At this point, when people are suffering so much to have a minimum bit of decent life, I feel ashamed to be saying these but this is for those looking from the position “Oh we are the civilized Europe, all the rest of the world is a bunch of third-world countries whose whole population is dying to come here.” (Paradoxically, which actually is literally true. People are dying to come here.)
When I first came here to Italy to live, I was so disappointed at some things. I start with food which is the center of life for all of us and go on to discuss health services, transportation and the bureaucracy. Of course, the food part is in no way to smear Italian cuisine, it is only to make a case in point about the services and to show how one misses small things of home when in a foreign land.
Here, you cannot find food at restaurants apart from certain hours. We are visiting some place, it's 6:30 pm, we are hungry, we want to eat and return, we go into a restaurant and get the answer “The kitchen is not open.” Or if it is lunch time, say we were out busy attending to things to be done, we are starving, we walk into a restaurant and get the answer “The kitchen is closed.”
Why does a restaurant kitchen ever close?!
My husband defends it.: Saying there are certain times of day to eat. See, my husband has this quirk. He even tells if he is hungry by the time.
"Are you hungry?" I ask.
"What time is it?" he asks.
I'm dumbfounded! What do you mean?! What has time got to do with the question I asked. You ask your stomach if you are hungry. You listen to your body, not the watch on your wrist or the cell phone in your pocket or the computer on your desk.
You may be hungry at any time. Or maybe you were working overtime, could not get out of the office for the usual lunch break. The only alternative you have here is to grab a slice of pizza or a sad sorry sandwich. Plus, you have any idea about the prices here?!
I was pregnant and I was craving for soup. I like soup. I've grown up with soup. It's a very common dish on our tables. Be it winter or summer. Soup provides a healthy meal. Whenever you are hungry, you go into any restaurant in Turkey and find some soup to warm you up. Well... This being Italy, I simply could not find soup. We went hunting for restaurants. None had soup. Even the ones who had a menu which listed soup, did not have it. When they had it, it would be a most often times a tasteless "minestra". And it would be 3-5 Euros a plate. I once paid 7 Euros for a simple chicken soup in Dubrovnik! Which came half an hour after I ordered it. Ah, I said Dubrovnik but don't think of it as a posh place in the city center. Some miserable place in the outskirts. In Turkey, you find some nice food in places like that and dirt cheap! They put bread on your table -and by bread I mean bread, not just two slices,- free of charge. You have a bowl of soup for a euro and eat it with bread, you have a cheap meal if you are tight with money.
No Flying Pizzas
Once we were in Naples. Naples is the birthplace of pizza. We wanted to have a nice pizza before returning home to Rome on Sunday evening. We went to "the best" pizza place suggested by our Napoletana friend. Lo and behold, it was closed. We found the number and called. They said they'd be opening at 8 o'clock. That was too late for us. Rome is about 2.5 hours, and we didn't want to be too late. What's more, it was 6 o'clock, we were hungry and did not want to linger that long either. So we called up "the second best". That was closed on Sundays. My husband found out another old and famous one. Hurray! They weren't open but would open at 7 o'clock. By the time, it had been 6:30 anyway. Ten minutes to drive there, we could walk around for twenty minutes, have our pizza and be on our way.
So off we go. Did it open at 7 o'clock? Not really. They opened the door of the restaurant at 7:10 but again lo and behold, the fire was not ready. They were just starting the oven. Nothing to do about it, we sat and ordered our pizzas. People started coming in. We were all waiting. In Turkey, at Ramadan, people sit around the tables waiting for the iftar (the ending of fasting for the day). All types of starters and water is already on the table. When iftar breaks, plates start flying around. I was eagerly waiting for such a similar experience with pizza in Italy. I expected to see pizzas flying around once the oven was heated. Disappointment! No flying pizzas! They came one by one. The waiters brought one bottle of water to one customer, then went in to fetch a pizza for another customer.
And believe me, this is not a one-case. It's mostly the same in Italy. Touristic services are quite low compared to other places and we, as the Turkish, have concluded that they don't care because Italy being Italy, people will be coming to visit anyway.
What about the health services here? Sorry, they suck! In Turkey, I mean İstanbul, but even in the small outskirt public hospitals, when you get a blood exam, you get the results from the Internet the next day. In Rome, we go to a private clinic, pay a huge amount of money, they give you the results in 4-5 days. And most clinics expect you to go there to pick up the results, no Internet service. In this day and age! I'm talking about Rome, a capital city in Europe. I simply couldn't figure it out. So I asked the doctor: "How come it takes 4-5 days for test results here when the same test results take a day in Turkey?"
The doctor could not answer me. He just said "There are different methods of testing."
There was a Croatian nurse next to him; she said "Everything takes longer here."
Ah, don't let me start with the mess we had to deal with for the registration of our marriage! For legal reasons, we were forced to get married in Las Vegas. When I went to the office to get my birth certificate in Turkey, they just entered my ID number and printed it out. I was done in two minutes. When my husband went to the office here to get his birth certificate, they said "Come next month."
Next month! Are you joking? You know what a birth certificate is? It's a paper telling your name, surname, your date and place of birth and your parent's names. That's it! So the Italian government doesn't have that information? It can't retrieve it in two minutes? I'm sure it can if they wanted it, but if you need it as a citizen, that's another story. When my husband asked "Why does it take so long?" the answer at the registration office was "The records are in the basement, we need to go and find them."
Luckily, his family knew someone who worked there, he could get it within a week. And guess what? It was hand-written! A hand-written official paper. In this day and age. And guess what? His name was written wrong! You don't put dots on the i's when they are capital. A government worker doesn't know that?!
Don't let me start about the mistakes they did with my name. They make the mistake and they ask you to pay for that mistake. As if it's not enough that you need to go so many times to correct it. In Turkey, even with a difficult surname like De Vincentiis, they didn't do any mistakes.
What about the transportation here? No, I'm not talking about the airport. Well.. Actually that's a point too. "This is the face you greet foreigners coming to your country," I kept telling my husband for years. A shabby run-down airport. Now, they are rebuilding, hope it's going to improve.
What about the airport services? Whenever we fly to Turkey, we generally find our luggage ready at the checkbelt, whenever we fly back to Italy, we need to wait for half an hour on average. And that is if the luggages have not been taken to a wrong belt in another part of the airport.
What about the public transportation in the city? They are unaware of Akbil (Short for Akıllı Bilet- Smart Ticket.) In İstanbul we use the same magnetic card for every transportation. You can load as much money as you wish and use it whenever you need it. Here, there is no such thing. You may buy a single ticket if you find the kiosk open or if the cafe nextdoor is open.
You can get a monthly/yearly pass, but even that doesn't start whenever you want. I mean you cannot have it from 15th of January to 15th of February. It is by default from the beginning of the month, till the end. My husband gets a yearly subscription. He has a card. But he is expected to carry the receipt around with it. Because they don't know when he got the pass, when it starts. It is a magnetic card but they don't have readers on the trains!
It's total bs. The way it is organized. There isn't a turnpike at the entrance of the train stations and it's not enough that you buy tickets in advance. You need to stamp the ticket before getting on the train. Well... What if you are late, are about to miss the train and don't have the time for it? Do you skip that train and wait for the next one which arrives in an hour or do you just get on without stamping and risk a fine? If there is a control and you get caught, there is a fine. You may have the ticket but it's not valid if you have not stamped it. And there is no place to stamp it once on the train. Sure, you may find the conductor and get him to stamp it. If you can walk all the way up to the front of the train and can spot him. Which would be quite difficult if you are pregnant. So you just don't pay. And you mostly get away with it. Then of course they complain everybody cheats and that the municipality does not have the funds. I mean... Don't these mayors go to other cities or have any idea of how things work in other places?!
Home is where your beloveds are
Italy is one thing. I'm not going into even a comparison of the life and public/private service standards in Turkey and the Baltic States which are in the EU.
I don't especially want to be here. Still... I want to be fair. Even though I'm not going to say "I love it here", I see the nice sides too. You randomly walk into a restaurant in a small village and you are pleasantly surprised at the quality place and the food. There is "puntarelle" here. When we came back from travelling and had pasta with puntarelle, I told my husband "This is worth living in Italy for." I started eating artichokes here. I didn't know its name in Turkish and called it "celeries", I was so indifferent to them before!
I like it here. Mostly because I live in the countryside in self-imposed isolation. And most important of all, because my two daughters were born here and my husband is here. To me, home is my husband and my daughter. Home is wherever they are. And for now, we are here in Rome.