Singer & Songwriter. Lives in Leeds. From Arona, Italy
I still feel very much connected to Italy, I think that’s my home, definitely. I think it depends on how much you think your roots are there, and some people absolutely hate where they’re from and there’s nothing there for them. When I moved, I was 18 or 19 after high school and at the time I had this really negative idea about the place I am from because I felt that it was in some way limiting me. I am from Lake Maggiore area, it’s really beautiful but it’s really small so the society is kind of defined by how small it is. It’s just a very monothematic kind of person you’d meet there and I was like, “I don’t socially belong here” which I still think is true but at the same time when I go home I think that place is sick, for other reasons.
My choice to move to England was very random, a really uninformed choice. I was like 19, so “let’s just go”. My sister used to study in England so I think it was an easy choice to make because she went through that process before so I could have a direct help from her. And because I decided to study music, even the most uninformed person will tell you that in Europe you want to be in England for that. I didn’t really know what I was going to face but maybe that’s a good thing because I didn’t have to un-do ideas, I just had to make new ones.
When I go back I know that the time is limited, so I always make a little fairy tale in my head – I think it is beautiful, I never want to go back to the UK…but realistically I am aware that if I am there for the summer, for instance, that is not what life would be like there. It’s quite nice but after a while, it gets a bit too much.
When I am in Italy, I don’t really don’t think of “Europe” because it’s your prime culture and environment, and it’s harder to zoom out of it. But, I definitely feel so much association between myself and someone there who is French, or Spanish – the southern part of Europe especially. When it comes to Northern Europe, it’s obviously different because so much is different. You have to push yourself a little bit more out of your comfort zone to really connect with someone. My housemate is Norwegian. I know how different are the places we’re from. He went to Italy this summer and I know he felt foreign because he was and same as I would if I went to Norway. But, I definitely feel that Europe is the glue that keeps us together.
In regards to British values, I think there is definitely a basis that is the same, after all it’s still Europe, for now. For instance, I don’t feel like I have to dress differently when I go back, in terms of how much I can show of myself. I don’t feel I am limited in things I want to say, no one would try to silence me. After that common base, in my opinion there is so much that is different. For example, on the topic of freedom – the freedom you can get in England and the freedom you can get in Italy is profoundly different. In England I feel that there is freedom when it comes to arts and expression. You walk into streets and people are dressed in all kinds of different ways, no one is considering you a freak even if you are wearing a goats head because you like goats. You go out in Leeds and you can straight away go and listen to free jazz, or see this really experimental exhibition, and I think English people are really good when it comes to doing things. They are a very practical population.
Whereas in Italy, I think there is a lot of judgement in society especially when it comes to how you look and your social status, at least where I am from. It may not be like that everywhere. There is more dullness in that sense – you go out and everyone is dressed the same, everyone likes doing the same things and if you want to differentiate just a little of what you do you have to go to a big city, otherwise the outskirts are just flat, all the same.
I think Italian people are very theoretical in their lives. They study a lot, they have all these thoughts, and ideas, philosophy, history, and art but then they don’t make it happen most of the time. That’s one difference that I see but at the same time when I go back home, I realise that there is so much more freedom in our people expressing themselves in smaller things – in how they talk to the waitress at the bar or how they cook, how they spend their time together, how they are more connected with the nature. There’s almost like this prehistoric aspect of the humanity that comes through so much more. I think it makes sense, in England (not everywhere but especially in cities) they have less natural beauty to base their lives around, and even the one they have they seem to not really care about it. So, obviously they had to build malls to fill their time.
What freaks me out about England is festivals because I’ve been to a couple this summer, and it’s absolutely crazy. These people are expressing everything they couldn’t express for a whole year in a weekend. They dress crazy, they take a load of drugs, and it makes sense – they need something to release. That’s why drugs are so big in England because they need that, they don’t have that in their day to day life so they get to the weekend, do MDMA, and feel happy for a bit. In my opinion it’s not a healthy way to live your life but then again that’s just the mainstream part of the England – there’s so much more to it that isn’t like that. Most of my friends are English and I could not imagine them living a life like that, ever. But mainstream England is scary, definitely.
I probably would have voted in referendum because I know, regardless of what’s going to happen, it is a possibility it already affects us as a generation so I think I would have. I want to hope I would have done it. For anyone at this stage, whether you are British or not, everyone just feels helpless. You watch this thing take form and it’s hard to see how to control it from the people’s perspective. Right now it feels like everything is very uncertain. I feel entitled to an opinion because it affects me as a European and as a person who lives in Britain, and you kind of have to make plans for the future, and this is a big thing. So, obviously not to know what kind of situation is going to arise, it’s really hard to think that it’s not about you because it is, realistically. I still respect the fact that it’s their choice, fair enough.
In the grand scheme of things, as frustrating as it is now, I’m kind of happy that this thing has gone to so much exaggeration that maybe they will be able to not go for the worst deal. Realistically, if we went out with a deal that was reasonable, I would have still thought it’s a shit idea but at least there are some rights that are granted. The idea that it maybe won’t be like this is just like…what am I going to do with my life?
I can always fuck off, but can you? So many people are trying to sort it out. My friend has just got a French passport somehow. His grandmother is French so he thought, “I guess I am French”, and he just got French passport. I think now at this point he has got two passports, French and British. So funny, he doesn’t even fucking know how to speak French, he doesn’t know anything about French.
Our parents generation… I sometimes think of them, “what are you doing?” – do you still think that you are the person who is entitled to power and decision making because what you choose to do politically now affects me more than it affects you? It is a conversation that I have a lot with my dad because he has different political ideas to mine. Every time that I go back, and obviously Italian politics aren’t the best, and we have a lot of right wing powers always trying to arise. Now it’s sorted temporarily but he has these ideas where he’s like, “I’m not even sure being in Europe is good for us”, like, what? Two of his daughters are literally living outside of Italy in Europe and you are telling me that you don’t think Europe is good for us?
It’s so unrealistic to look at the 1980’s and think it was a sick time. That was a different economical state of the world. It’s not like you can get back to that, that’s not the point of whether you are in Europe or not, it’s a point of whether you are in 80’s or not. You’re not. When that period was happening, these people were teenagers. It’s so easy when it comes to politics not to consider the bigger picture. The economical crisis that the Western world, especially, is going through is defined by politics and it is defined by economics, but it’s a part of something way bigger than Brexit or nationalism. It’s more that the world is changing massively on a wider level. If you don’t consider the wider level, then you will not make an informed choice when it comes to Brexit.
Where I am from people praise you for being completely normal. Where I am from is very small so it’s a nice place to grow up, people are fairly wealthy, everything is beautiful and everything is fine, “let’s go out and buy some champagne”. Growing up I felt like my family and my friends, and my school, were very positive about everything I did. I had all these ideas about myself, I was so arrogant when I was 18, it was ridiculous. I was such a bitch. I remember moving from Italy, after my last summer there, to London – 8 million people city where nobody gives a shit who you are or about you in general. It just hit me in the face. I had to face all that and the fact that you have to make a name for yourself, you have to work really, really hard if you want to achieve anything in your life.
I think before I moved, for me the main thing was probably facing the possibility that you can have negative thoughts in general. I didn’t really have to confront myself with any issues like mental health, and suddenly I was anxious, having all these weird thoughts in my head when I was in London, and I felt horrible and couldn’t explain why. Last year I was very busy with Uni and projects, I got to a point where I was so drained. My mental health was weird and it just wasn’t a great time. When I went home for summer, and I spent 3 months in the nature, and it was amazing. I just felt like all the questions that are in your mind, in a way they are answered. If I am anxious or if I am thinking if I should be here or not, what am I doing with my life, if you are in a beautiful nature it just takes a bit of it away straight away. It feels like it’s a real experience, you don’t feel like you are wasting your time.
I think that really humbled me, which I consider a good thing. When I moved to London, I carried all that trauma with me and that’s why I feel like for me Leeds was the best place ever because it was more normal. I think there are still things that I wish I could bring back - if I had the confidence that I had before moving, I would be sorted. But at the same time I wouldn’t be able to work with anyone because I’d be so sure of my own ideas that I wouldn’t be able to compromise or to understand when someone may or may not have a problem. I think it just made me a more complete person.
I think I miss expressing my personality in my mother tongue and language. Sometimes things can get lost. There are many things I miss – food, family… Another thing I miss when you live in your country but not with your family, any issue you may have you always feel that there is a safety net around you. I had to get on a plane with just a fucking luggage, and it was all my life packed in that. If shit goes down here, I am alone here in the broader scheme of things. That’s something I miss.
I feel that I definitely made a positive choice when I decided to come here because I feel that moving away from home to somewhere where I didn’t know the language, I didn’t know the culture, I feel like it opened me up so much as a person. I think that kind of mindset is what’s going to save you at the end, because whatever happens you can always adapt to something else. Coming to Leeds to study has been a very positive experience so far and I feel lucky that it is like this because I know so many people who moved to England and just didn’t have the luxury of actually feeling okay about themselves for a long time. When it comes to thinking about England in the future, a part of me sees that this country is decaying slowly.
I know that it won’t be the place where I want to be in the long run but a part of me also recognises that I don’t think I am done with it just yet. It’s not like I will finish my third year and pack my bags, and move somewhere else. I think I still want to invest my energy and time to see what I can learn from here. I know that there is so much to learn from this place.