Being (sort of) bilingual, there’s a question that anguishes me whenever I commute between my two homes: when are you supposed to switch? On the plane? At the Italian airport? Right when you step outside your London flat, because in the end you are Italian living with Italians and travelling to Italy, duh! The thing is, every time I feel differently about this conundrum and I have to assess each journey as the first one.
Is my seat neighbour Italian? If he reeks of ancient ashtray, probably!
Should I give a signal, like talking with a very thick accent or eat a homemade panino col prosciutto as a plane snack?
And what if they’re Brits? Do I want to keep my hard-fought English fluency as a badge of honour or do I feel like showing off, we are going to my country, I’m speaking Italian while you are just sad and clueless?
What about the queuing etiquette? Do I sneakily jump in front of as many people as possible or do I line up with the civilised and shoot judgemental looks at the barbarians that clump instead of queuing?
So many questions! Usually, a good place to let go of my Italian-in-London self is after passport control: the officer deserves a smile and a loud Arrivederci! And off I go to the cab station, as quickly as possible and you better get out of my way or I’ll make you trip on my wheelie bag, there’s prosciutto waiting for me at home!
And what happens when you travel from London to a different country, say Portugal? What culture should you conform too? Keep the English cool that you absorbed for the past five years, or let out your Mediterranean-ness in all its friendly and loud glory?
As I said, so many questions and, even after all these years, so few answers.