Expat. Phenomenon or state of mind?

MARTINA – COLLECTION MANAGER AND REGISTRAR AT THE SOUTH STREET SEAPORT MUSEUM
A little bio
I was born in Milan, but I am now close to my 7-year anniversary of living and working in the States. It all started with a study abroad program I did while I was studying for my masters in the Netherlands, at Utrecht University. Back in those days, I never thought I was going to live and work abroad like other friends of mine. At the end of this 6 months process I found myself between two options: a masters in the UK, and a paid summer internship in the United States. I picked the summer program in the States, and three months abroad, quickly became something more extensive.

Where are you now?
I am currently living and working in New York City. In 2015 I was working in Western Massachusetts as Associate Director of an art gallery located inside the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Arts, but I wanted to relocate to New York to live closer to my boyfriend. I love New York City. I held a managerial job with lots of responsibilities, as well as room for growth. I can build a position within the institution and New York’s museum and art scene.

How does it feel be far away from your country?
Most days I am pretty fine. I do miss my family, and they miss me, but I am very lucky to have their support. New York City is particular world inside the States, or as many say it’s a “happy liberal bubble,” but I lived in a fairly remote area in Western Massachusetts, the Berkshires, as well, and in both locations I never felt out of my comfort zone.

The word “expat” has a strong meaning of belonging, of nationality…
The connotation of “expat” has changed with time and circumstances. I do not use the word. Somehow “expat” has a bad or guilty feeling to me. I am proud to be Italian, and at the same time I am constantly explaining and challenging colleagues and friends on modern Italian culture, history and political contexts. I think right now I feel like I have two homes and two countries, although I am not a naturalized American. Both countries are home and I consider myself an active citizen keeping up to date with politics and civil life happenings of both nations.

The best thing about your new country?
The best thing about United States is the feeling I can “make it” because of my skills, hard work, and passions; that with honesty and organization you can become a point person in any institution and you can grow and become part of team, no matter where you come from.

How long do you plan to live there?
I am not sure. I think I would like to have kids and raise them here for a few years. I like New York City’s pre-K, kindergarten, and elementary school curricula and programs. Beyond that I am not quite confident with the American school system, but I believe that a dual education and mind-set with Italian/European and American could be a great gift for a future human being.

EMANUELE – WRITER

Briefly, who are you?
I was born in Italy, in Marche, and I lived my childhood and early adolescence years in a small village on the coast, a few kilometers from where I was born. I never stopped moving. At the age of 21 I ‘emigrated’ for the first time to Berlin where I lived for 2 years. And I still have not stopped: first Rome, then Florence and then Paris, Venice, Barcelona, Frankfurt, Paris, Freiburg, Paris again, New York, and Paris again.

Where do you live now?
I live in Paris, because I work here (I teach at the university), I have a girlfriend and a daughter, both French.

What does it mean to be far away from home?
The only life possible. Remaining where you are born is how to never begin to breathe. Or refuse to open your eyes for fear of seeing too much light.

“Expat” has a connotation of belonging and nationality…
I find that the word expat is tied to fascist imagery and the logic of assassination that leads to the massacre of everyday life in the Mediterranean. The connection with one’s birthplace is like a strange form of reverse astrology: instead of defining oneself as beginning from the position of the sun and other heavenly bodies at the moment of birth, taking it as a given that position that one occupied birth. Saying one is Italian or French or German has the same value as saying that one is a Gemini ascendant Libra, or an Aries or a Taurus: they are labels that can be useful in a conversation at the dinner table, but basing a life (or even political stance) on the basis of these qualities is pure superstition. Can you imagine a state that integrates only the Gemini and not Taurus? Or even massacres the Scorpios simply because they were born in November? Like anyone else, I’m French when I live in Paris, American in New York, and Italian in Florence. The rest is just superstition.

The most interesting aspect of the country where you live?
The art, the fashion, the cheese and especially the fact that in Paris, like in any metropolis, you can live in a way that has nothing do to with being a ‘national.’

How long do you plan to live there?
I would love to leave tonight to the United States, Canada, Dubai or Beijing. But all will depend on the business needs of my partner (who is a director and artist). I follow her.

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