Is it possible to be angry with a whole country? At the moment, I am furious with Italy.
It was never particularly my dream to live in Italy. I ended up here because I married an Italian, he got a job here, and it seemed like the logical thing to do at the time. When the going got rough, as it sometimes did, keeping my family together was my paramount consideration, so I stayed on.
My career suffered for it. I have for decades been on the cutting edge of various high-tech trends (I’ve been online, one way or another, since 1982!), but being in Italy considerably limited my opportunities. Not much original work in high-tech goes on in Italy. The multinationals have local offices, but those mostly do local sales and support – not my cup of tea. There are very few Italian high-tech startups, and I’ve been intimately involved with two of them. I had high hopes for TVBLOB when we began, but after a while it became clear that, even if the company does well (and I still hope it does), my personal opportunities within it would be… far less than I had hoped.
So I couldn’t turn down an offer of work from Sun Microsystems, even though it came with the condition that I move to the US. (“But I thought Sun was all hot on remote working?!?” I hear you cry. There are good reasons why working remotely from Lecco won’t work long-term, which I will explain later.)
What’s even sadder is: I’m not the only one. Foreigners who came here pursuing a dream of la dolce vita are giving up and returning home, some because they are afraid of raising their children in a country which offers so little to young people. Even some Italians, in spite of their deep attachment to their hometown, country, and family, are getting out – or at least facilitating their children’s escape.
I would be interested in reading a followup post which goes into depth on your comment, “a country which offers so little to young people.”
I’ve only been to Italy as a tourist, but my aunt and uncle have been traveling there nearly every year for decades (as tour guides during their summers – they are both educators) and when they retired at the height of the tech bubble, they were lucky enough to have the retirement funds to continue their visits twice a year for 6 weeks in the spring and 5 weeks in the fall.
Needless to say, my visits with them come with the benefits of meeting all their local friends and getting a little sense of what you allude to above. One thing which sticks in my mind is a couple of conversations I had with local retired folks in a small Tuscan community which has been slowly giving up it’s wheat and other grain crops to vineyards in response to the growing tourist interest. In one case we were talking about the upcoming US presidential election where we might see the first black president elected. The locals wished he would win, but were convinced he wouldn’t because they thought there was no way a black dude could be handed such an influential office. I said, “Well, one can hope!” They looked at me like I was from Mars.
During a trip a few years later, they were talking about how messed up Italian politics was even in comparison to the gridlock stalling the US government. They were explaining to me how wide-spread and accepted corruption is in Italian public office. I was asking why the people would allow such a thing, and before I could even finish that sentence, one guy said dismissively, “Oh, we Italians are not revolutionaries.”
It seems this sense of throwing one’s hands up and just dealing with what sucks wouldn’t be conducive to a startup culture. That paired with the sense I got that the establishment rules in Italy (probably in business just as much as politics), I can see how there would be limited opportunities for even an expertly staffed startup to get off the ground. Add to the mix the shocking sexism I found throughout the country and I’m not surprised you made the decision to come back to the US to work!