Germany is the model citizen of Europe where Italy is the drama queen.
It is proudly and militantly clean where Italy is flamboyantly polluted. The green is well groomed, the recycling meticulous, the jaywalking non-existent. The economy is large and stable and the politics comparably less corrupt. Proper water pressure, organized bus and subway systems, and consistent street signs are all remnants of German efficiency. If only they knew how to cook…
I stayed in Munich for a few days in order to take the MCAT. Where I was anxious before on navigating through the city to find everything, doing so was surprisingly and almost frighteningly smooth. They even had monitors on buses and trains to tell you the next few stops. Such an innovation would be unheard of in Italy—here you travel by instinct and luck.
What I did not expect—above all—was a feeling of belonging. While Germany is colloquially considered the most trustworthy state of the European Union, the citizens can also be derided as “uptight” or “closed” personalities (although being thought of as “closed” is not a feat in comparison to the average Italian). My experience was the opposite—I met people who were kind, who were helpful, who were genuine.
In Italy, I feel like an outsider. Although I am half-Italian, I do not look it. Pale skin, blonde hair, and blue eyes make me the model of an Aryan citizen and thus I was treated as a native in Germany. In Italy, I am easily picked out as a tourist and English is the first language people use with me.
I loved fitting in—being hidden among the rest of the citizens, all of whom would try to speak German with me (although it is a language I don’t know). Returning to Italy, I felt the eyes slide back to me—easily standing out from the rest of the population, being casually glanced at or harangued because I stick out like a sore thumb.
It is all turned backwards: I was in Germany as a tourist and treated like a compatriot while in Italy I am a citizen and often feel like an outsider. But only “often” not “always,” because I still have my family, still have my father’s old friends, still have the classic hospitable Italians that almost make me feel like home again.