My family is from Naples, but I was born in London and have lived here with my parents my whole life. I speak Italian fluently, but only really use it at home; I speak English everywhere else. I’ve been to Italy lots of times on holiday, but my regular life happens here – I went to school in north London, and I am now at university in Surrey.
So I feel more at home in England than I would in Italy. But my home life isn’t exactly British. My parents, though they’ve lived in London for over 15 years, are still tied to their Neapolitan roots. My dad, a chef, cooks most of our meals at home – they are often traditionally Neapolitan such as Parmigiana, and lots of pasta based dishes.
I’ve also learnt Neapolitan dialect from my parents, and sometimes find myself using Italian hand gestures in English conversations. At Christmas, we celebrate by eating Panettone and recreating the Nativity crib scene at home with ‘il Presepe Napoletano’ — just like every family in Naples.
Yet what has shaped me most as a person has been my home city. Growing up in London, I’ve been immersed in a buzzing world of culture and creativity. I’ve been surrounded by world-class museums, living history and incredible theatre productions. And I’ve discovered a passion for Victorian London, absorbing the works of authors inspired by the city, such as Charles Dickens and Robert Louis Stevenson.
London, to me, also means diversity and tolerance. There are more than 270 nationalities and 300 languages spoken here. Most of my friends grew up here like me, but their families are from Portugal, the Caribbean, Turkey and Pakistan, to name just a few. And although many people have chosen London as their new home, they continue to share their culture through restaurants, food markets and celebrations such as the Notting Hill Carnival.
The annual Pride in London, a festival that celebrates the LGBTQ+ community, is another great example of our city’s diversity, and something that makes me proud to be a Londoner. The city’s multiculturalism has even made inclusive movements like Black Pride possible.
However, I’ve also realised that tolerance does not necessarily equal acceptance. Some of my friends have been subjected to racial slurs in London, and I’ve read about similar experiences on social media. There’s actually been a rise in religious and racist hate crime across London by almost 20 per cent over the last year.
I’m still grateful to have grown up in such a diverse city, while experiencing Italian culture and language at home. Spending all your time around people who grew up with the same culture could lead you to believe that their way of thinking and behaving is the only way to be.
Growing up with an Italian family has definitely played a part in helping me not to judge people for thinking differently, and to consider how their culture may have shaped them.
The mix I experience around me every day – of ethnicity, language, religion and more – along with my own Italian roots, has definitely allowed me to respect and appreciate other cultures a lot more, and has developed my love of languages and my desire to travel and learn about cultures that are different from my own.
The prejudice and discrimination that occasionally arises has strengthened my belief that Londoners need to work hard to live up to our image as a multicultural capital. Everyone who lives here – whether they were born here or arrived only yesterday – should be made to feel at home. The culture and diversity that have shaped me so much should be everyone’s to enjoy.
This article formed part of our project, ‘What makes us British?’ A project by Haringey teenagers, allowing more young people to explore the topic of British identity, and to express their views on Britain in the world.
for making this project possible.