My Expat Job Struggles | Sardinia, Italy

Landing a decent job in Sardinia is no easy task. Finding a job that I feel comfortable and happy with is proving to be difficult. Last week I wrote a post called My Expat Lives | Celebrating 4 Years in Sardinia, Italy. In that post, I highlight some of the struggles I’ve faced and overcome in the last four years. I’ve decided to write this post in hopes to inform people who Google: expat Sardinia, expat work in Sardinia, expat life in Sardinia and so on.

I’ve received several emails from people all over the world asking me questions about life on this beautiful Mediterranean island. Questions about daily life, working life and language.

There is a lot of competition for jobs on the island at the moment, the unemployment rate is through the roof and the employers are using that to their advantage, by paying the employees a lower wage. It’s a sad state of affairs for the unemployed in Sardinia, now imagine being an expat.

This post will highlight some of the struggles I’ve faced in the last few months while trying out new jobs.

My Expat Job Struggles | Sardinia, Italy

  1. Job One – I’ve been waiting for this job since March and have been told each week to come back the following week. This is the job that I want with all my heart. It fits me perfectly and I know I am the right candidate for the job. I’ve been told that I have this job, so why the run around?
  2. Job Two – The first two interviews were fantastic. The boss was really keen on good communication and honesty. I had the job hook line and sinker. After waiting a week for The Boss to call I went into the establishment and spoke with The Boss. The Boss was rather surprised to see me and somewhat flustered that I was even there. I asked when can I start, he gave me a start day. I arrived on my start day and the Assistant Boss had no idea why I was there. The Assistant Boss asked why I was there as they had just hired another person last week!! I told The Assistant Boss that The Boss told me to come on this day. The Assistant Boss called The Boss and I overheard The Assistant say “Oh, you didn’t know Jennifer was coming?” When The Boss finally arrived it felt like The Boss didn’t want me there. The Boss could not look me in my eye and spoke dialect when conversing with the staff.
  3. Job Three – This is a new job for me, a job I have never done in my life. I thought it would be nice to change things up as I’m getting tired of my old job. The interview went well and was told that the first two days would be “testing” days. I was in over my head at this five-star establishment. Trying to do a job I have never had training in and in a different language proved that I was not the right candidate. I spoke with the Head Manager who was sweet, kind and helpful. The Head Manager told me that my Italian is not fast enough for this demanding job, that my Italian is great for one on one conversations but this is not a job for one on one. It’s a demanding high-volume job. I truly appreciate the trail run at this job and the fantastic people I met. I now know what I need to improve on if I want a job with five stars.
  4. Job Four – My Blog. It’s strange how many people have come out of the woodwork since my interview appeared in the local newspaper. I was contacted a few days ago by someone who is interested in my blog, and they are interested in working with me. We made an appointment for 6pm, I showed up, they didn’t.
  5. Job Five – This job is a 30-minute drive from my town and I don’t drive. I appreciate that The Owner even asked me knowing I don’t drive. This job would have been perfect for me as I would have complete independence. Alas without a license to drive I cannot take this job.

I’ve tried to keep these jobs as general as possible to protect the identities of the people involved. I really just wanted to highlight the struggles I have had in hopes to educate others who are thinking of moving here.

If I were you, I would think long and hard about making the move to Sardinia for work.

Friends, it’s not easy.

Want a job in Sardinia? Top 3 Important Factors in Landing a Job.

  1. Learn Italian – I’ve studied Italian for four years and for a five-star establishment it’s still not fast enough. You cannot get by in Sardinia without a basic knowledge of Italian. You cannot work in Sardinia unless you speak Italian. There are no English-speaking jobs (unless you are an English teacher – but you will still need Italian to communicate with your bosses.)
  2. Compete with others – The job market is slim to none at the moment and the competition is fierce. Can you handle the pressure?
  3. Drive – If you are coming from Canada/Australia your license is not valid. You will need to take the road and written exam … all in Italian, see number one. If you don’t drive and happen to live in a small mountain town like me … good luck.

I hope this post will help others in their decision in becoming an Expat in Sardinia. Life here is not all sunshine and sand, there is a reality hidden under the surface, a reality for which I have just revealed.

What expat job struggles have you faced? Your comments and opinions are important to me.

64 thoughts on “My Expat Job Struggles | Sardinia, Italy

  1. Janice, are you still there, still going at it, or have you moved on? If you’re still there, I’m guessing you’ve tried teaching English, right? (maybe not your cup of tea?) I lived in Cagliari for 4 yrs in the 90’s, starting out as a rookie teacher for 6 months, then branching out on my own with private lessons, which paid much better but was a less predictable income. Through the private lessons, I made other contacts and was offered non-teaching work. If you live near Cagliari and are there this July maybe I could give you advice in this direction. Today, I’m a professional English teacher (with a master’s degree in second language acquisition) at a local college, but my wife and I still visit Sardinia every July…for the whole month! (actually, I’m hoping to pick up a few private lessons this time around as well). Anyway, if you’re around then, you can “pick my brain” for any useful advice I can give you. Either way, good luck…and I’m sure your experiences there have taught you loads of things no school can teach.

  2. Hello Jennifer! I loved reading your blog and the interactions with the other ladies. I am from Sardinia and After 16 years living abroad I had to come home. It is such a beautiful island,rich in traditions and beauty alongside good food, but ufortunately you cannot live with sunshine, the sea, and the mountains. It is a super struggle to find a job and people seem not interested in pushing boundaries and shaking the very old and corrupted status quo, keeping everybody hostages of this malsane system. So my advice is Sardinia is a great place for holiday, but for making a living is a big no no. A small anedocte: when living in London, the rule amongst Italian expat is never to work for an Italian boss…how strange!
    Hugs and postive vibes to you all!

  3. Hi, I read it ur post. But was to late, because I come here to Sardinia. And I am disappointed. The person who hired me promise me a good salary. Min let’s say 1200€, but in reality she paid me 300€ per months. She promise that I will work official,that she will take care of all documents. And after I arrive she told me that she can’t take me official to this job. I am really disappoint. I left my small baby in my country, just to come here and do some money, I trust a person. Now I don’t think that I will trust again some one. But thanks you for your post. Hope others will read it before to come here.

    • I’m sorry to hear about your job struggles on the island. This can happen anywhere in the world if you go only on a promise. You need to have documents signed and sealed before taking a leap of faith. I hope things are working out better for you now.

    • You want my advice? Never ever trust any kinda italian benefactor… In italy are fake benefactor ‘cuz the italian culture is like it’s govenment dirty mind, into crime field often, into fraud or they just wanna get you into some dirty job. Be careful about italians, in their land, and much more in other countries…

  4. Hi Angela, reading your story brought tears to my eyes. I am from Sardinia, but living in London for such a long time now, and I am so sick and tired of it at present. I would love to come back to Sardinia, but the problems you are facing are the same I was facing 10+ years ago. I have to say NOTHING has changed, actually I think is getting worse now. Your experiences with “the boss” feels so unreal and far from other countries reality. I feel kind of ashamed even though I have nothing to be ashamed of. Some people are just so ignorant and think they can go away with almost anything, it is really disgusting.
    You are so brave, and I wish more people like you would take the opportunity to move to Sardinia and maybe create a new strong work force, based on MERITOCRACY and not by “who knows who”. I want to start a business in Sardinia and move back from grey London, but I know I will be killed by the government taxes.
    Angela, you really should get a drive licence and a car my dear, I understand your struggle.
    And please, if you want my advice, don’t listen to what people from your village might say or not say, they will always judge you, so just do whatever makes you happy!
    You are so strong and I admire you!

  5. Hi
    Me and 5 friends are going to sardegna for 25-29 may. We don’t drive and we are looking for a car service to take us where we want. We were thinking about hiring someone with a car for these 5 days and making a proposal. Do you know if there is any service of this kind available?

  6. Reading all the comments on here has been very interesting.Just a little about my self.I was born in the Yorkshire dales UK ,moved to Ontario Canada in 1979 came back 2009 .Brilliant country Canada but came back for family reasons but very happy to say i worked as a maintenance manager in a 5 star hotel and met a very special person, we started out as very good friends ,she was the reception manager so we had a lot of contact with one another.We have now been together for 6 years and very happy together .Anyway sorry where i was going with this that she was born in Sardinia and came over in he early 20,s ,she speaks perfect English .Because her mum and brother are both in Sardinia she goes home as often as possible but because her mum is Now in her 80 she often talks about going back to live there,the thing is that i don’t speak Italian Except the general manners.i Would love to go back and spend a year but it would be hard to get work ,we would have to rent our house out in the UK and decide at some point where we are going to retire,i am 62 and kind of seamy retired doing maintenance jobs here and there i.would love to hear more from English speaking people still living there and even though my partner was born there things have changed a lot has they have everywhere else in the world in the last 20 years and although we do try and go back as often as we can ,2 weeks at a time is not enough time to even travel such a lovely island.

  7. Thank you for this information it is very helpful I have just returned from holiday I love it there.

  8. Amyone (expat) happy out there? It is not easy all over the world, but is Sardinia (i.e. the “global picture” ) so dark as I see it in above portings? I am really interested in this, as we (my family) are quite planning to move over there. Good luck to all of you and thanks for yr comments! 🙂

      • Thanks for the reality check. There was I thinking I’d just show up and it would all fall into place. I’m Irish and was thinking of going to Sardinia to teach English and learn Italian. I heard it’s a really healthy place to live but without work, it would be too stressful.

  9. Hi all , reading this blog has made me giggle and cray both a bit, All the things that Jennifer talks about are actually true and very real sorry to say
    I would like to meet with you if poss,and share notes, I have been here in Sardinia for over 14 years came from London in 2000 and staid here ever since. I was born here thought, Sardinia is much easier to understand for me. Quick back ground … when I was 19 just like all my mates back in 1979 dreamed to go to London so I did and lived there till 2000, it was the best time and was a great City to leave easy to do business too.
    Coming back here was a cultural shock to me even if I was born here I can only imagine how foreigner feels .The island is just fa-bolus, the people ..well I could write a book on this but lets just say this ..I am planning to live in campagna far from it all and closer to the land itself and get to town only when is needed …is the very reason I left London to get closer to natura .
    I have been planning for a while the first eco- sustainable straw built village in the north of island we finally got planning permission near Alghero I say finally because it took me absolutely years to get it !!! and this is one of the black marks to consider for people thinking of moving to Sardinia .
    The Bureaucracy is endless !!!
    ciao a tutti

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  12. Hi, Jennifer, just back from Uras in Sardinia, have a place there, and friends in the village, after 5 years of getting the house ready etc, know just how you feel, very frustrating, our friend is a fantastic cook, and has worked all over the world, but he just can’t get it going on in Sardinia, people are very set in their ways, and there is not a lot of money about , we had a joiner in while we were there speaking Sard of course, our pal translated for us, the joiner said he would learn to speak English if we could get him a job over here, I told him I would learn Italian if he would do the same, but you all seem to have everything going against you, the tax system for a business is ridiculous to us – hope you find your way and live happy, which is the important thing, even though you can’t live on fresh air.

  13. I live in Sardinia too, on the other side of the island. I teach English here and have used your blog in class a couple of times too 🙂 It’s a shame you had to leave Sardinia; it’s a lovely place that obviously suffers from chronic unemployment so I can understand your troubles in finding a permanent job here. You’re not alone! I have numerous friends, both Sardinian and English, who have had to leave because they were fed up of working just a few months a year, if at all. Good luck in the Caymans!

    • Please tell me how you became an English teacher in Sardinia! I’m a qualified secondary English teacher and would love to move to Sardinia. Let me know if you can help me at all. Thank you. I am visiting the island next week.

  14. Hi Jennifer,
    It’s been a while since you wrote this post. Where are you living now? Are you still in Sardinia?

    I can completely relate to the job hunting issues you were having. I am Australian and also English. I moved to Sardinia last year in March to visit my father’s family whom I hadn’t seen in over 20 years, and also to start a new life. To that end, I have lost just over 10kg, become a healthier/more active person and taken up running. I have also been learning Italian and seen heaps of the Island. I have been back in Australia for a month now for work, and plan to fly back to Sardinia in April.

    I am based in Oristano where I have been trying to get a job teaching english. It looks like that might just happen for the start of the school year in September, (fingers crossed). Last year I had very little work except for a few weeks at the Olympics, a short translating job for which I haven’t yet been paid (might end up being volunteer! haha), and some remote work I was doing with an Australian based company.

    I am lucky in that I have been drafting for civil engineers in Australia for over 10 years and they send me work that I can do remote. The GFC has hit the housing market here in Australia too, so even that work isn’t guarenteed.

    Where are you based, (assuming you are still there)?

    I am very surprised that you said Australian drivers licences are not valid. When I did my research in 2011 I found that mine is valid throughout Italy, however you need the International licence to go with it. That’s basically a photo ID with a translation of your local licence into a few languages. In Australia your state Road Service Authority will produce that for a fee. I know a few Australians who have that International Licence. None of them have had to do a driving test or written exam in italy.

    Good luck with your job search wherever you are!!!

    • Ciao Tonia,

      I’m pretty sure that after a year you will need to apply for a regular Italian drivers permit as your Australian one with the international permit is only valid for a year.

      Im based up in the north of the island but am now living short term in the Caribbean.

      WIshing you lots of luck on the job front, it can’t be easy. But finding a teaching job would be the best IMO.

      Thanks for the great comment. Hope to see you around here again. 🙂

      • Tonia, I can confirm that as an Australian living in Italy you need to have an international driving licence to accompany your Australian one. Plus you need to get an Italian driving licence within 1 year of arriving in Italy. There is no way out of this. You need to have a substantial amount of Italian as I believe the test is no longer in English/ Italian as it was. Ideally you need to do this through a driving school for the support and it is not a cheap option.

      • You don’t need an International licence as well as the Australian one. I have never used one or been asked for one, but you do need to get an Italian licence if you have been living here for more than one year, but only if you are a resident. In fact you won’t be able to get an Italian licence without a Carta di Identita. I have been through the whole process and it is horrible.

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  19. If anyone can do this, you can Jenny. I’ve watched you globe-trot and tackle the unknown for years now. You are a fighter. You are smart. You are brave. You are capable. Keep on keepin’ on and never be afraid to kick some ass and take names! (Or take on the attitude of such, whilst perfecting your mad written and Italian dialect skills or mastering the wily mountain roads.

    • Lol! Oh you brightened my day! I am a fighter and I will keep on keepin’ on that’s for sho! Thanks for reading, and commenting and have an awesome time at your all-inclusive!

  20. Hey Jennifer! I left Sardinia today and now I’m back in good ‘ol England..the bf’s been trying to convince me why Sardinia’s such a great place to live for the past 2 weeks but I’ve told him that while it’s nice to visit I wouldn’t want to live there for the same reasons you’ve basically listed.

    My bf’s mum is an ex-pat and has been an English teacher for a really long time. She does both public and private school lessons and always seems to have ppl calling her up for more work. If you’re up for anything maybe what Dianna said is the way to go?? Maybe moving to the “big” city is the key…Olbians seem to be pretty keen on learning English and the mum has jobs teaching both kids and adults “business” English. But…the Cayman’s doesn’t sound all too bad either 😉 good luck!!!

    Oh! A small p.s. I drove around town and it was tooootttalllly fine! I drove a big clunky Opal Astra station wagon and managed not to get into any accidents ;). I imagine if you start off with a smart car it wouldn’t be all too different than riding a bike hehe

    • Ciao Hazel,

      There are certainly struggles for the expat in Sardinia. I know of an English lass who owns an English school in Olbia and I’m pretty sure she’s busy all the time, but teaching English is not my thing. I hope to find my thing soon albeit in Sardinia or Cayman! Im looking forward to seeing some of your photos!

  21. Hey Jennifer I can relate on all levels (including the driving issue) and from your blog you seem to be a positive and resourceful person…so keep the ideas and energy coming and something will come up. What I’ve heard a lot of lately is that people (especially expats) are creating their own jobs. It’s something I’m thinking about (in addition to teaching English privately) and maybe your blog is a good place to start the process?!Anyway, best of luck keeping motivated…at least it’s the summer so unemployed time can be spent enjoying the sun-that’s what I’m planning! Dianna

    • Ciao Diana. Thank you for your support. I have a few ideas floating around reagarding my blog and extra income. But that income is not tangible at the moment, in the future yes, but now no. I always try to keep on the positive side of life, let’s see what today will bring! 🙂

  22. Wow. I had no idea it would be so challenging. Such strange job stories. Aren’t you amazing by the seeming mixed messages you’ve been given? Is that a cultural phenomenon? In India, for example, folks are amazingly inventive in their efforts to avoid the negative.

    • It is amazing Kathy. So amazing that I can’t believe it! There is not much of a positive attitude around here lately, but I think most of Italy is feeling the same way. Im sure cultural influences push along the negative aspects of this global crisis … and it seems that in Sardinia the people are feeling the affects more. My husbands cousin has been out of work for a year and a half. Another friend took a job for pennies, just so he could make ends meet. I try to look onthe positive side of life, always … but it’s been rather difficult lately. I know there are some things that I need to work on – like improving my Italian and confidence when speaking in groups, and getting my license!! It’s all on the list and I’ve been studying…again, and more!

  23. Hi Jennifer, It is super tough right now for work… hence my working and living in China. I worked in child care (daycare) for years and the pay was poor. I had lots of encouragment to go back to university and be a ‘real’ teacher or at least get paid for more. When I finally could afford it I went back and worked my butt off. Everyone loved me that was until I graduated and couldn’t even get a supply job! Seemed you had to know people and have connections to even get an interview! I sympathize with you… it is hard on the self esteem. A friend told me to hang on and eventally it will work out, but I know the waiting sure sucks!

    So hopefully this will brighten your day… my turn to nominate YOU for an award… read more at my blog and enjoy! You deserve it!

  24. Hi Jen, hope you land a job soon. I haven’t been aggressive with job hunting in Italy though I do get occasional freelance work from outside. I guess my best advice is to be adaptive and creative with your possibilities.I imagine it must be much more challenging landing a job in Sardinia than in mainland Italy but with a strong blog and contacts all over the world, perhaps an online job would work. In my short expat experience, it helps to meet new people and see how you may be able to provide something useful for them with your skills. Small things lead to bigger things, in the end its really building good relationships and finding the network that’ll lead you to your dream job. 🙂 Best of luck and you can definitely do it! -Kat

    • Ciao Kat. Thank you for your fantastic comment! An on-line job would be perfect for me here in Sardina, but it doesn’t seem to be working. Freelance … I’m not really sure what to do with that in all honesty. Most people that have contacted me want my publications or articles for free!

  25. Jennifer, I’m sorry for your struggles to find the job in Sardinia. If I can be of any help let me know. As English is my second language it was always a deal breaker when I was looking for a job, even in Poland. Now after 4 years in Ireland I feel very confident about my English skills and I decided to make my life of it. This is also the reason why I’m writing my blog in English. I’ve been living in Sardinia just over a year now and for last 9 months I’m still working in English. I didn’t keep my job from Dublin but I have found a great company for telecommuting job. I’m doing also some Polish-English translations. These work give me the fuel (money) and time to work on my other projects which I hope make me more job independent in the future. If you need any advise I’m here to help. I’m sure your problems will be solved soon! Keep fighting and don’t give up on Sardinia!

  26. This post is very timely for me. I’ve been job searching since November and have only secured one interview. There are just way too many applications for the positions available. I am thankful however that I have full time work so I can wait to secure something that is a good step up. Good luck with your search, seems like such a tough market out there especially being an expat. I may do a similar post about London but I know the job market here can’t compare to yours.

    • Maybe I’ll move to London … it’s closer than Cayman and there seems to be more jobs there. At this point Im not that picky about a job … Ill do just about anything to make ends meet.

  27. I’m sorry to hear that the hotel job didn’t work out, at least they gave you a chance. You really will have to get that licence. If I can do it you can. It was completely hideous, but your lovely husband can help you with the theory, which is the worst part.
    I hope something turns up for you soon, it must be frustrating.

    • Ciao Debra. You are totally right! I do need to get my license, and I can’t put it off any longer, it’s restricting me to this area only. It’s not just the fear of the written and road exam which I must take … but I am terrified of the roads here. They all drive so fast!

      • I second that! After 10 years driving in Ontario (wide open roads, well signed intersections and mostly passive drivers) I am completely unable to get over my anxiety to drive here! I think somehow it’s worse in the villages than the cities in Italy…

      • We are both from Ontario – Yours to Discover! 🙂 I’m glad I’m not the only one with driving anxiety … but I will conquer it!

  28. I completely understand where you are coming from Jennifer. I spoke to some Italians earlier on this year, and they said that you need to know people to get work here in this country, that’s just the way it is, and they seemed resigned to the fact.

  29. Jennifer, I don’t know what jobs you applied for, but if Sardinia had a completely different political establishment, you would be totally “usable”, in the best sense of the term, obviously..
    For instance, you have lived here so you know the place enough to lead tours around the island with English speaking tourists, IF ONLY there was a tourist organization in the island!
    I’ve been fighting and arguing for ages over the need for regional administration to organize an efficient transportation network, you can see how the status of things is.
    Other thing, Sardinia has such a precious and unique natural, historical and cultural heritage, dating back thousands of years, an ancestral beauty no other Italian island has, and much of it is being destroyed by a wild industrialization and militarization that is making the territory a deadly place.
    Sardinia could live perfectly with what nature has provided, with its agriculture, farming and tourist economy, but corruption and military servitude has made it an arsenal and powder magazine that forces its natives to leave.

    • Ciao Angela, I appreciate your comment and totally agree that Sardinia could live perfectly with what nature has intended, that corruption and military servitude has destroyed the dreams of many locals. I have contacted several tour companies on the island asking where and how I can go about getting my tour guide license. No one has contacted me back and no one seems to know the right answers. I have scoured the web in search of information on where to go for the same thing, again all to no avail. Job One is working with tourists and I keep getting told to come back the following week.

      • But this is ridiculous! Let me ask someone on how to get a tour guide license, you could work together with a car/bus driver so also the transport problem will be sorted out. I really don’t envy foreign tourists, I myself struggle with buses here! I’ll get back to you in private when I know something more..

      • Thank you Angela. From what I hear it takes 3 years to obtain the tour guide license, and where in Sardinia is beyond me. I appreciate your help, and I have another appointment with Job One tomorrow morning. Fingers crossed… again. 🙂

  30. I totally sympathise-i know that some friends here are havign problems with changing jobs, and they decided not to-the economy is even worse than in the states. though in the states you can always find SOMETHING. You dont say what type of work you are trying to do but i assume you were trying to work in a hotel? I think there’s a lot of competition for sure. Manual labor is out, right? I suppose there is always work for muratore!!! They seem to be always busy, and have no end to work. I am lucky to be semi retired, so I dont have the anxiety of looking for work-woriking in the states for half a yr until my house there sells. If i were looking for work I think I would start with talking to people who were ‘influential’, with their recommendations….Here, even if you speak Italian, there’s dialect to contend with : (
    I will never get it. Enough to learn better Italian! I wihs you luck with this, and if I think of anything – beyond promoting wine or cheese or olive oil-to foreign markets, will email you. Beyond that, I think it’s a really difficult road to hoe.

    • Ciao Janice. Thanks for stopping in. I decided to leave out the sector of work I was trying as I live in a small town and I don’t want people to think I’m bad mouthing them … when in reality it’s just my life and what I’ve experienced. The five star establishment was in a hotel yes, and they were really lovely and nice it’s just my Italian is not up to speed for what they need and I completely understand. Manual labour is out … but the more I think about it … sure I’ll lay bricks!!!

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