Michela Grasso: why I left Italy (and I’m not the only one)

Michela Grasso: why I left Italy (and I’m not the only one)
Michela Grasso: why I left Italy (and I’m not the only one)

In the headlines and in the public debate, young Italians abroad are “the brains on the run”, talents who choose to take their skills beyond national borders. In more informal conversations, however, it is often spoken of in other terms: “Blessed are they who have the good life, an eternal vacation”. “Why go? They can’t hope to do anything other than exploited dishwashers ». And again: “If they complain so much about Italy, why don’t they stay here to roll up their sleeves and try to change things?”. These are prejudices and questions that Michela Grasso, 22, author of The future cannot wait. Because my generation is forced to leave (DeAgostini) and from 2019 mind and hand behind the very popular Instagram page @spaghettipolitics.

The numbers of a phenomenon

Michela grew up in Lombardy and is now in Bordeaux, in France, with the European Solidarity Corps. Behind her is three years of life in the Netherlands, where she graduated in Political Science from the University of Amsterdam, and a year of exchange in the fourth grade at North Bend High School in Oregon, United States. A expat in short, full-blown part of a much broader and long-standing phenomenon. According to the “Italians in the world” report of the Migrantes Foundation, from 2006 to 2020 the Italians registered in AIRE (Registry of Italians Residing Abroad) increased by 76.60%: among other things, this is an increasingly less community old, both because it is made up of many young people and young-adults ready to enter the labor market (+ 78.4% since 2006 in the 19-40 age group), and because there have been many new births (+150, 1%). Those who emigrate today have a median age of 31 for men and 29 for women and have a medium-high educational qualification: 53% have at least a diploma. In 2006, on the other hand, 68.4% of official residents abroad had middle or elementary school leaving or no qualification. From 2006 to 2018, the number of Italian graduates or doctorates who married abroad increased by 193.3%, that of those who married with “only” a diploma in their pocket increased by 292.5%.

A story with several voices

But who are these Italians abroad? What drives them, what are their stories? What do they hope, what are they afraid of? In her literary debut Michela Grasso answers these questions by drawing heavily on her own experience, but also by reporting numerous testimonies and interviews with others who, like her, have chosen to go to study or work outside national borders. The result is a rich, multifaceted and realistic story: if a single experience cannot become universal, then it is right to respect the complex and varied world of Italians abroad, giving voice to many of its nuances. Thus the microphone is metaphorically passed to women and men, young and old, straight and not, single and married, white and non-white; to those who have made a fortune and to those who have been exploited, to those in Europe and to those who live on the other side of the world, to those who have left to never return and to those who have already decided to return home. And also to those who would like to do it but are afraid of not succeeding, given that, as Grasso writes, “leaving is easier than returning, because Italy does nothing to guarantee an adequate future”.

All in the same boat

Although the testimonies collected are different, in almost all the points in common emerge: love for one’s roots, suffering (or sometimes a sense of guilt) for distance from loved ones, the difficulties of starting from scratch in a place that has a different language, culture and habits. However that may be, the idea always returns that travel and experience abroad are too precious and educational opportunities to give them up. “Surely the positive side of the trip is that it gives a very different perspective on the world. In my opinion it is very important for anyone to live an experience abroad “, says Michela Grasso on the phone, while the traffic of Bordeaux is the background to his gab,” The negative side is that, as in Italy, there are exploitation, difficulties … Especially if you go to expensive cities like Amsterdam or London, then the journey is a privilege. Certainly there are preconceptions about Italians abroad. There are those who see this choice as a sort of vacation or an automatically better life: in reality it is not true. There are also those who think that going abroad to work means only being a waiter. This is also not true. There are bad work experiences, but speaking with those who have worked both in Italy and abroad, we realize that there is an abyss: abroad there is more room for personal growth, greater respect for rights and higher wages ” .

And to those who ask «Why don’t you stay here and change things?», Michela replies: «Perhaps it is better that I go abroad, acquire a different perspective and then return to my country enriched by what I have learned and seen. I love Italy, I’m in love with it and can’t wait to go back. But I think Italy can also be improved thanks to the possibility of travel. Being able to leave the border, see other realities and deal with those who are different is very important ».

Endless bureaucracy and cultural backwardness

Michela writes in the book: «And so Italy moves away under the wings of the plane that takes us to our new lives, far from our family, our loved ones, our friends, projecting us into the unknown. Yet, we prefer the uncertainty of starting from scratch in a new nation to the certainty of having no value for today’s Italy, a country destined to grow old on its rubble ». In fact, the experiences of the Italians abroad interviewed in the book also have in common the disillusionment, the awareness that Italy does not make life easy for its citizens, especially young people: too culturally backward (an aspect that emerges above all when it comes to racism and discrimination based on gender and sexual orientation), too bureaucratized, too old. «Italy is aging, in the sense that there is a geriatrization of the country», comments Grasso, «But there is also the fact that young people are leaving because it is very difficult to find a job. And if you are a woman it is even more complicated to be considered “normal”, so to speak. Abroad it is often easier than in Italy to find guarantees, for example to have laws in the workplace that protect you if you are a young mother or a young couple who wants children. I am thinking, for example, of France, in which I am now, which is not by chance among the countries with the highest birth rate in Europe ». Then there is the great theme of politics, to which Michela refers when recalling the recent collapse of the DDL Zan: “How can you leave the country in the hands of a group of sixty-year-olds who make disgraceful choices, then complaining about the fact that young people do they go away? Every time I go back to Italy I find a kind of backwardness in people of a certain age, which is also reflected in the political class. Why return to a country that is unable to take a step forward on civil rights? In the book I also speak with people of my age who have remained in Italy, and I have realized that they too have the same perspective as me ».

A different Italy, but not closed in on itself

The hypothetical future of Italy hoped for by Michela Grasso in the pages of her book is that of a better country for those who live there, but which still leaves room for the formative experiences of travel, study and work abroad and in which, if desired, it’s easy and nice to come back. It is thanks to the moments spent away from home that the gaze – on the world, on others and on ourselves – changes, evolves: the lucky Instagram page @spaghettipolitics, which today has 229 thousand followers and whose notoriety has grown a lot also due to a repost by Chiara Ferragni, was born in January 2019 precisely from these premises. “I lived in Holland, studied political science and often confronted myself with wrong or stereotyped opinions and narratives of Italian politics, proposals mostly to make people smile”. Italy from the outside is seen as a country where you eat well and it’s hot, Michela writes in the book, but that it would work better if the Italians were not to govern it. «So I decided to create a space (the Instagram page and the homonymous site, ed) to speak in English about Italian politics to foreign people. In reality, then I realized that those who were interested in knowing more about Italy were the Italians, those of my generation. The younger audience lacked information on what’s going on in foreign policy. ‘ Today @spaghettipolitics “speaks” both Italian and English, has a mainly Italian and young audience and tells not only what happens within our national borders, but also in the rest of the world. “It is not true that young Italians are not interested in politics, even abroad – concludes Michela – it is that they often do not have the means to deepen a theme that in Italy is poorly taught and is hardly found in the media, if not in its aspect more linked to gossip “.

PREV Tragic accident in Brescia: car collides with a bus. Five youngsters died, all between 17 and 22 years old
NEXT Ukraine, the hour of Italy (and of Draghi). Speak Fiona Hill