I moved from the UK to a small town in Southern Italy (Puglia) to take a position as an English teacher in a private school. I’ve been living here almost 2 years.
Living in a small town, there’s a distinct lack of expat activity! My boss and my two colleagues are native English speakers, but that’s it! If you go to the bigger cities in the area you can find more expats and there are Erasmus students too. But in my town, you’ve got to reach out to the locals!
The first challenge I faced here was the language. I didn’t speak a word of Italian before I arrived, and therefore I knew that gaining a circle of friends (or even communicating on a basic level!) would be difficult. The locals are friendly however, and show you respect if you try and speak Italian. They are warm, generous people who all look out for each other. I have yet to establish some really strong friendships, but I’m getting there!What do you like about life where you are?
The southern Italian way of life is very laid back. The people are friendly, the weather is incredible (although we recently had some weather which was just too hot!) and the food is outstanding (see my food comment below!) My town is in the countryside, so the landscape is lovely and I’m also not far from the sea and the Gargano, which is a beautiful part of the country. I also have a great job as an English teacher at a small, private school.
What do you dislike about your expat life?
It’s not a dislike exactly, but learning the language can be quite tiring. I am much better than I was when I came and I do have a great sense of achievement about how much I’ve learnt, but some days it does tire me out, and all I want to do is chat away in English! Living in a small town can also take its toll every now and again. I am definitely a small town girl as opposed to a city girl, but sometimes I do crave the excitement of a bigger city (although I wouldn’t ever move to one!) I also miss my family and friends in the UK.
What is the biggest cultural difference you have experienced between your new country and life back home?
There are quite a few! Many aren’t too significant however, as in they don’t create any real challenges. For example, driving here is much more, how can I put this? Erratic compared to in the UK! Drivers don’t indicate and parking is horrendous. People never queue, or at least, they are very bad at it! Punctuality is also an issue. If you are a very punctual person then you may have a hard time getting used to the fact that hardly anyone is on time. Ever! The idea of the family is different here too. Men and women live at home until they get married (so this can mean well into their 30s) and the family unit is very tight. The best cultural difference is the laid back lifestyle however. You are almost required to take an afternoon nap!
What do you think of the food in your new country?
What are your particular likes or dislikes? Italian food, in my opinion, is absolutely fantastic. I seriously can’t fault it. The southern Mediterranean diet is great- particularly the abundance of wonderful olive oil in this region. Of course, the pasta and pizza are excellent, and the dolce and gelato are to die for. But Italians are also really good with meat and fish dishes. My favourite dish has to be the Parmigiana. And something I dislike? Actually can’t think of anything!
What advice would you give to anyone following in your footsteps?
Italy is a great place to live and work. Whether it’s the great food, abundance of interesting history and culture, even the fashion, Italy has something for everyone. The language, although fairly difficult to learn, is beautiful. An important thing to point out however, is the difference between the north and the south. They are almost like two different countries. Working ours, pace of life and even weather vary greatly. And if someone was thinking about moving to a small southern Italian town, I’d say go for it. But make sure you research the town first. I’m really happy in my town (99% of the time- see above!) but others, while they may enjoy the great weather, fantastic food and relaxed lifestyle (like do!), might find themselves struggling without a real expat community.