Part 3: Diversity – More than one life lived

You come from Italy, lived, studied and worked in France for almost ten years, do research on China and live in Germany: how does this mixture feel?

Maybe confused? I am joking. What I mostly feel is the sensation of having lived very different lives. Each of those experiences has left indelible traces that have slowly made up who I am today. I often heard myself saying, especially when I arrived here, “we in France…”, even if I am not French. Now my friends over there tell me that I speak English and French with a German accent. I can’t believe that. Somehow, however, all the various experiences seem so far away, it seems to me that I am much older than I am. And it is a strange feeling. But recently I also discovered, after so many years of wandering around the world and living abroad, that I madly miss Italy and that I recognize myself in many characteristic traits of my fellow citizens.

In what ways are the countries different – in what ways are they similar?

Apart from some nuances, Italy and France are very similar in many aspects – starting with what we bring to the table. I really enjoy watching an ARTE program called “Karambolage,” which features Franco-German idiosyncrasies and curiosities. The French examples look very familiar to me, such as how the preschool years are organized or what the kids do in the summer. While I am always amazed by the German examples, because they seem to me as if they were from another world.

The “latte macchiato” passion, for example, which Germans tend to drink even after lunch. In Italy, we drink espresso and I haven’t seen a latte macchiato in France – at least not after lunch. French people generally drink latte for breakfast and like to “dip” their baguette, croissants or brioches in it – as do Italians. Germans find this strange – at least this is what „Karambolage“ shows. Another example is the cold dinner with board, bread, sausage and pickles at 5 or 6 p.m. here. In France and Italy, it is more traditional to have a real meal for dinner after 7 or 8 p.m.

I could give countless examples, like midwives or school bags – we don’t have those. Of course, reality is more diverse today, but these traditions really make me appreciate my “limitless” life. Oh yes, now that I think about it, something that surprised me a lot when I arrived in Duisburg: people drinking beer and eating sausage in the pub in the morning and hanging out at the regulars’ table outside. I remember staring at them with my mouth open.

As for China, that’s another world again – but still, we also have things in common: We like to eat regional and tasty food, and the more at the table, the better, even if we speak loudly. Family is very important and often has a big impact on our lives; we have a lot to say about our governments and like to talk about it passionately. There were many moments when I felt at home in China, too.

You are fluent in the Chinese language. What are the reactions in China when suddenly a European-looking woman speaks perfect Mandarin?

I am fluent in the first three to four sentences, then they realize from the wrong tones that I am a foreigner. [I laugh] In reality they are not so surprised because many are convinced that I come from Western China, where it is possible to find people with appearances similar to mine. It only happened to me once that a guy immediately recognized that I am Italian. He is a football fan, especially the Italian one, and he told me that my nose and the shape of my face somehow reminded him of Roberto Baggio. It made me laugh a lot and I didn’t know if I had to feel honoured or worried about that, but it surprised me very much that he was able to see from my face where I come from. We eventually became friends.

About the person:

Giulia (Clara) Romano, 36 years old, born in Alessandria (Italy), a town in Piedmont – not far from Genoa and Turin and birthplace of Umberto Eco. Meanwhile, she emphasizes her middle name – because there are several academics with the name Giulia Romano, who do research in very different fields.

The questions were asked by Jennifer Meina.
Status: 11/2021

Picture credits: © UDE / Frank Preuß

Im Porträt & Interview​

Part 1: About the Person - Romano's Path to Her Academic Adventure

Interview

Part 2: Research - "Painful Pandemic."

Interview

Part 3: Diversity - More than one life lived

Interview