Two Years Abroad

It’s high time I wrote this post. I’ve been thinking about it for a long time. It was part of my first year expat resolutions. But of course I missed the appointment with my first year. I was too busy enjoying my new life with @olia_la, loving my new city, working with the best team ever at SponsorPay. Now, after another year, I feel ready to wrap my mind around this experience, I feel ready to rant about my country, I feel it’s time to sum the whole thing up. Why would I want to do so? I don’t know the reason, but who needs reasons?

But let’s start from the very beginning.

In April 2012 Olia and I rented an apartment for two weeks in Kreuzberg, Berlin. We had absolutely no idea what to expect from the city. We came here just to understand if we would like the city to the point of moving here. Well, we did like Berlin. It was a whole new world compared to the place where I come from. Basically, in Napoli (and mostly in Italy) we have good weather and great food. Here it’s almost the opposite. I say almost because the food is not that bad, the weather is though, but I think it’s not a big piece of news. Our next step was renting another apartment for three months with the goal of finding a good job for me. I applied for a few positions and I had a very diversified experience. I got very bad offers (in terms of money), I got very stupid interviews (“what’s the result of 2^16? what data structures do you know?” I even got “what Ruby version are you using?”) and then I found this fantastic team at SponsorPay. Smart people, nice numbers, interesting organizational challenges and vibe, a culture for shipping code that I’ve never seen anywhere else. It felt like living a dream.

But let’s make a digression. I like digressions.

I need to step back for a second and explain how this blog post is being born in my mind. Virtually, I started to write it when we moved here. I needed to wrap things up, I dreamed about wrapping things up. It’s a weakness and since we’re at confessions I have a confession to make. I’m not writing this down in one shot. I’m writing a small piece every few days. I want to enjoy the process. I earned this. I earned this fetish way of placing things in the right spot of my head. And what makes it funny in this process is that my mood while writing this article is going to be very spiky. Now, for example, I’m a bit drunk and I’m trying to conclude this weird day.

But let’s go back to living a dream.

This may sound surprising but the moment my new life started shaping matches the moment of my life I hated my country the most. It took me sometime to decode this feeling. I’m a slow person, especially with feelings. And I needed my time. Then I got to a crucial point - the very reason why I felt so angry at my country. While I projected myself in the process of moving somewhere else, I was sure I was going to miss some things badly. Well, it didn’t happen. I didn’t happen at all. I missed the lack of missing things from my country. It’s not the feeling I was prepared to digest. It was pretty hard to decode why I was so angry at Italy. But think about it. I missed nothing about Italy for a long time. Nothing at all. I’m not sure how to express this but it was a disturbing feeling. I was waiting for the day I would be missing something. I earned the right of missing things but it didn’t happen. Now, at the time of writing this, I’m not angry at my country anymore. I just don’t care. It sucks, I’ve turned into a white privileged expat that doesn’t give a shit about his country. It sucks because it wasn’t really a choice. It never felt like that. My country forced me to hate it. And you know what? I don’t want even to rant about it. Fuck it. And fuck my stupid goal of ranting about Italy.

It’s hard to wrap two years up but it’s a good exercise. I’ve read somewhere that if you want to know where you are, you have to know where you came from. It’s probably true. And that’s what I’m trying to do in the next sparse sentences:

  • I’ve left SponsorPay (now Fyber) after almost 2 fantastic years. It was a love story basically. I liked the people more than I dislike advertising. And I really don’t like advertising. As in all love stories, the end is bitter, but I feel I’m a much better programmer now and I feel lucky I’ve been given this opportunity.

  • I’ve joined a new born company. Very exciting times ahead and a positive fear that I can get everything wrong.

  • Olia changed her job already once - compared to three very hard Italian-style years, this is a great feeling.

  • I feel hooked to Berlin. It feels like home, it even feels like a cage sometimes. It’s such a good fit for me that I’m afraid I would’t be able to live anywhere else. It feels like Ruby in this sense. I hardly choose anything else than Ruby unless I can’t use Ruby. Same for Berlin.

Now I guess it’s time for some conclusions. But I’m going to disappoint you a bit. I don’t have much to conclude here. I’ve thought of being an expat for years before becoming one. And it’s very different from my expectations. This confused me to the point I don’t really know what’s the point. I know that these two years have been the best years ever. It may be not related to moving away from Italy. But I can hardly imagine to find a SponsorPay team there. I have this constant feeling “it is Sunday morning” all the time. It’s always quiet around. There are almost no cars in the centre (yeah, German friends you have no idea what a traffic jam really is), the public transportation is awesome (again, German friends you have no idea…) and I can bike all the time.

OK, I lied. I have a conclusion. I’m happy about what being an expat means for me. And I found out that somehow I’ll always feel myself an expat, even if I learn German. It’s a mixed feeling. Ah, that’s the most important thing I’ve learned as an expat: mixed feelings are hard to handle but their reward is unique.