gianiiGianluca Dova is an Italian for who Bucharest is home now. He has lived here for 20 years now, together with his family, speaks very well Romanian, even if every now and then he blurts out “allora”, and, even if he isn’t too crazy about “sarmale” (stuffed cabbage), he consideres himself Romanian, for the most part.

Interview by Cristina Irian and Corina Nițescu, within the anthropological research The new minorities in Bucharest municipality

He came to Bucharest in 1995, when he was 22-23 years old, on vacation, for a week, in the city where his parents were already running a business. After a quarrel with a partner and an airplane lost, he found himself staying in Bucharest for an indefinite period of time. He took over his parents’ business and then came from 10 employees to 80 now. Although he felt and was perceived as a foreigner, he adapted quite easily on the Bucharest market as the locals here are not so different from Italian people, especially those in the south. He stays away from generalizations, but noticed, however, Latin as ca ommon denominator between Romania and Italy.

How do I find bureaucracy in Romania? It’s not complicated. In theory it does not seem more complicated than the one in Italy. Here is this phenomenon of corruption that somehow you have to adapt to. The moment you know how it works it can prove even more helpful and easier than in Italy, in some way.

Gianluca is part of the Italian community in Bucharest, but membership was limited to a few isolated contacts with other Italians in the last two – three years, after having been surrounded for a long time mostly by Romanian people. Italian people in Bucharest are more individualistic, says Gianluca, there is a not a community in the true sense of the word here, but, anyway, Italians aren’t united at home either, he adds. Events organized by the Italian Embassy and by the Italian Cultural Centre are occasions for Italians in Bucharest to meet and bond. Gianluca himself attended such meetings, but does not like them, as he founds them to be too formal, even false. He prefers meeting with the Italian people he chooses.

Homesickness was alleviated in the early years with some parmesan received from home, but soon almost all products in Italy were also found in Bucharest, so there’s not a big difference anymore. “Now everything can be found. If you’d ask me this back in ’95, yes. In ’95 I remember that my father came and brought me parmesan, Italian ham. But we are talking about ’95. Not so long after that, after a few years one could find almost everything. Now one can really find all kinds of Italian products”, says Gianluca. Dova family at home is not typically Italian as the two children do not eat pasta or pizza and Gianluca doesn’t drink coffee.

Home is where your loved ones are

My father, my brother and a few childhood friends remained in Italy. “It’s been so long since I left home that I no longer feel so close to where I was born anymore. Somehow, in the beginning, you feel this. Now, I probably feel more at home here, than in Italy”, says Gianluca. Home is where your loved ones are, he says, “in a Romanian style”.

His children were born in Rome, but lived in Bucharest, for the most part of their lives. They go in Italy on occasion. They went to Romanian public schools and their father gives them the right to choose what they want to do next. The eldest son chose the school of arts where the classes are taught in Italian and he wants to go to college in Italy. “Allora, when they were younger they considered themselves both of Romanian and Italian nationality. But I understand that my eldest son, when interviewed at the Italian high school, they asked him how it was that he knew Italian, and he replied that he was Italian. And now he is very proud to be Italian. He feels more Italian. I do not know where he gets that. I say it again, he lived here in Romania for the most part of his life, but now he is very proud to be Italian. Probably, were he to stay more in Italy, he would not be as proud. Perhaps he is still too young and doesn’t understand. (he laughs)”.

Coming from the West, Gianluca felt some positive discrimination in his beginnings in Bucharest, but also a negative one: the taxi driver fools you, the salesman wants to sell to you at a higher price. “You either accept this, to be fooled all the time, or you learn the language,” says Gianluca. He chose the latter. “After six months I already spoke and understood the language. At a 80-90% level I understood it pretty well. Learning Latin in school helped me a great deal, as the grammatical construction was fairly easy to learn. But anyway, it’s not complicated,” says Gianluca.

With an experience of over 20 years in Bucharest, Gianluca saw the capital of Romania transform. “Romania has changed a lot since then. It’s changed a lot and quickly. But how to compare the Romania then, when I came in ’95, with the Romania now … It’s a very big difference. People have changed, the mentality has changed…” says Gianluca. Italians have changed too and now they come to Bucharest to those who came then. “The Italians who came in ’95 were of all kinds. Desperate, runaways. They came to Romania because they had some money … (…) Romania has changed and they’ve changed too. When they came here, lifestyle was cheaper anyway. Then with little money one could feel a gentleman. One felt rich, somehow. And now it’s no longer so. With little money you have little money here too. “

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