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Expat Interview: Speaking German in the Land of Dolce

Today we meet Amy Jones, a British expatriate with an interesting story. Having studied German in the United Kingdom, Amy made a sudden life change and set out to explore life in Southern Italy. Here she tells us how she coped living among people who spoke a completely different language, why honesty is not always the best policy and how a little bit of ice cream can make everything seem perfect.

Can you please tell us a little about your background and what initially made you move to Italy?
I’m a twenty-something Brit, originally from Worcestershire. I studied German at university and now live in Italy, working as an English teacher. (Yes, I know, there’s no sense in that whatsoever!) Honestly, I never thought to myself, ‘It’s my dream to live in Italy!’ but I’m so glad I took the opportunity to come and work here. I had just got into teaching and thought Italy would be a great place to move to. I was right!

Where in Italy do you live and why did you choose that location?
I didn’t really choose the location, instead I chose the job. I knew nothing of Italy and wanted a new and interesting location! I’m currently living in Puglia, near Foggia and near the beautiful Gargano peninsula.

What were your first impressions of Italy? Did you suffer from culture shock? How did you deal with your initial emotions?
I was incredibly excited when I arrived here. My town is traditional and typically southern Italian, so it’s simply lovely. One of the main difficulties I had (and still have!) was the language. I knew no Italian whatsoever, so kept trying to use either English or German phrases. That didn’t get me very far! I was a little overwhelmed at first, but the people here are warm and friendly, so that made it easier. I spent time out and about with my colleagues and tried to get to know lots of people in the area. It took some time (mainly due to the language barrier!) but I managed it!

What are your favorite things about living in Italy?
Where to start?! Typical things such as the great weather, amazing food and out of this world coffee for a start! The pace of life is much more relaxed, and even though people do get things done, they take their time doing them! They are calm and don’t tend to fret about things. They also have loads of festivals, which means not only days off, but also fireworks, parades, and all sorts of other cool celebrations. And the gelato…words can’t describe how good it is!

What things do you least enjoy?
Some little cultural differences such as dodgy driving and the inability to queue properly get on my nerves! Italians can also be a little too relaxed sometimes, and therefore are prone to lateness. They also speak their minds a lot. Of course it’s good to be honest, but sometimes they are too honest! I crave British politeness sometimes!

What advice would you give to someone who was relocating to Italy for the first time?
It depends where they are relocating to. The north is very different from the south- it’s more similar to the UK in many ways. The south is definitely different. Everything from punctuality (or lack thereof!) to mealtimes, trading hours to religion. One of the main pieces of advice I’d give, would be to just put yourself out there, embrace the language and the way of life, even though it may be completely different to your own. Don’t expect that everyone will speak English, or you’ll find a nice little community of expats. If you get out into the community you will get the full, amazing Italian experience. Gelato included!

While living in Italy you started your own blog. Please tell us more about how that came about.
I love writing, and also wanted to share my experiences about living out here. So what better way to do this than to start a blog! I wasn’t too sure what I was doing at first (technology isn’t my strong point!) but I got into it pretty quickly. Blogging has now become a really enjoyable hobby, and I’m happy if even one or two people get something useful/entertaining out of my blog posts!

What sort of topics does your blog cover?
All sorts of things! I write about cultural differences (both good and bad!), local habits, festivals, food and travel, to name but a few!

What three top tips can you offer to expatriates who are considering writing their own blogs about their experiences abroad?

  • Write honestly about what you experience. I love focusing on positive things but it’s also good to mention the not-so-good things every now and then.
  • Take photos. I love using photos on my blog, to illustrate my writing and to really paint a picture of what I’m experiencing.
  • Add links to other blogs and websites that you come across. These can be really helpful to readers who want more information. I like recommending hotels, shops and restaurants via links.

What’s next for you?
For now, I’m really enjoying the Italian lifestyle, so hopefully I’ll be here for a while! In terms of blogging, I’ll definitely be continuing that. It’s a lot of fun and really fulfilling.

And finally, where can we find your blog?
You can find me at sunshineandtomatoes.blogspot.it. Drop by and have a nose around! I’ve got some great pictures of some very tasty dolce… 😉

Do you have an interesting story to tell? If you would like to participate in our expat interview series, please drop us a line.

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