First Person: Real Life In Italy
Each month we introduce you to someone who has made the dream of picking up and moving to the Bel Paese a reality.
In their own words they share the good parts, the bad parts and the just plain absurd moments of day-to-day life in Italy.
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I’m Clive Hawkins, 34, and I teach English as a foreign language to adults in a private school. I’ve lived in Sardinia for 3 years and have just committed to at least another year here.
Currently living in:Cagliari, Sardinia.
By way of: Watford, UK.
How (or why) did you get here from there?
I’d grown tired of life in the suburbs of London and had felt that there was a lot more out there than just the 9-5 routine I was following. Therefore I decided to take an English teaching qualification, something I’d wanted to do for years, which has given me the opportunity of working almost anywhere in the world. I chose Cagliari because at the time I had a girlfriend from here so it seemed as good a place as any to start my travels. (Note to self: It really is time I moved on? This isn’t travelling!)
What role did language skills play in your experience?
I arrived here without a word of Italian so completely relied on my girlfriend to help me get through daily life. At the time this was obviously invaluable but with hindsight it encouraged me to be lazy with regard to learning the language because the need wasn’t there. However, even this still left me severely limited in what I could and couldn’t do so after a couple of months I started to knuckle down and was surprised to find it wasn’t as difficult as I’d expected. An almost immediate result was that the local people became more accommodating as they could see I was making an effort.
Your biggest challenge: My biggest challenge was adapting to just how difficult and time consuming some things can be to do here. The infamous bureaucracy you hear about ISN’T an exaggeration! Even with locals to help me I found myself being passed from pillar to post as nobody seemed to quite know what they were doing. You just have to bite the bullet and get on with it and eventually you’ll get all the pieces of paper you need to be legal. Patience really is a virtue here.
What did you do to feel at home or adapt here?
I was very lucky that when I came here I was with my girlfriend and stayed with her family, so I never had the misfortune to feel lonely. Her family and friends were all very friendly so I was never short of anyone to show me around or help me. I’ve since discovered that this is a typically Italian trait. You really would be hard pushed to find more hospitable people.
Also finding a job almost immediately helped, especially one in an English school working with English people. It was good to be able to chat in my own language and be around people with a common culture. They also provided invaluable advice from an English perspective on how to survive. Find your own, but not to the exclusion of the locals or you’ll never adapt!
What do you still have to get used to/learn?
It’s an old cliche but the driving is abysmal. The sheer arrogance of a large proportion of the drivers is incredible. The concept of waiting patiently does not exist and they’re happy to risk their lives just to gain a few precious metres in traffic. In fact this attitude is also reflected anywhere where waiting is involved (not the life threatening bit, unless they catch me on a bad day!) i.e. bars, shops, banks etc. It’s just one of those cultural differences you have to get used to. So as not to get too angry I’ve now found myself doing the same hey, when in Rome!
Compare an aspect of your home town (or other place you’ve lived) to current town.
Don’t get me wrong, as I’m proud of where I come from, but one of the biggest differences between Cagliari and Watford is what happens after dark. In my home town (and I guess this goes for most of the UK) there is a greater drinking culture and inevitably more violence. Here, in Cagliari, people seem to be able to have a good time without getting drunk (some do, obviously, myself included!) and as a result I can honestly say that in 3 years I’ve never seen a fight! (football stadium aside).
Another noticeable difference is how people spend their free time. Here they seem to do more with it, whether it’s playing sport, going to the beach or even just taking a walk to the piazza and meeting friends for coffee. Sunday evening isn’t spent at home feeling fed up that tomorrow is a work day; they are happy because it isn’t Monday yet!
Living on an island in a city by the sea my pursuits tend to be beach-orientated, even if that mostly involves only relaxing with a good book, swimming and chatting with friends. A recently broken toe has put paid to football and tennis (at least that’s my excuse anyway!)
A preconceived notion about Italians/Italy that is not true:
Italian women are ugly and become fat on their 30th birthday. This is so NOT true.
A preconceived notion about Italians/Italy that is true:
They’ll argue for fun but don’t take it personally!
Your response to the following question: “I really want to live here, but I don’t speak Italian or have a job. What do you think?”
Do it. Study a bit of the language before you get here, even if it’s just basic courtesies for shops and bars , you’ll soon pick it up when you get here. As for a job I guess that depends on the individual i.e. qualifications, whether you can come and work for a branch of your current company, what you’d be prepared to do etc.
Try to sort out as much of the paperwork you’ll need BEFORE you get here (if possible) and be prepared to adapt. Finally, don’t be afraid to talk to people ? you’ll find them very open and usually pleased to have the chance to show off their English.
How would you sum up your Italian experience in a word (and why)?
Life changing. (I know it’s not one word but I can?t think of only one, and I’m a teacher! Che vergogna!) Why? Because I’ve become more relaxed, more open-minded, healthier and as a result a lot happier.
Italy’s best kept secret (music, culture, food, way to get round things)
Summer outdoor discos. Great music*, great locations, great vodka tonics and great company. Dancing as the sun is rising really is a lot of fun!
* Joe Dolce, Renee+Renata and Spagna are NOT typical of Italian music ? trust me!
I love your blog! This was very interesting to read. We are considering a move to Sardegna. Do you have any advice for us? Any particular area of Sardgena that you could recommend (to live in) with small children.
I am Italian through my father’s side. I speak conversational Italian. My husband is American and speaks enough to get him through the stores. My two sons are 4 years old and 2 years old.
My husband is a teacher and is going to get the C.E.L.T.A. qualification for teaching English prior to arriving. I am an accountant and might assist my husband in teaching English. We do have some income coming in to support our living expenses. Do you think we could make it in a small village like Villasimius? We like small town feel rather than large city. I was there in April and loved it.
I am so curious about life in Sardegna. Do you love it there? Do you go away often?
I also enjoyed your blog & would love to follow your footsteps! My mother is from Porto Torres & I would love to do what you’re doing near there. Is there any way I can get information on what I have to do to teach English in Sardegna?
Ciao! I enjoyed your comments regarding life in Sardinia. I too, am currently living in Cagliari. I am American and my husband is Italian born here in Cagliari. We met in America 6 years ago while my husband was working for an Italian company in Baltimore, Maryland. We’ve been living here for almost one year and I really love it. It has been life changing for me as well, however, my job very challenging. This has been my one and only setback towards adapting to the culture. The relationship that Italians have with the job is a bit different from where I come from. I am currently working at Policlinico Universita’ as a nurse in the operating room. I always complain about the job but I am so fortunate to find work here and I am grateful for that. The job has given me the opportunity to really see and live the beautiful “dolce vita” here in Sardinia. Please feel free to contact me at anytime… se voi. If you know of any Americans living here please forward my e-mail.
During the past year I’ve been trying to find information regarding teaching English abroad and what I maen by abroad my intentions are specific to teaching in Sardegna. My parents were born and raised in Sassari and Cagliari and then immigrated to Canada in 1968 when they married. My heart lies in in Sardegna even though my sentiments are rooted to the vacations we had as kids. I’ve been a high school teacher in British Columbia Canada for the past 13 years and would love to take my wife and 2 girls (9 and 11) to see a part of the world they have only heard me talk about. I enjoyed reading your blog and some of the comments written by the readers and would greatly appreciate any information you could give me with regards to teaching in Cagliari or any other connections you might have with other parts of Sardegna as I have family in Porto Torres, Cagliari, Sassari and Nuoro (not to mention areas I’m probably not aware of). How would I get started with setting up connection to this opportunity of a life time.
Clive: For years I’ve wanted to teach English for three to six months in Italy. I have a TEFL certificate, spent a semester teaching English to adults and teenagers in Cuenca, Ecuador (totally enjoyed working with teenagers) , and volunteered for five years teaching immigrants English in St. Paul, Minnesota. Can you recommend anyone to contact, or can you suggest any schools that I can email and inquire about a position. Thank you for any suggestions you might have Clive. I enjoyed reading your blog. Deb Lavoie
Hello, I am writing about a young girl who moves to Cagliari. I thought it was a very interesting that I didn’t know one of Italy’s major islands, but I knew Cisily so I decided to look into it. (Sorry if I spelled that wrong) I found this very helpful and it sounds PERFECT for my story, especially that the people really are hospitabitable and like to argue (my favorite thing to do, ever even if it has no meaning and we’re just kidding :D)So thank you for all the info, you’ve been a great help!
Hello, my husband Caleb(35) and I (30) are trying to venture from the US to Sardegna. He is a welder and I, a teacher. I would love it if you would like to share some of your contact information with me and maybe give me a little insight to life and work. I hope you are still enjoying your adventure there. I look forward to hearing from you if you have time and are willing to respond.. Thanks so much
Very helpful info! We’re two Americans in our thirties currently living in beautiful Spain and planning a move across the water to Cagliari this fall. We are able to live and work legally in Europe which I know is half the battle for many from the US and we’re also fortunate that we both have work part-time online. Nonetheless, my husband who is a qualified teacher of English and Latin hopes to find at least part-time (or better full-time) teaching work at a reputable school there. He’s recently applied to 2 language schools so we are awaiting a response. I see lots of people on here looking for tips – if they, or you, have any thoughts please contact us at adamspowell then the number one at gmail dot com.
Hello, I’m wanting to teach and live in Sardinia. Could you help me get started at all? I’m a qualified English secondary teacher. Thank you. Look forward to your reply. Faith
Just wondering have you any links for English language teaching in Calgliari?
My girlfriend is from there and we are considering moving there full time from London. I would just like some more perspectives from an expat, thats all
Open to all avenues of suggestion.
my name s Stefano, i live in Cagliari, i would suggest to anybody to move to Sardinia, we have good food, no pollution, good weather, and this island has the most beautiful beaches in Italy, as i love so much United States i would love to make american friends around here, we could both practicing english and italian. 🙂
Great thanks for this. I arrived in Cagliari today to start teaching English on Monday.
I smiled so much by reading this interview! As I’m from Sardinia and I had the opposite experience: I moved from Italy to the UK so everything he’s saying is true, and for me it was in a reverse order. I was surprised when in London cars would actually stop to let me pass when the traffic light was green for me, or I was surprised that people got so angry at me for staying on the wrong side of the escalator (I didn’t know that you had to stay on the right, as in Italy we simply spread wherever we find a place and patiently await to get to the top!), same went for the buses. In Italy now we are getting a bit better, but usually we just enter randomly from any door. In England I was almost eaten alive when I tried to enter from the back door when people where getting off. The list could go on and on! I also have a blog (In English) and this could be a very interesting topic to cover on there! Thanks for the read! 🙂
Thanks for your article/interview responses. I was wondering, how did you work out visa issues?
Hi Clive,I don’t know if you will remember me I used to work with your sister Lisa,and was a bridesmaid at her wedding, very worried about her, is she ok? X
Great read!–thanks. I lived in Cagliari in the early 90’s and will be there with my family from July 5th until late August. Any chance of landing part-time teaching gig in Cagliari? –one that you passed on? I have a BA in English and MA in TESOL–I teach ESL for Santiago Canyon College, just outside Los Angeles. My Italian isn’t great but I get about 75% of spoken conversation. My 18-year old daughter is 100% bi-lingual and will be in Cagliari 4-6 months–in case you know of any odd job for her. Anyway, thanks in advance for keeping an ear to the ground on my behalf. Perhaps we can meet for a pizza or beer after I’ve arrived.
I used to live here in the late 90’s (my wife is from Cagliari but we live in my home town, Los Angeles) but I wonder if you have any crative ideas for my nx project–bringing 10 of my Chinese high school students (studying in LA) for a week in Sardinia. I’m planning on a budget of 25 Euros per day per student for activities. Your thought? (I’m in Cagliari until Aug, 22)
Looking for advice on residency, from what I can see residency comes from marriage, full time employment or study but you have to financially support yourself and not rely on the state.
I am a UK citizen, my girlfriend is Sardinian and we have come back to country to ideally live and for birth of our second son.
Both sons have been born here before returning to the Uk but this time we intend to stay, my problem is residency how do I look into residency before Brexit transition.
I am studying Italian getting by slowly but I need to work full time to be here as a resident ? Problem being I have only worked bars hotels and hospitality including management work which is seasonal here I feel so this would not qualify?
My other thought was to teach English but I don’t think my Italian is anywhere near strong enough yet.
Does anybody know about anybody know about any means to residency or visas that may apply as I don’t want to be kicked out the country away from my two kids and family come the new year.
Any information would be a massive help and hugely appreciated