? It influences me a great deal. I live in Reggio Emilia, as I've said, but my novel, Ask Me if I'm Happy, is set in Bologna. I started writing it as a short story during a trip to the US when I was homesick for Italy, and it soon evolved into the novel it is today. Bologna is one of my favorite places in the world, and it's home to some of the most talented writers and musicians in Italy. Every page has some part of my life here in Italy on it – or some part of the lives of the Italians I love and cherish most; my friends and especially my family here.
What's the single best thing about your life in Italy? What do you wake up every day thankful for? My husband, Alessandro. After him? I'm grateful every day for the chance to be inspired by what I see around me. I'll never get it all into my stories, no matter how hard I try.
If people could read only three posts from your blog, which three would you tell them to read? The ones about dealing with the deaths of my father and my stepfather, and any of the photo blogs where I've shared pictures of Italy and my family here. The first two I would recommend because they touch on the darker side of living so far from home – on being surrounded by people I love, yet being so far away when losses come along, and how hard it really is. The photo blogs because you get a real, visual sense of what life is like here – it's not all Tuscan Sun and mandolins, after all. I'm happy with the life I have, though. It's probably not everyone's ideal, but it continues to amaze, confound and inspire me each and every day.
Learn more about Kimberly, her books and her blog by visiting: http://www.kmenozzi.com