It’s about time I started writing about life working and living in Italy. The reason I haven’t yet is mostly because, well, before I was living in Maldives. THE Maldives. Pretty difficult to beat. But I really thought that living in Italy could top it! Still- I’ve only experienced a tiny little piece of Italy– so DO NOT take this post as a generalisation of life living and working in Italy! It’s just my personal experiences of the town I currently live and work in.
I’ll start with where I live. Anyone reading this and thinking about living in Italy, definitely go for it- just don’t move to a really small town during winter, unless you enjoy the extremely simple life (and the cold) which I’m finding really frustrating and mind-numbingly dull.
Back in December I accepted the job offer to teach English “in Naples, surrounding areas” or something along those lines. As you can imagine I was super excited to live in one of Italy’s famous cities; Naples, a sort of long-lost cousin of Rome’s, not quite yet 21st century but bursting with history and life. Turns out I live in the surrounding areas, which I should have expected. Why didn’t I actually research anything properly before heading out here? Lesson learnt for next time.
So, I’m currently living in Somma Vesuviana. You can Google it if you want, but next to nothing comes up. It’s… alright. I mean, it’s not awful. The people are extremely friendly and are always starting up conversations when they realise I’m a foreigner. There is some kind of a community feel, but I don’t really feel part of it. Like, everyone knows each other and that kind of thing. Oh, and if I ask them if they’re Italian, they almost always say “no”, they’re Neapolitan, while I’m here saying I’m from London rather than Essex, simply because it’s easier! No-one seems to know where Essex is, so saying so kinda disappoints them. However if I say I’m a Londoner, I get great big smiles.
It does, however, only take around 40 minutes to get to Naples. There’s a train service called the Circumvesuviana (pronounced Chur-cum-ves-oov-i-ana), which has 4 lines- the Yellow line, which runs from Naples to Biano, the Red line, which takes me to Somma and ends up in Sarno, the Blue line, which runs from Naples to Sorrento, and the Green line, which runs between the Red and Blue lines, starting in Naples and ending up in Sarno via stops along the Blue line.
The train comes in handy as I work in three different towns (didn’t know this until a few weeks into the job…) – here in Somma, then in San Giuseppe and St Anastasia. On the other hand, the train is pretty infrequent, sometimes not turning up at all. The last train from Naples back home leaves at 8pm*- so forget crazy nights out. There are a few pubs and bars here in the town, but I haven’t managed to make any friends yet, seems the whole expatiate community are over in the city and befriending locals is very difficult, mostly due to the language barrier. Maybe if you can speak Italian, you won’t find this such a problem.
*Take care when taking the last train home. Sit as close to the front as you can, otherwise you might find yourself surrounded by pot smokers or crazy people (there are SO MANY AROUND HERE). A colleague and I took the last train home from work a couple of weeks ago and a police man came into our carriage, showed his badge and asked us to leave. Next thing you know he’s arresting a guy sat next to us for carrying a massive knife. *Shudders* I heard the train has been voted worst train line in the country. Be careful!
If I was on my own here I’d be lonely as hell, but P’s around to keep me company thank GOD. We decided we’d give living together a go after having been in a long-distance relationship for way too long. He packed is bags in Sicily and met me a week after I’d moved here. That week was probably the longest of my life. Winter sure is cold in Italy, I was expecting it to be much warmer. Now it’s sort of Spring and in some ways it’s worse than Winter- one minute the sun is scorching and you don’t need a coat, then the wind bites you in the face and the air feels so icy! It means every single day I’m either blowing my nose, coughing horrendously, sweating too much or dying from a headache, or all at once.
My company helped me find a decent enough apartment (though kinda covered in mold). It’s on the first floor and has a good sized kitchen/dining room, a large bedroom and a bathroom with a shower cubicle. The road outside is noisy as cars drive up it constantly but the shutters mean that during the night it’s okay. You can’t leave laundry out to hang like they do in all the postcards and movies as the endless traffic makes the clothes smell all dusty and dirty, like a car’s engine. Wish I’d have known that before I spent all morning hand-washing a load of clothes! (no washing machine).
Oh but the worst thing about the apartment, and the town generally, is that you can almost never get any phone signal. I sorted out a SIM card with TIM (which I’d advise against, seems like the shop assistant keeps over-charging me…) but I can’t actually get any signal in my house. P can’t get any signal either and he’s with Poste Mobile. It’s surprising how much of a big deal it is, I mean, we get on without signal as we’re relieved to finally be together. But it’s hard for me. I used to blog frequently and read 10 or more travel blogs and articles a day. I’d see the News and understand what’s going on in the world, as well as on Facebook to keep up to date with family and friends. I could send emails whenever I needed to or check my bank balance or Skype friends for hours, Google some random thing that was on my mind, order stuff to get delivered, listen to new music, watch videos and movies…… on the positive, it means P and I have acquired some pretty insane communication skills. Since there’s barely anything to do we just spend all our free time being together. The rest of the time I’m at work (which has taken over my life) but I’ll come to that.
It’s great spending all our free time together, but I can see P misses his friends back home. My friends are scattered all over the planet but I miss having friends around to meet up for a coffee and chat, or go out with in the evenings, or have sleepovers with or crazy parties or nights under the stars. I’ve made friends with my colleagues and we go out from time to time, maybe once a month, but it’s important to have friends outside of work. It means I miss my old life a lot, as well as my family. I worry that the younger ones will start to forget about me a bit. I topped up my phone so I could call them but the call barely lasts 5 minutes and you’re out.
My hobbies a few months ago were blogging, scuba diving, island hopping and a bit of photography. Now what? It’s terrible I don’t have any hobbies. Hobbies give you passion and keep you focused on what’s really important. Without anything to do, it means my life basically revolves around work, as it seems to be for the people around me.
Now, I’m not a massive complainer. This post is a bit of a bitchy whine because I’ve been keeping it all in for the last 2 and a half months. But around me I see constant bitching and complaining, it’s horrible! I always say that if you’re not happy, just go. Nothings forcing you to stay anywhere. The other thing I try to remember is something a friend told me when we were discussing people who move abroad but just complain constantly about the country they’ve moved to; that they simply can’t adapt themselves to a different way of living. I’m lucky in that I’ve had some experience living abroad so Italy isn’t the problem here, Italy is wonderful– the museums, the art, the magnificent views and the delicious food! I don’t care about the crappy train, I’m just glad it exists so at least I can get around easily. I don’t care that everything shuts on Sundays, I just have to remember to go to the supermarket a different day. It doesn’t matter that it’s freezing, England would be a hell of a lot colder.
I’m grateful to have had the opportunity of living in Italy (as well as with P) and to have another experience which helps me grow, both as a teacher and as an individual. However- it’s not my favourite place in the world and with all of the working hours and the lack of a social life or much travelling, I’ve lost my balance.
Still, I’m happy to be able to come away from this experience with some lessons that’ll help me in the future.
(Which I hope could help you, too!)
1. Choose children/teenagers or teenagers/adults to teach. NOT ALL THREE.
Teaching 13 different ages and levels of English is too much. One minute I’m singing The Wheels on the Bus to some 3-4 year olds, then teaching difficult grammar structures and very advanced vocabulary to adults of a high level, then talking about holidays and Present Perfect with 13 year olds, then teaching family vocabulary to 7 year olds with “I have got…” then Future with ‘going to’ to 11 year olds, then days of the month, telling the time, occupations, past simple, OH IT JUST NEVER ENDS. I spend the entire day thinking about work, planning and preparing for work, and working. Then when I sleep at night I dream about work. About lessons I’ve already taught or about ones I’m teaching in the week. Nothing much happens in the dreams but they seem to last for hours and hours and hours. I just can’t clear my head- thoughts bounce around from a book that I need to photocopy, some flashcards I need to colour in, homework that needs marking, and to students in general. If I didn’t know that I was finishing here in a couple of months, I think I’d lose my mind.
2. Move somewhere warmer.
I hate the cold. All week it’ll be lovely and sunny- then on my only day off it’ll piss it down with rain. Saddy 🙁
3. Live somewhere more vibrant.
Small towns always seem really cute and idyllic in my mind. Like something you see on a postcard. I must remember that the reality isn’t really all that. Unless it’s somewhere you can really explore, like you can go hiking or something and make friends with the community. Otherwise you’re just stuck somewhere where all you do is go to work and come home and start going insane.
4. Make more effort to learn the language.
P has been teaching me Italian for a little while now but it’s not really sinking in. I seem to forget everything shortly after the lesson. I’m too shy to try and speak Italian in public (which is stupid, I know). Knowing the language would help me settle in and make friends- it would also make watching TV or going to the cinema (with all the Italian dubbing) far more bearable.
5. Have hobbies and go out.
Join a dance class, a language course, a cooking class. Join a gym or a walking/running/hiking group. Go sightseeing in your new home, try the local pubs and restaurants. Don’t stay locked up at home, no matter how exhausted you are. Sunday is my only free day in the week and I try and force myself up and out the house. I’ve visited Naples quite a few times and tried out some different pizzerias. I also took the train over to Sorrento and Sant’Agnello which I really enjoyed as they are by the sea and the weather was wonderful. A few weeks ago P and I visited Pompei and had a lovely time, despite the constant rain. I’m sure no matter where you live, there are hidden jewels waiting for you to discover!
6. Don’t get frustrated about it being different (or in my case, disappointing).
That’s why you moved abroad, right? To get away from the normal and the mundane. Unfortunately the normal and the mundane have followed me here. The important thing is to try not to get frustrated and unhappy. Either you can leave, returning home or going some place else, or you can stay and try and turn things around. I only have a short contract, 5 months, so it would be ridiculous to leave after just a few months. I’m not really content here at all but in the classroom I’m happy. The work experience is good for me and the challenge at least keeps me on my feet.
7. Opportunity is everywhere.
Some of you know that P has been struggling to find a decent job now for a long time. He didn’t know if coming to Naples would help him or not but he took the chance. He’s since been offered several different positions- including one with my school! He’ll be given loads of support and training and a good 3 months worth of teaching experience- who knows, perhaps it’ll help us both in finding work in the future!
8. Overlive but never overwork.
Something I’m not sticking to right now.
9. Take care of your relationships
I need to make more effort in keeping in touch with friends and family. I also need to be sweeter to P- I’m always taking out my stress on him, the poor bloke. You learn very interesting things about each other when you live in each others pockets. I never realised P was so conscious about cleanliness. He washes his hands very frequently. He also gets terribly moody without a coffee during the day. Before I’d be like, why the heck are you acting so moody, what have I done? Now I know my love just needs a coffee. So I’m really glad P and I have had this time to get to know each other more and strengthen our relationship so that we know what we’re in for when me move abroad together or go backpacking around. It horrifies me when I hear friends of mine want to get married or buy a house together before having ever lived together!! Don’t be a fool!!
10. Be happy