I'm not that type of immigrant, you know

July 14th, 2016 10:05 PM

By Southern Star Team

Emer Downing.

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BREXIT has become a hot topic recently and it has sparked a lot of conversations with fellow expats about immigration. My British colleagues are wondering what this will mean for their futures. 

Some are debating whether they should marry their significant other sooner than intended. Others worry that they might need to reluctantly move back to their homelands.

When I first moved to Italy, I told some Italians where my house was. They noted that the street was ‘full of immigrants’. 

That ‘i’ word is often accompanied with a wrinkled nose and raised eyebrows. Here, there are so many negative connotations to that word. 

I replied saying, ‘Yes, and I’m another immigrant.’ I was then, and in fact have been on several occasions, informed that I am not that type of immigrant. I’m an EU citizen, with a decent job and I’m not sponging off their benefits. Oh, and I’m white. Does that help? There are so many hard-working South Americans and Northern Africans here, doing just as I am – making an honest living. From what I’ve seen and heard, I’m not so confident that they would get the same reassurance of not being that type of immigrant. It’s infuriating!

Lately I’ve come to appreciate just how lucky I am to be able to move freely around the EU. In comparison to my Canadian friends, moving here was a walk in the park. I didn’t have to get a visa. I’ve never had to face the notoriously rude staff at the questura to get a permesso di soggiorno (permit for non-EU citizens to live here). I have only ever heard horror stories about that dreaded place. Even Italians going there with their significant other can be reduced to tears at the way in which non-EU human beings are treated. And those are people who can speak the Italian language. 

What about those who are struggling to communicate and being confronted with patronising and dismissive attitudes?

On a much simpler level, I’m appreciative of the other little privileges I have. I don’t have to think about costly flights to visit friends and family at home. I can easily afford to pop over to Ireland several times a year. I don’t suffer any effects from changing currency. In fact, if I get well and truly sick of the place, I can just pop over to France on a whim. Or Germany. Or Spain. Or Greece. Or Croatia. You get my drift! Sometimes, when I speak to non-EU expats about the challenges they’ve faced, I feel like a fraud. My whole expat experience has been a cop-out in comparison to theirs.

* Living and teaching in Italy since 2012, Emer Downing writes about Italy, Ireland and life as an expat in her blog Three Pieceens of News


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