Name: Carlo Anzon
Overseas since: in Vietnam since 1990
Can you name some of the countries you’ve lived in since leaving the place where you grew up?
I was born in Milan, I travelled a lot to many countries but Vietnam is the first nation where I have decided to live for a long time.
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What’s your definition of ‘home’?
Home is the place where I have my books, my collected things and a simple comfort. I need to be surrounded by something that reminds me of my life when I was single in my small flat in Italy. Nowadays is a little different because I am now married and we have two kids. Home is where my family and myself stay.
When did you know that you wanted to stay overseas for good?
In reality, I did not know exactly but different pieces of my life combined together and helped me decide to move on from Milan. A combination of personal and external factors. When I put all the pieces on the table I realized that I could leave. On the table I put only the positive pieces to let me decide easily. I didn’t spend too much time evaluating the negative ones.
Have you discovered any new passions during your time as an expat?
Not exactly new passions but I kept my curiosity alive. In reality, the new passion was the new job and challenges. So I did not follow my hobbies but I concentrated on the new challenges. My own curiosity helped me a lot.
Have you held any unusual jobs or titles over the years you’ve been abroad?
Confidentially speaking, all my jobs that I have done during my Vietnam experience have been quite unusual if I compare them with my previous life In Italy, where I have done more basic jobs and developed a lot of different interests. From this point of view, I like to see myself as Leonard Zelig the protagonist of Woody Allen’s movie. Here a short description taken by IDMB:
“Fictional documentary about the life of human chameleon Leonard Zelig, a man who becomes a celebrity in the 1920s due to his ability to look and act like whoever is around him”
I consider all my official jobs (until 2004) I have done in Vietnam an overvaluation of my real ability or knowledge. Life is a big play where everybody acts on a big stage. For myself, I also took my own role seriously as the Trade Commissioner for the Italian Ministry of Trade, a country manager for a big Italian company selling home appliances and as the Honorary Consul of Italy.
How has being an expat changed your perception of your home country?
Time makes your perception change after many years. Even now, with easy connection to newspapers or other media and thanks to the Internet, I just read the main titles and I do not go too deep. Coming back to Italy once per year, I feel like a “visitor” with the only benefit that I speak still the language. So I listen to the conversations among people in the coffee shops and supermarkets to understand their daily and life problems. I feel that there is less hope than before. There is greyer future perception among all of those in Italy.
Can you think of any particular moment, exchange or encounter that made you mentally or emotionally feel you’d left home “for good”?
Selfishly, I had the chance to meet Vo Nguyen Giap, in his residence for a private meeting. For my generation, he was a myth so I touched the sky with a finger.
Are there any ways in which your adopted country has changed your behavior or thinking significantly?
I am now more tolerant. I developed this attitude in Vietnam. “Showing willingness to allow the existence of opinions or behavior that one does not necessarily agree with.” This definition fits my thinking perfectly.
Is there anything that bothers you about your adopted home?
I discovered that, although people smile quite often, behind the smiles there are hard situations of violence in many families. In particular women and children are suffering and pay a very high price. This could happen in all layers of society.
What’s most surprising or useful insight you could offer a newbie expat in your adopted country?
Float like a cork on a river’s stream. Do not reach the point of “face to face” to solve your problems.
What, if anything, do the expats you’ve met have in common?
Daily issues and simples troubles, mainly because the language and different approach to solve it. As a Western expat, we try always to apply our rationality but these applications do not always match with the Vietnamese way.
Can you see yourself living in your adopted country indefinitely?
Yes. Because of my wife and kids. Although the kids can leave Vietnam for studying or working abroad. I will enjoy more quiet days with my wife.