by Melinda Gallo

Other expats in Florence

I am obviously intrigued by other expats. I know quite a few in Florence and am friends with others. I am fortunate to be able to write about them in The Florentine. I enjoy finding out how they made their way to Florence and what they do here. Just this week alone I was invited to a lunch where I met other expats that I didn't know and then a book launch at the Paperback Exchange where there were others. I'm fortunate to continually meet new people in the city who have moved here and hear about their stories.

With some people, I have more in common than with others. Just being an expat in Italy and coming from the same country doesn't make us friends. We generally have a lot in common, but not always do we get along.

One of the main reasons why I might not get along with a person is if they complain about Italy or if they judge it a lot in conversation. I certainly recognize that there are problems in Italy just like any place in the world, but it is disheartening for me if that is the only topic of conversation.

One other thing that turns me off quickly is when someone repeats stereotypes as if they know Italians. I believe that a stereotype allows for an explanation of a culture, but shouldn't be used to understand all the people in a specific place or group. Because there are certainly expectations. And if we stick too closely to a stereotype we miss out on knowing another person.

I know that in conversation with people who pull stereotypes out of their pockets, I find myself getting upset initially and then I become defensive. I can rarely avoid saying something because I believe it is easy to judge and put people in boxes, and more difficult to know someone and allow for differences.

At the end of the day, I try to continually keep my heart open and meet new people. I know that I too have to learn to accept people as they are and not judge them either. I am incredibly fortunate to have the expat friends that I do have because they are dear to me and are like my family. I may not be able to be friends with everyone, but each person I have met has given me a gift just by sharing a few moments with me. And if anything can be said about living abroad it is that your mind and your heart are stretched open more and more each day if you let it.

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