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Tommaso Magistrali is a 37-year-old Italian from Jerago, a town in the province of Varese, not far from Milan. Since May 2007, he has been living in Erkrath near Düsseldorf. “It is starting to get serious now, after 7 years,” Tommaso says with the typical ironic Italian smile. He is one of those migrants whose story clashes with the stereotype of the desperate guy leaving his country to make a living abroad.
“The crisis had no influence on my choice at all. When I first left Italy I had a degree in law and a well paid job – I was a consultant for a big insurance company,” Tommaso says. “And Mélanie, my wife, who’s French-German, was working in a luxurious hotel in the center of Milan.”
“When we were told that there was a Fachwerkhaus on sale in Erkrath, Mélanie and I decided that it was the moment to change our lives. And we took a leap into the unknown.”
The couple refurbished the house and transformed it into the Bed & Breakfast Gästehaus Wahnenmühle. “My wife takes care of our B&B, but I help her in the morning and at the night, when I’m free from my other job in the logistics department of a software company.” Tommaso and Mélanie’s B&B is an example of how non-Germans who come to Germany can be a resource and create jobs. The French-German-Italian couple restored an old house and recently employed a German worker. If the business goes well, they might hire more.
Tommaso’s family can be largely defined as “European”. He and his wife have two children, Chloé and Mathis, who now go to a German school. “They already speak Italian, French, and German. I guess English will be easy for them,” Tommaso says with a proud smile.
“I feel European, we all feel European. Moving out of my home country simply opened my mind. And the fact that I often travel with my family is a positive thing.”
However, cultural gaps do exist. “The two cultures can learn from each other. Germans have some qualities that we Italians lack and vice versa.” For example: our relationship with rules. If Italians are famous for their tendency of going against the rules, Germans are the other extreme: without rules, they seem lost. “If a German comes across an unexpected situation, he’s likely to start panicking. On the other hand, we Italians are well trained to handle crazy situations,” Tommaso says laughing.
Tommaso also describes his way of handling German irony when speaking about Italian politicians. “If there’s one thing that annoys me, it’s being asked about Berlusconi.” Even though the era of il Caimano is reaching an end, Tommaso talks about comments from Germans with some bitterness. “I usually respond very rationally, saying: if I have been living in Germany for seven years and I do not feel comfortable commenting on German politics or history, then how can you comment on the Italian situation?” An answer that usually works very well, Tommaso says, again with his Italian smile.
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