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life lessons, travel

youth standards: Canada vs. Italy

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“Alessia you’re so young! You have so much time, don’t stress…” This is what I hear ALL the time in Italy from friends and colleagues. As one older and dear friend succinctly put it: “your mouth still stinks of milk,” yep classy…

Across the Atlantic, the song has a different tune to it where the lyrics go a little something like this:

  • Doo wop: You better start planning, everyone is investing in property these days
  • Mmm Bop: Your friends are all settled down and having kids, did you see the rock her fiancee gave her?
  • Dee-dee-dee: Do you have a clear career objective? If you don’t know yet, how are you going to get the corner officeeeeeeee

It’s insane how drastically conflicting the Italian take on age is from that of the Canadian – I won’t generalize and say European and North American, because I’ve only lived in these two countries on a long-term scale.

At 25 in Italy, most people are either a) still in university for their degree b) on their second internship c) working in a supermarket or d) in another country

At 25 in Canada, most people are either a) finishing their masters degree  or b) in their second serious job position contemplating home ownership or signing off on their first condo

When I first started covering the Milan fashion scene, PRs wouldn’t give me the time of day – unless you’re a 50-something fashion editor or a sensationally popular blogger you get nowhere. Even if the PR girls were fake nice to me, I would be roadkill the second some Prada-bag toting Milanese journalist strolled in. Wrinkles are actually a good thing in Italy, they equate to intelligence and better work ethic…

young people on the catwalk, forty+ in the front row

young people on the catwalk, forty+ in the front row

This is a society that overlooks young people to such an extent that the youth are literally running for the hills – the hills most likely being Germany and London, LA is a bit of a long shot. And the sad part is that Italian twentysomethings are HIGHLY intelligent – the Italian education system is no walk in the park, I am sincerely in awe of my peers for what they’ve gone through. Thesis projects here are not 20 printed pages stapled together like ours, they are textbooks consisting of a few hundred pages.

The fatal problem is that most of these intelligent Italian twentysomethings don’t speak the best of English, and considering that only one country in the world speaks their language, they are limited to finding work on a land mass that is unable to accomodate them with adequate jobs. In Canada you choose your university major based on the career you want to pursue, in Italy, you pick a subject you like and content yourself with a career as a bus driver. I am generalizing here – I am obviously not familiar with every case.

I like Italy because I feel younger here and am encouraged by the fact that I have already accomplished so much by Italian standards. But then I see how things are back home and I get a bad case of underachiever guilt. My Facebook newsfeed is an endless stream of engagement rings, honeymoon pics, pregnant bellies, baby pictures and first home shots. Will I find a happy medium? Time can only tell.

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