As I settle into an office-worker's routine here in Auckland, I feel that something is missing. And that might be the 'je ne sais quoi' of the mediterranean lifestyle.
Don't get me wrong, I've gained a lot. It's wonderful to have democracy, (relative) freedom from racism, ageism and sexism, professional respect and opportunity, financial/job security, a choice of things to do in the evening, and decent chips.
And yet... Italians, for all the scorn they garner for having a shambles of a state, really know how to live. Without even having to think about it, they know what's important in life and what not to sweat over.
Now I'm here, I spend about two hours a day in traffic, I don't have time to cook, I don't stop to ask neighbours how they are over a coffee in the morning, I don't stop to take photographs as often, I don't eat lunch at home with my loved ones, I don't feel part of a community.
I miss the contact of kissing people on both cheeks in greeting. Us anglo-saxons can sometimes be so wrapped up in our own world that we forget what it's like to connect with people. At an Italian gathering, everyone says hello to everyone else, and no one leaves without wishing everyone goodbye. Every gathering involves sitting down to eat and drink together. Small talk is never "what do you do?" but "how are you?" - about the person not their job. Work just isn't what they live for.
So, as so many people have asked, do I like my new life? Yes, I do. Do I miss Italy? Oh yes.