Being a Brit in (southern) Italy
I had always known that I wouldn’t end up in the UK. I was born there, I grew up there, I studied there and my family and (most of) my friends still live there. My accent is British and I have a great appreciation for queueing and good pub food. I will always be British, yet I can also safely say that Italy is also my home.
I moved to beautiful, sunny, southern Italy just over 18 months ago, to take a teaching position in a small private school, in a small (and not so private!) town. Why did I move here? Well, I hadn’t always wanted to move to Italy, nor had I not wanted to move there. The opportunity came my way, and I took it. And my word am I glad that I did (if the horrid, rainy English summer is anything to go by!) Well, who wouldn’t want to live the relaxed, Italian lifestyle?
My southern Italian town is most definitely off the tourist trail. There are just four of us expats living here: An Englishwoman, an Irishwoman, a Welshwoman and a Scotswoman (no, it’s not the beginning of a joke, but we do occasionally go out to a bar together..) Not having other expats here can make it a little difficult sometimes. There isn’t an expat community to lean on, where you can easily create a group of friends and of course, speak English. So, this meant that I had to get out there, meet people, learn the language and become part of the Italian community. And what a community it is. Southern Italians are not only warm and friendly, but they also love a good chat, a good joke and good grief can they cook! Other things I love about this place? The weather, the relaxed pace of life, the gelato, the weather, the cheap living costs, the pizza…and did I mention the weather?
The cultural differences are numerous. I’ve already mentioned queueing (they just don’t get it!!) But as well as that, eating habits/times are completely different from the UK. Driving is, well, the least said about Italian driving the better. Plus, lots of people smoke here. I’d say at least 80% of all young people smoke, which for a non-smoker can get rather annoying. Oh, and Southern Italians are very catholic, but their real religion is most definitely coffee. The majority of these differences are pleasant, and make life easier/more enjoyable than in the UK. The other differences? Well, let’s just say that you may have to sit two tables away from your new Italian friends if you’re a non smoker. And if you don’t drink coffee? Well, you will.
There are many things that I miss about the UK. I miss my family and friends, of course. Then there are the little things, like pub food, watching Poirot and reading British fashion magazines (yes, I know…but I love them!) However, these little things can more or less be replaced by pizza, Italian Vogue and the opportunity to actually go outside and enjoy the glorious summer evenings, as opposed to sitting in front of the telly (although they do have Poirot dubbed into Italian if I get desperate…)
So would I move back to the UK? Who knows what the future will bring, but for now, la dolce vita is definitely for me.
If you fancy reading more of my musings (or ramblings…) about southern Italian life, you can find me at sunshineandtomatoes.blogspot.it, or on Twitter (@BritInItaly).