Having studied German at university and lived there for a year, how does Italy compare in terms of expat life?
Italy is definitely more relaxed and laid back, but I did like the punctuality and efficiency that you can find in Germany. Trains that ran on time were fantastic! In terms of communicating, living in Germany could be said to be a little easier, especially at the beginning, as in general Germans speak very good English. But both Germans and Italians seem to appreciate it if you have a go and speak to them in the local lingo.
I personally prefer Italian food, but German bread is exceptional. With both Italian and German locals, I found it a little difficult at first, as neither nationality opens up to you immediately. But once you get to know the people, they are very accommodating. In southern Italy there is also a very strong sense of family; less so in Germany.
What do you miss most about life in the UK?
Well, I can safely say that I don’t miss the weather… I have to say that, apart from my family and friends, there are few things that I really miss. Although when I’m occasionally back in the UK, I do a big shop at all the great high street shops because where I live in Italy, there aren’t that many. Secretly I also miss food such as pork pie and crumpets too!
Are you learning much about the Italian cuisine of the region?
I am definitely learning through eating, yes! Down here in Puglia the food is fresh and simple, and it’s absolutely delicious. Specialities include orecchiette (ear shaped) pasta, ridiculously good olive oil, tasty tomatoes, potato pizza and torcinello, which is a special sausage made from all sorts of lamb innards!
Have you experienced any local traditions or festivals specific to southern Italy?
Each town here has their own patron saint festival, and in this part of the country, people celebrate by eating, listening to live music, holding processions and perhaps most importantly, setting off fireworks.
I don’t live far from San Severo, which has its festival during May. The fireworks here are nothing short of incredible…but also incredibly dangerous! Aside from the danger of being hit by a passing banger, these festivals are great because the whole town comes together and there is a real sense of community.
What is southern Italy like in the winter?
Quite cold actually. It’s a few degrees warmer than the UK during the winter, and doesn’t get too much rain, but it’s still rather chilly. People don’t tend to go out so much, preferring to stay at home in the evening, or head out to a nice cosy restaurant. As soon as the Spring hits however, everyone comes to life again!
And what is it like coping with the hot summers?
I’m actually starting to get used to the hotter weather during the summer. If it’s between about 28 and 35 degrees C, I’m fine. When the temperature starts creeping up towards 40 however, I seek out the nearest place with air conditioning. Some nights it’s almost impossible to sleep; I think that’s the worst thing about the really hot periods.
The evenings can be wonderful though, as everyone sits outside at bars and restaurants or takes an evening stroll through the park or town centre.
Southern Italy is traditionally seen as more family and community orientated than the north, so what are your tips for settling in and winning over the locals?
Just get involved. There is definitely a huge sense of community here, and while people may be wary of you at first, seeing as you are an ‘outsider’, if you demonstrate that you are willing to become part of the community they will welcome you with open arms.
People here only speak a little English, so it’s wise to get to know some of the language before you arrive. If you can communicate, you can get to know people, and experience real southern Italian hospitality.
Do you think foreigners have misconceptions about life in Italy? Did any aspects surprise you when you arrived?
People say that the food is great…and this is definitely true. They also claim that Italians aren’t punctual and don’t know how to queue…also true! But for anyone who thinks that the only language that people speak is Italian, unfortunately this isn’t the case. Every town, even ones that are only 10km apart, has its own dialect. It’s often similar to Italian, but not always. I didn’t have a clue about this when I arrived, so I did get a little confused!
Do you plan to stay in Italy long-term, or move on somewhere else?
Currently, I think I can see myself living here for a while yet. I love the lifestyle, the weather and the food, and my Italian is gradually getting better. But I’ve always been a keen traveller and often experience a great deal of wanderlust, so who knows!