The Raw Reality of Expat Life in Small Town Sardinia

So, you want to live the dolce vita in a small town in Sardinia? Eat handcrafted gelato in the middle of an August heat-wave and sail away on the Mediterranean Sea forgetting reality exists?

Sounds pretty awesome, right?

La dolce vita or the sweet life has a very colourful, sour inside. In this post I will step out of my comfort zone, to show to you –  the endless Italian dreamer the sour side to paradise.

There are no beautiful photos of pristine perfect beaches or snow-capped mountains or even ancient alleys that lead to paradise. No, this post is raw facts about living and working in a small town in Sardinia, Italy.

I apologize in advance to those that come here seeking a squeaky-clean image of life, in small-town Sardinia with umbrellas and forever sunshine, but there are two sides to every coin. I find it a great injustice if I don’t share both sides of my coin here, at My Sardinian Life.

This is my story.

I have lived and worked in Sardinia for the last four years and most of the time it has been the clichéd dolce vita that we’ve all read and dreamt about.

It has also been a struggle financially, emotionally and at times physically.

I’ve written about it several times in the past: My Expat Job StrugglesMy Expat Lives | Celebrating 4 Years in Sardinia, Italy, and On Being an Expat in Sardinia, Italy (where I chronicle the four countries I’ve been an expat in.)

The grass is not always greener on the other side.

Living the dolce vita in small town Sardinia is, at times unethical, unfair, and immoral. This is the dirty truth.

Now let’s get started.

What is The Italian System? Il Sistema

The word system is used a lot in Italy. You will hear it in cafés, in the piazza, supermarkets, and even on the nightly news. Il sistema.

Don’t try to understand the system, or change the system, or even ask intelligent questions about the system. And if you don’t like the system, leave.

The system doesn’t have any definitions or guidelines.

The system is administration, paperwork, politics, bizarre laws, straightforward lies, and being paid many months after a job is finished. It’s a chain of events which leads you on a trail of frustration.

The system is asking a relevant question and being told to go ask someone else, which turns into a wild goose chase.

The system is anything Italian that doesn’t make sense ethically but you are expected to understand and accept without question.

The system is working 12 hours a day and getting paid for 6.

The system is getting paid outrageously low wages.

The system affects locals and expats alike. No one is immune from the system.

My Expat Job Struggles in Italy

In a previous post, I listed different jobs prospects and different struggles I faced. Here they are again for a quick review; with an update following.

**All terms and contracts were something that I agreed to. I also expected them to abide by the contract(s) which they drew up.

Travel Planner/Secretary

I waited for this job since March and was told each week to come back the following week. This was the job that I wanted with all my heart. It fit me perfectly and I knew I was the right candidate for the job. I’d been told that I had this job, so why the runaround?

The Update

No contract, no insurance, 6 days a week and €5.00 an hour.

It was a nice job, in a nice office with a nice view. The only reason they gave me this job was because I camped out in the office for a few weeks until they said yes.

Days would go by and the only thing that kept me company was the spiders and my Kindle. Did the boss come into the office? No. The boss’s boss? No. Did anyone care to share vital information with me about this job? No. It felt, just, really … strange. Like they dropped me into a pit of snakes and hoped I would get eaten alive.

I didn’t get eaten alive, but I got a better job offer, or so I thought.

I left this job to work in a hotel as a waitress. I’ve been patiently waiting for my three weeks pay, for the last 2.5 months.

Waitress in a pizza restaurant

The first two interviews were fantastic. I had the job hook line and sinker. After waiting a week for Boss to call I went into the establishment and spoke with him. Boss was rather surprised to see me and somewhat flustered that I was even there. I asked when I can 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 told me they had just hired someone, and she was there that same night!  I told Assistant Boss that Boss told me to come on this day. Assistant Boss called Boss and I overheard Assistant say “Oh, you didn’t know Jennifer was coming?” When Boss finally arrived it felt like Boss didn’t want me there.  Boss could not look me in my eye and spoke dialect when conversing with the staff.

The Update

No contract, no insurance, €900 a month, 8 hours a day, 7 days a week for four months.

I bumped into Boss in an administration office one morning. He asked me if he could call me for summer working hours, two months after my first-weekend trail and he’s curious if I can work for him! This is the guy that forgot he hired me!

I boldly told him “NO.”

Hotel Reception – Front Desk

This was a new job for me, a job I have never done in my life. I thought it would be nice to change things up from working as a waitress. The interview went well and I was told that the first two days would be “testing” days.

I was in over my head!

Trying to do a job I had never done before 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 conversations.

It was a demanding high-volume job and I truly appreciated the trail run. I now know what I need to improve on: speak more Italian in the home, study more and forget English existed.

The Update – Hotel Reception – Front Desk

A four-month contract, full insurance, 6 days a week, 8 hours a day, €1500 a month.

The first time I tried this job I knew I was in over my head. I admit it. I have plenty of hotel experience, but I have never worked reception, in Italian! I failed. They told me. I was humbled. Thank you.

I have over 22 years working experience in the Food & Beverage sector and can wait tables with my eyes closed. It’s what I do; it’s what has enabled me to travel the globe endlessly. And I like it. I asked if there was a position in one of the restaurants in the hotel and hoped they would call.

They did call, and this is what happened …

Hotel Restaurant Waitress – Chef de Rango

One month contract with the possibility to sign on for another two months, insurance, 6 days a week, 6.40 hours a day, €1500 a month.

I liked this job. I really did. I even liked sweeping and mopping the floors twice a day, every day. Heck, I even mopped and swept under the tables and chairs!

The clients were fantastic, my co-workers were fantastic and we got to eat gelato at the end of every shift. Oh, and they also fed us breakfast, lunch and dinner (which we had to pay for, about €5.00 a day or €140 a month.)

As the days wore on and the pounds slipped away I found myself realizing that I was working 9 hours a day, sometimes ten, every day. Not the 6.40 hours stated in the contract which they drew up.

I was curious to know if they paid overtime, so I started asking questions.

My Mother always said: “No question is silly, you are only silly if you don’t ask it.”

These are just some of the responses I received for asking my question:

  • That’s just the way it is.
  • That’s the system.
  • If you don’t like it leave.
  • It’s always been like this.
  • That is how they pay.
  • There are people who would kill to have your job, are you nuts for asking this question?
  • They don’t pay over time. They only pay the 6.40 hours.

The list could go on, but I think you get the point.

It was demoralizing, demeaning, and utterly unbelievable.

The first two weeks went swell, I lost twelve pounds, found new awesome friend-clients that live on the mainland, and I ate my fair share of homemade pistachio gelato.

One evening after a very busy shift the restaurant manager asked if I could work the following day. It was my scheduled day off, and after 6 days working 9 hours a day, I was dead tired. I was careful in my approach; I wanted to show him how much of a team player I really am. GO TEAM!

Our conversation went something like this:

Me –“It’s my day off.”

Manager – “Yes, but you will work only half a day. Just the dinner shift you will work. It’s still a day off, see; it’s only a half shift.”

Me – “Um, ok. When will be my next day off?”

Manager – “Oh, don’t worry. We will give you another half day to work as your day off.”

Me – “But … working a half day is not a day off.”

Manager – “Sure it is. Instead of working breakfast and dinner shifts, you will work only one shift. It’s a half day. And your next day off you will work another half day, just one shift.”

Me – “How is working a half a day considered a day off? I’m still here working?”

Manager – “Because you only work 4.5 hours, not 6.40 hours.”

Me – “I work 9 hours a day, every day, never 6.40 hours.”

Manager – “And, so?”

Me – “Fine. I will work tomorrow.”

At this point, I could not fathom what he was telling me.

How is working 4.5 hours considered a day off?

I went in for the shift, it went swell and I ate two bowls of pistachio gelato that night.

Around my 12th day of working in a row (remember 9 hours a day and I forgot to mention no air-conditioning as it’s an open-air restaurant. Ah, fresh hot boiling air. Awesome) I became sick during the night, both ends were exploding.

It wasn’t pleasant and I dragged my butt out of bed for my 6am shift the following morning. GO TEAM!

Everyone commented on how sick and pale I was looking. Really … no kidding, eh! I survived and didn’t eat any gelato that evening.

I was finally feeling up to par to ask the restaurant manager about my contract.

Our conversation went something like this:

Me – “Can I speak in English?” (As he always spoke to me in English.)

Manager – “No, I prefer Italian.”

Me – “I’m curious about my contract. It states 6.40 hours but for the last 28 days, I have worked 9 hours a day. 4.5 hours in the morning and 4.5 hours in the evening.”

Manager – “Oh, yes! Your contract is not right.”

Me – (thinking things will turn out positive) “OK! The new contract that you want me to sign; can we change the hours from 6.40 to 9 hours a day?”

Manager – “No.”

Me – “No?”

Manager – “No. that’s just the way it is.”

At this point, I had enough.

(I feel it’s important to add that the restaurant manager was just doing his job. He is not to blame for the shortcomings of my contract. He works the same hours as I, often more and I’m positive he makes only a few hundred Euros more.)

Me – “Saturday will be my last day.”

Manager – “Ok.”

I managed to work the next two days; at this point I had worked 14 days in a row, 9 hours a day and they only pay for 6.40 hours a day. An extra 20 hours a week was stolen from me.

Yeah, GULP!

On my last night, it was a showcase of extraordinary affairs. At the end of each shift, we gather around the manager’s desk for a slight review of the evening and this night was no different.

Manager – “Things went swell, everyone had a great time, and you, you and you need to move faster.” Etc., etc. …

Restaurant manager turned to me: “Can you do me one favour, please? Please? Please? Just one favour?”

Me – “A favour? What?”

“Can you work tomorrow, just half a day? We really need you?”

Invisibly I rolled my eyes in the back of my head.

Me – “I have just worked 14 days in a row. Tonight is my last night, I told you two days ago. I’ve been sick with vomit and other not so nice things.” I almost started to cry, I was weak, tired, and sick of all the games.

He turned his back to me and said flatly “So.”

Me – “No, I will not work tomorrow. Tonight is my last night.” I turned on my worn out heel & walked out.

Seconds passed when I heard a co-worker scream my name “Jennifer, the manager wants to speak with you!”

He. Wants. To. Speak. With. Me? Now what?

I walked back to the pow-wow at the manager’s desk. He promptly handed me a Comunicazione Licenziamento document to sign.

What is a Comunicazione Licenziamento?

It’s a dismissal notice.

Wait a second … I didn’t get fired. I QUIT!

I told him I wanted a photocopy, he obliged. I signed it and turned again on my trusted heel and left the building. This time no one followed.

So why did I decide to quit this job knowing there are no other job prospects knocking on my door?

  • It’s demoralizing to work 9 hours a day and only get paid 6.40.
  • It’s unethical.
  • I can’t suck it up and swim.
  • It’s impossible for me to agree to these terms after signing a contract stating otherwise.
  • I refuse to believe in the system.
  • I was not informed before I signed the contract that they did not pay overtime.
  • Working a 5-hour shift, on your day off, is not a day off. And you can’t recuperate it by giving me another half day to work.
  • I need, require and want one day off a week.
  • I will not give you 20 hours of my free time, each week. I’d rather watch snails crawl.
  • I am not one for hypocrisy and contradiction.

This doesn’t just happen to me. It also happens to my husband who was born here, his uncle, his uncle’s second cousin, our neighbours and even the little ole woman who sews patches on school uniforms.

Everyone says that it’s normal, that it’s the system. That it’s just the way things are done in a small town.

Normal? It’s normal to overwork and underpay employees when the unemployment rate is so high?

Hire more people, the jobs are there.

I’ve been free of work for almost a month; I’ve had plenty of time to reflect on the nonsense and scandal I may have created. And you know what? I don’t care; I don’t care for the reasons listed in the bullet points above.

What I do care about are the thousands of search enquiries My Sardinian Life receives each month searching for:

  • Jobs in Sardinia that people don’t want
  • Expat jobs in Sardinia
  • Cost of living in Sardinia, Italy
  • Jobs Sardegna
  • Living in Sardinia
  • Moving to Sardinia
  • Life in Sardinia
  • Sardinia expats
  • English jobs in Sardinia

What I hope to do is create a bit of reality for those looking to move to a small town in Sardinia. It’s not easy and at times it’s not fun. The last thing I want to do is discourage you from living your dream. If your dream is to live and work in Italy, then live your dream, dream your dream. Just keep your eyes wide open before you pack your bags and hop on a jet plane.

Living the dolce vita is a cliché. The grass in Italy is the same colour in Canada, America, Brazil and the world over.

In life, there is always sweet and sour and the only sweet that came out of this was the nightly bowls of pistachio gelato.

I feel it’s important to add … I virtually know of several expats who have lived the dolce vita in Sardinia for two, five and ten years. They are successful in their work and happy with the choices they made. But, I believe it all depends on where you decide to lay your head.

These are just my honest experiences and feelings and I hope it puts into perspective the reality of being an expat in small town Sardinia.

What are your thoughts?

118 thoughts on “The Raw Reality of Expat Life in Small Town Sardinia

  1. Hello Jennifer, I am from Sardinia and after so many years living happily abroad, I moved back to the Island. I fully understand from where you come from and my main rule in here Is to stay clear from Italian companies. I had terrible experiences with them, they just want to exploit you. I am determined to find a remote work from a foreign company. Have you tried to do so? I still think that if you have a decente job, Sardinia is a good place to live. Just the beautiful beaches and gorgeous lifestyle are not enough to put food in your belly.

  2. It’s lovely the way you guys describe and talk about this place like your luna park,if you ever come over here bring respect first of all and stop hyping it,we don’t need this kind of.shit.over here,other than that you’re welcome.

  3. Pingback: Ollolai, Italy: The small Sardinian town selling homes for €1 «

  4. Hey Jennifer

    Fellow expat living in Sardinia here 🙂

    I’ve been living in Sardinia for 2 1/2 years now – 3 months in Tortoli during winter (don’t ask) and the remainder in Cagliari.

    I definitely know what you’re talking, I have local friends working in hospitality and restaurants who complain of the same problems – Restaurant owners here know people are desparate for work and are real arrogant b******s, so think they can get away with treating people by the ‘system rules’!

    However, and I really don’t mean to offend you, is working in a restaurant really ‘living the dream’?
    I know back in the UK, foreigners work longer hours for worse jobs for very little more, but without many of the positives Sardinia offers, so is it really that bad?

    I am in the very fortunate position of owning my own business, so work my own hours – albeit at home, at a restaurant, or on Poetto beach. For me life here is pretty amazing.
    I have made some really great friends, I love the food & drink and the carefree way of life that this beautiful little island paradise offers.

    So yes, the points you raise are very true, but there is a real lack of work throughout Italy, not just Sardinia, and ‘the system’ is not great, but if you can overcome this, Sardinia has many positives to offer and life can be incredible.

    Hope you have found something that works better for you!

    Where in Sardinia do you live?

    • Hello, thank you for the great comment. It’s nice to meet a fellow expat in Sardinia, we are seldom, and scattered.
      I don’t recall saying that working in a restaurant was ‘living the dream,’ I haven’t re-read this old article in a while. For some people, maybe working in a restaurant is a dream, heck, it’s been my only provider for many, many years. It’s a job I enjoy and take great pride in.
      Presently, I am without work, and back living in Sardinia (I was in Canada for 2.5 years, working in a restaurant). Life is amazing here, I have no gripes with that.
      I live up in the north, do you ever make it up here?
      Hope you’re enjoying these amazing September skies.

  5. Brutta esperienza ma che conferma quello che penso. L’Italia è un posto dove stai bene se non hai bisogno di niente. Forse va bene per chi gode di una buona pensione. Un espatriato da un paese con redditi più alti forse può trascorrere una buona vecchiaia. Non è certo un paese dove venire per cercare un lavoro, dal Canada, poi, mi pare autolesionismo puro. Oltretutto qui i padroni fanno quello che gli pare, come del resto credo facciano anche negli Stati Uniti e in molti paesi europei. Ma in Italia la maggior parte di ciò che accade risponde al detto: “si fa ma non si dice” e pochi vi diranno la verità.

  6. I agree about your comment on how life is just as green as in whatever country you’re in. I live in Spain and the beaurocratic hoops I’ve had to jump through here are insane as well. My bf has his Italian passport so we have been thinking of moving abroad, so it’s nice to hear about truthful experiences and not just the sunshine, beaches, and gelato 😉 Thanks for the post!

  7. Thank you for sharing! I hope things got better for you since. This all reminds me another country and what happen to a lot of people out there. Romantics of the surroundings and the truth of living can be far from each other. I hope more people will read your story and will think with a cold head before going to the “greener grass”. xx PS: Have you met any cats in Sardinia?

  8. Hi everyone, I’m from the uk and hoping to retire to Sardinia this year with my partner who’s Sardinian, It’s scary for me but also exciting, thought I might give it a go, can always go back to uk if doesn’t work out, but weather does not appeal at all. Looking forward to a new life, but are there pitfalls to retiring over there I.e financially / taxation etc, I want to rent out my uk home and will I be able to get my uk pension when it is due in about 10 years time?

  9. WOW. Finished reading the comments now. My google search was “things to know about setting up a small business in Sardinia”
    Seems I’ve got a lot more reading to go with plenty more blogs from time gone by, and looking for the positives.
    My dream is simply to live in a what I see as a nicer more relaxed place to live than in the UK where I have spent my life so far.
    The blog was superb and raw which is just what I was looking for as I need to hear it raw before making a decision. My wife and I are both in love with Sardinia and have been for some ten years now, since first visits.
    As one of the comments said, when we are in love, we are blind, and I think we are in love, so Sardinia blind. I have the opportunity to work for a Sardinian company but I’ve worked self employed in the uk for 20years and am used to making my own way. Good or bad.

    Anyway, CONGRATULATIONS on your superb blog and I’ll be reading more to catch up. Sorry to hear you’ve headed over to Canada. Actions speak louder than words. Gulp.

    Good luck

  10. Hello Veronica
    I was very interested to read your comments about how you see Sardinia and the comments made by others.
    As you are a Sardinian woman with worldly experience and an open mind, would you be able to find a similar job job for me in Sardinia in regola, like the one in the UK? That would be great! 😉. Also, you suggested a holiday in Sardinia..are you kindly offering holidays to anyone who wants to come? That’s such a great selling point ….😄

    Joking aside…Having read the misunderstandings between all 3 of you, I felt a bit disheartened when I read your reaction to a few negative points made about working in Sardinia. Your reaction highlights exactly the problem Jennifer was pointing out (which makes me feel it goes deeper than we think). Closing down, lashing out and being angry about a truth doesn’t help a situation. Acceptance, opening up and change does though.

    • Good afternoon, and thank you for stopping by and commenting. I agree with your points that lashing out and being angry doesn’t help a situation, in fact, it just makes it worse.

      I’d also like to point out that bullying of any kind on this forum will not be tolerated. Whether it’s directed at me or any of my long time followers (of whom I am fiercely protective of, as they have greatly supported me and this site from the get-go.)

      • Hi there Jennifer

        I agree …(although quite why bullying should exist at all on such a great, informative and interesting blog as this, I have no idea! I guess is takes all sorts.). But I wanted to thank you for opening up and sharing such personal thoughts and experiences. It’s truly appreciated.

        Anyway, I have only just started following you and you are already back in Canada! I wish you every happiness with that decision. Like many others, I, too, am thinking of moving to Sardinia (having lived in the north for a short time about 10 years ago!). I also have that “pull’ which always brings me back in my thoughts and dreams, over and over again, to Italy. I have visited Sardinia a few times now, it is such a beautiful place, full of such beautiful people. You gave it such a good effort to create a life, with the added advantage of having a husband ( and a house!) from the area…it makes me question the possibility of having any success!!

        Anyway, I look forward to reading about how your life progresses…

  11. You wrote ” It would be unfair if I only spoke about the bright side of life here”, but you only spoke about the negative experience you’ve had in Sardinia. I am a Sardinian woman and I know life is not easy in the whole Italy, and I’m perfectly aware of all the contradictions of the Italian system, but you know what? The problems you talked about don’t exist only in Sardinia, they exist everywhere. I had the same hotel experience you had, only in England and guess what? I encountered exactly the same problems! So don’t make it a big deal about Sardinia, but about the mentality that people have in some working places and about the system that you can find everywhere in the world..

    P.S. Oh, and as they told me in England “If you don’t like it, leave”.. I left!

    • Hi Veronica, thank you for you kind comment, and I truly appreciate your advice about, if I don’t like it then leave. There was never a big deal made in this post about Sardinia AND if you’ve followed my posts, in the last six years, you will have seen how much I have written about this fabulous land and it’s people. This just happens to be my experience and I have every right to talk about it. If you don’t like my blog or my posts then, leave.

    • Veronica – Paradise on Earth does not exist. If it did, the lineup to its visa office would wrap around the globe a couple of times. Every place in the world has its pros and cons. Sardinia’s pros, Jennifer has profusely written about them, over and over again. Cons, she has just devoted them a couple of posts out of several hundreds (correct me if I am wrong, Jen).
      Me, personally, I would have added another dozen. But hey, Jennifer is in love with Sardinia, and when you are in love, you only see the good sides. As for me, I am wearing no pink shades, so I say it for what it is: Sardinia’s job market is exploitative, unfair, abusive and corrupt. End of story.
      And if it turns out that the UK job market is like that too, then I’ll say the exact same things about the UK job market. But I have a feeling it is not (again, correct me if I am wrong).
      And since we’re at it, let’s add another con: the presence, on the island, of a few annoying individuals who cannot take criticism, and are truly, honestly convinced that Sardinia IS paradise on Earth. (Which should make them a lot less bitter and miserable in the first place, anyways.)

      • Alberto – I appreciate your support over the years, and thank you for your two cents when it’s due. 😄 I’ve written countless posts on how awesome Sardinia is and very few on her negatives. Thank you again.

      • You know, before replying to a message you should read it properly. First of all, I never said and never believed that Sardinia is paradise on earth, YOU came up with that. I am in love with Sardinia but this doesn’t stop me from seeing the several problems we have. Second of all, I’m far away from being a bitter and miserable person, which you appear to be, actually! In fact I’m very happy in Sardinia. As for the UK market, yes, IT IS like that too, since I experienced it and with me many other unfortunate people.. End of the story?! 😀 You sound very arrogant and pretty frustrated, do something about it! Maybe come on holiday to Sardinia, I think you need a bit of rest 😉

      • Well aren’t you the most pleasant person. Like you said in your first comment ‘if you don’t like it, leave,’ I question why you still come round here? Thus far you’ve called me miserable, bitter, arrogant and frustrated…is there anything else you’d like to add to that list of names? As far as I’m concerned all of the above is verbal bullying and, bullying is not something I will tolerate on this blog, therefore please don’t ever return here, you are not welcome.

      • My last message was not for you, it was for Alberto, who attacked me in the first place. You should have realized it. Bye

    • Veronica, I have a New Zealand woman and have been living and working all around Europe (including Italy), South America, North America, Asia and Australia. My base was in UK while working in a European role, and I have to say I have never experienced a problem with pay in 18 years despite being a consultant -the contracts are watertight. Having hired many people over the years across Europe, I have seen delays in payment in UK but “never” someone not being paid. I have seen this in Italy, again and again…

      If you look at ANY international ranking on corruption (which I needed to do in my job), in 2014 Italy is nearly “always” the highest ranking country in Europe on the corruption scale. It is a fact, not fiction. Everyone in the Italian management team was desperately trying to “transition” to use Germany or UK as an employee, and many did. I think after seeing how the rest of Europe operated, they felt – quite rightly cheated and frankly just had enough of the corruption, dishonesty and double play that is accepted culturally in Italy.

      But listen, this is the thing… Its frustrating as us foreigners think of Italy through movies and our short holidays as IDEAL and dreamy and romantic and ohhh so full of gaiety and laughter and passionate people, and the truth is its a serious place with often serious people, barely a glimpse of the modern world in society (its antiquated beyond belief) and corruption (taken as a given). I have a baby with an Italian man, we left Italy and will return perhaps to Sardinia as it is a stunningly beautiful place, and I would like my partner to see his daughter have an experience of being an Italian bambina… There is the most incredible beauty, warmth, history and an astoundingly amazing culture … I horrify my Italian partners family and friends if i make the slightest negative comment about Italy (I have stopped), so put “sensitive” into the mix and what a time bomb! But unfailing, if you praise anything about Italy to an Italian they will sweep you in their arms, get tears in their eyes and pound you on the back with great gusto..

      Dear lord this country of my daughters. These people. Fascinating, but frustrating.

      So please don´t sound off with a typical Italian retort about the fabulousness of your country and make unsubstantiated and untrue retorts. It is unhelpful. It IS one of the most astounding places in the world. However my Italian partner is still waiting for FOUR companies to pay him, unreal. I had enough, packed us up and took him to try out a few new countries (Aussie, NZ; Spain, UK where he ´was´paid by each place he worked). We are making (and keeping) our money elsewhere, and will rent in Italy.

      Lets get this straight, Italy needs to sort its shit out and start tackling the current corruption that causes posts like this and make tired new mums like me sit up fuming. Note, shrugging shoulders which is the typical Italian response to corruption is going to make Italy go down a slippery slope unless the average man & woman unite and go “UNACCEPTABLE”. I care very much and hope this happens. My daughter has an Italian passport. And my wonderful man and Italian family (all of them) are honest, hard working, generous, kind and humble people to a fault…who are constantly getting screwed.

      Phew. Sorry Veronica, you touched a sore point!

      Jennifer, its ABSOLUTELY better to be working for yourself (try teaching english to children privately, importing something Italians love like Brazilian beach towels), running a tours for english speaking tourists or even renting a small property & hosting on AirBNB. I am madly keen to buy a property in Italy and have a small base there, but we have decided to look down under (NZ, Australia) and somewhere more speculative such as South American Brazil (also corrupt but the country is booming & growing culturally healthier statistically year on year). I loved your post, felt you eloquently and hilariously vented my complete frustration and dismay, but its come from a place of humour and frustration from someone who also sees the incredible beauty of this magical island. You can´t change Italy, but you can change your relationship with it to empower yourself… Good luck in your next country if you do move!! I am a moving expat as well, so you have my full empathy and just remember what a joy it is for all travel experiences, to really start to see a place for what it is, is to start to really know and love a place warts with the beauty. We might have passports, but its all our planet on that note. On that note, I had better go to sleeepppp….

  12. Interesting to hear this perspective. I did not seek out employment living here, but I worked from home online. My husband looked for work when we first moved back. He is from here and couldnt find work either. He eventually found work through elance so also online. I worked as a VA for a blogger in the US. I think you can have the life you want here but you have to work for it right and as you said it falls apart so easily. We walk a delicate balance right now but sometimes I feel like we have one foot here and another foot on the way out because my husband worries so much about the economic situation here.

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  14. I agree I find life here difficult. I worked in a resort for 2 months and I worked 17 days straight with no day off for 1200 a month no over time paid.

    • Ciao Stan,

      Where on the island are you living? I also worked in a hotel and had the same problems as you – so I quit and found a better paid job in another country. It’s not easy leaving Sardinia but I must do it.

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  16. Pingback: Top 13 Reasons I Quit the Italian Job | My Sardinian Life

  17. Hi Jennifer, you pretty much summed it up in that heartfelt post. I’ve been living in Italy for over 20 years, first in Rome working for a Swiss company (on a Swiss salary, enjoyong la dole vita) and since the mid 90’s in Alghero, Sardinia. After several disappointing attempts at different jobs (hotel reception, congress hostess, translator-interpreter), with scenarios not much different from the ones you described, I set up a little Italian language school with a local friend in 2004. The school’s going pretty well but the enormous taxation – INPS, IVA, F24, commercialista, consultente del lavoro, ecc. leave very little for me and my partner. It’s so frustrating.
    And yes, when I complain to locals; I get the it’s the “sistema” answer – take it or leave it.
    But then this afternoon after work and after lunch, I went to the nearby La Speranza beach with my son and our three dogs. I won’t go into how beautiful it was and what a great couple of swims I had, but it’s on afternoons like today’s, that I know why I’m living here.
    I was thinking about your job situation and wondering if you’ve ever taught English as a foreign language? We do Corsi per Residenti from November to March – not just Italian for foreign residents but also English for locals. Why don’t you get in touch.

    • Ciao Nicolalghero,

      Thank you for your comment. Seems it happens all over the island and mainland and not just to me. It’s sad and frustrating but there is nothing we/I can do to change it, unless we leave. But like you said sometimes the view, the beach or the food outweigh all the rest. Thanks for stopping by!

  18. Wow, Jennifer, you really laid out the reality of the “dream life” in Italy. We have our problems in Oman, too, but at least we do get paid, have insurance, and have a house provided by the university. But there are so many other challenges to being an expat. Everywhere. I have spent time in Korea and in Oman, and I believe the problems would sure be a lot more bearable living in a beautiful place with gorgeous weather (most of the time). Or maybe not?? Great post; I love when people share their actual personal experiences rather than talking in generalities.

    • It does even out, I prefer the warm, sandy beaches and the wonderful local produce. The working bit … is a bit difficult right now. There are too many employers who take advantage of their employee’s. Thanks for the comment and stopping by!

  19. Ha! I finally got to the bottom to leave a comment! It was an engrossing post Jennifer so it serves me right. I’m obviously not in a position to know but I suspect it wouldn’t be a lot different in Portugal. The encouraging thing is the amount of warmth and support for you, hon- deserved, I have to say. You never know when just such a post can lead to opportunities and I certainly hope it does. (I just popped over to say thanks and follow you back, and I got sidetracked. I follow you on FB but I miss a lot because I’m only on there every couple of days)
    Sympathise with the issues about monetising the blog. I too am very undecided what to do about our WordPress host and the limitations posed. Best of luck for the future.

    • Ciao Johanna,

      Thank you for your great comment! I’ve tossed the idea around so much about monetizing my blog and I always come up with the same answer: no. I don’t want my readers to be flashed ad’s or me promoting a product or even because I was paid to. I have thought about starting a new blog, with a new theme and niche and monetizing that way but then it seems like work. Like I have to blog. I blog and write because I enjoy it. I am working on book or e-book, haven’t really decided which yet. Probably both; probably more than one. It’s just not the right time for me, but soon! 🙂

  20. Wow so many people have this fantasy of leaving it all for the expat life but you really do show that it`s hard work. I still have that fantasy but you`ve grounded me a little.

    • Ciao Ayngelina,

      If your dream is to live an expat life, please don’t let my post change that dream. Living the dream in another country is a wonderful life changing experience and I wouldn’t change it for the world. It is hard work but the rewards are worth it. It really depends on how bad you really want something, you and only you can make your dreams come true.

      Where are you thinking of going to live the expat life? Maybe I’ve been there and can offer some advice.

      Thanks for your comment.

  21. Oh I feel so bad for you. I love living in Italy but it can sometimes be so…..trying and frustrating. When I tell people back home about some of things that go on here they just don’t believe me. I think it took a lot of courage to speak up for the extra time you were working. Here’s hoping you’ll find your dream job very soon! Greetings from Lago Maggiore! Jill x

    • Ciao Jill,

      It’s strange when we tell our stories to friends and family back home – they just don’t believe it. I think they think we are living the life on top of candy mountain with no stress; eating gelato all day! ARG. It is frustrating but I’m slowly getting used to it now. Thanks for your support!

  22. Thanks for sharing the ‘ugly’ side. Many people think a place is great to live after only going there on a holiday. They forget about the true realities of a different culture. It can be such a frustrating experience as obviously you’ve experienced. You are absolutely right about the grass being the same colour wherever you go. Hope things smooth over for you and your husband.

  23. Well, we are all finding the world value of unskilled labor, and it is not very high. We are finding out what 97% of the world has always known. If you do not have a desirable skill or talent, and can be easily replaced with another nameless, faceless cog in the wheel that will work for less, you will be.

    This is why the Italians laugh at stranieri who come here expecting to have all the pleasures of an idyllic rural lifestyle, but not suffer the same job shortage that natives Italians do. I live in a small town in the Appennines. If you look at the population trends, all of the villages have about one fourth the population they did 150 years ago. Why is this? Because there are no jobs, except agricultural or service jobs, and the native Italian population is more than sufficient to cover these employment needs.

    If you are going to plug yourself into an area that has a surfeit of labor, why would you think that you would have any bargaining or negotiating power? If you want to have the upper hand, you have to 1. Have a skill that is desirable. and 2. Be in a place where they desire it. But, then, I think you know these things. You just wish it weren’t so.

    • Ciao David,
      Thank you for your thought provoking comment. It was never a dream of mine to come and live the idyllic life in the mountainous hills of Sardinia, no, never. Life just turned out that way for me. This is where my husband has land, his dream land, so this is where we must plug ourselves, unless my husband gives up his dream for better opportunities elsewhere but and for an Italian that is a very difficult pill to swallow. I never assumed to have bargaining or negotiating power – one of these jobs came to me, asked me to work for them, all because I speak English. I do have the upper hand – I have a skill that is desirable and live in a place where they desire it – it’s just unfortunate that they don’t see it.

  24. Great post! I was an au pair in Rome for a little less than a month–it was supposed to be 6, but my host family was very difficult to work for. I loved loved loved the city, but I was treated very unfairly–“I’ll need you for a few hours on Saturday morning” would turn into a 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. workday (almost as many hours as a regular workday), then with an hour commute into the city center and an hour back, my entire day would be lost! I could go on forever about all of the little things that they thought I was crazy for, but it’s nice to see I’m not alone on this. I know someone who works for the FAO in Rome and his wife at the American Embassy, and they both love their jobs. Seems like sticking with fellow expats is the way to go.

    • Thanks for the great comment. I can’t say it’s nice to hear that these things are happening even in other sectors of the workforce, but that seems like the way it is. Employers want too much and give very little. What did you do after your month in Rome?

  25. Hi Jennifer, been in Sardinia for 22 years. Brit expat , Sardinian husband and that does help a lot with the system. Yes, Sardinia like the rest of Italy really is a jungle of laws and commas and articles which just contradict themselves but that is because most politicians want to please everyone and are ‘afraid’ of getting someone’s back up and losing votes!!! Hence laws that can mean anything and a heyday for lawyers and court cases that last a life time and suck your blood – never go down that road if you can avoid it. If you have lots of money to spend and can pay for the best lawyers (like in any country!) they can get the law to mean what you want it to mean.
    I agree with many above that the best way to live here if you haven’t got something that they really need ( particular degrees and qualifications that are rare and appreciated – international brain surgeon, for example or you know how to turn stones into gold) would be opening a small business – I say small because that way you are not spending a lot in case it just doesn’t work and you can get financial help for starting up your own business that helps you through the first year. Prepare a good business plan. As you know all about the food sector – I would suggest something Italians appreciate when they go abroad and would love to find in their own country. Be prepared if you start something up that works to get copied by a hundred other people who want a piece of your action – this generally leads then to all of the businesses losing and having to close down. If you have the energy and stamina the best way from failing is being a couple of steps in front of anyone else and using your knowledge of your other culture/s to diversify the business keeping the attention on it all the time. Another good way is getting into things as a team so that you spend little and at first, earn little but as things get better you share costs as well as income and also work human hours and share your dealing with bureaucracy. If your dream is to live in this beautiful island hold on in there and never go things alone.
    Hugs from another expat
    Tina O

    • Ciao Tina,

      Thank you for your lovely comment. It’s nice to see I’m not the only expat who has gone through these ordeals. I’m certainly no international brain surgeon nor can I make gold from granite (however my Husband can … that’s another story) and we are interested in opening a small business and working for ourselves. We are just in the beginning stages of this development, just the raw ideas and working to finish space will take some time. We have the patience and the drive but I need to do something now, make some extra money while we are ‘waiting’ for our business to grow.

      Your comment has brightened a rather grey and rainy day, for that I am grateful.


  26. Interesting read, Jennifer. It’s the same everywhere in Italy although probably worse in the smaller towns.
    I find Italians* to be discourteous. This is true when walking down the street, driving, shopping and working. They have no thought for others (except close friends and family and not always even then!) and it’s nothing personal – it is just the way it is.
    The problem is that to change it requires parents to bring up their children differently; for government agencies to treat people with respect; for people to become courteous even when those around them are not. To be honest, I can’t see it happening anytime soon.
    Just a word of warning; I’ve heard that the red tape surrounding running your own business is really horrendous and the fights you’ve had with employers would be a walk in the park compared to the bureaucracy you suffer as an owner of a business. It’s one of the reasons why so much here is done ‘in nero’.
    I wouldn’t live anywhere else but it is quite testing (although, in my case, I have been incredibly lucky, I know.

    * Obviously this is a generalisation. Not all Italians are the same, of course, in the same way that not all Americans or British or whoever are all the same. But I’m not the only one who thinks this. I love my Italian friends and other than when driving/walking/shopping, etc. the people are lovely!

    • Ciao Andy,

      Thank you for great comment. This is what makes our world such an interesting place. Can you imagine if everyone, everywhere in the world said their p’s and q’s like Canadians or the British? It would be a rather dull and boring world to live in.

      Change requires a lot of time and patience (something which Italy is very used to taking) and like you, I do not see this happening anytime soon. I remember hearing stories of people who fled Italy in the ’40s and ’50s to Canada, the Niagara Region to be specific; they told tales of war, inequality, injustice and the want of a better life. I remember thinking to myself, those many years ago, that it can’t really be like that in Italy … can it? Yes, it can.

  27. Good for you for not just accepting the system and standing up for yourself. If more and more people refused to accept jobs like that working 9 hours and only getting paid for 6.4, businesses that try that garbage might smarten up! I hate when jobs make you feel that you should “sacrifice for the team” and say “that is just the way it is”. Nonsense! And you’re so right that people get this “postcard in paradise view” of life overseas and do not realize that life at times can really be a daily battle. Thanks for this down to earth post. Praying that the majority of your struggles are BEHIND you! 🙂

  28. I am sorry that your job ended in frustration. In my experience when things are tough companies, bosses and the establishment take advantage of people and their good nature. People end up putting up with it because of lack of options… and that is not right. Just last night my husband and I were talking about this with a friend (and sometimes me) in situations were you feel stuck. I am just tired of sucking up, getting more trouble for trying to stand up for what is right, told life isn’t fair, being bullied to be quiet or they make your life a bigger living hell. I am having issues with work now too and dreading the meeting I need to have with my principal… but I must because I am loosing sleep everynight and dreading each day at a job I used to love. Wish me luck. I too sometimes feel you need to speak up and hopefully this time someone is listening.
    Kudos to you for being so brave!

  29. Jennifer, your post is FANTASTIC. I have been complaining, describing, writing about these things to my Cdn friends over and over again — and pointing them out incessantly to my Sard friends as well. But your level of detail, and your ability in describing your different states of mind, that is unsurpassed Jennifer 🙂 Wish I could translate it all into Italian (or excerpts of it) and publish it. (Your signature of course.) And btw, very important: DO NOT buy the “That’s the system” BS. It’s a system they have built, and they keep it up because they profit from it. Historically, Italians (and Sards alike) have been able to change the system overnight, when and if they saw it fit, and when they could gain from the change. Oh, lastly — very important — go to a bookstore and look for Michela Murgia’s first novel, titled “Il mondo deve sapere”. Tells a familiar story.

    • Ciao Alberto,

      Thank you for your support. It’s taken some time but I am finally understanding things here. I will go look for that book today as I am very curious. You’ve also given me a great idea, maybe I should translate this post into Italian, might take me some time though! 😉

  30. I am sorry to hear what happened with your jobs….it must be so disheartening. i hate the excuse “that’s the way it is/the way it has always been/the way we do it” – I see some of that here – apathy to fight to change. Nothing quite like this though. Yet I feel your resourcefulness in these pages and hope that you’ll find your solution. What about making an app to guide people through some of the pitfalls of Italian living?

  31. This is just amazing to me. 9 hours for 14 days straight AND tried to call you in for work after you quit?! I applaud you for standing up for honesty and communication.

  32. I am very sorry that you are having to go through this… but I appreciate so much your willingness to let us be a part of your thoughts and feelings. When faced with similar circumstances… I always try and remember that I have no control over what others say and do… I only have control over my own response. I cannot change the circumstance… but I can change my perspective on the circumstance. Like the serenity prayer says… “…grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change… courage to change the things I can… and wisdom to know the difference.” That applies to so many situations in life. I wish you my best!!!

  33. Wow Jennifer! It sounds utterly frustrating. I agree that there are many amazingly beautiful places around the world to live yet there are also hardships. I’m sure you enjoy living there more than Canada yet you probably wouldn’t have to deal with this kind of BS there. It is a tough and tricky situation. You are talented and a hard worker. Maybe you need to write a book? Or do something else yourself like open a tourist company for visitors there?

    • Ciao Nicole,

      Yes, the book(s) is in the works. It’s been a dream of mine since I was a child to pen a novel, fiction or non-fiction, women’s travel ..etc. Opening a tourist company would require me to return to school which I have no problem with. But I would have to move 4 hours from my home or to the mainland. I’ve been thinking about becoming a tourist guide for the area and have just spoken a friend who is waiting to write his tests.

      You are right, that if we moved to Canada we would not have to deal with this BS. But … when exchanging our hard working Canadian dollars to the Euro we lose too much.

  34. Wow, that was one of the best postings you’ve written yet. The truth can be tough…thank you for sharing it. I’m sad to hear of you leaving Sardinia (good luck with Cayman) and that it may be temporary, but consider this; although you love it there….the times you described are only going to get worse. Italy is not alone, and all of Europe is in the same boat….U.S. too. If you really want to stay there, and if Cayman doesn’t work out, consider a Southern Hemisphere search….you tend to like summer destinations and when Sardinia weather is cooling off, and travellers and businsess is slowing, it is just getting starting in the South. Australia, New Zealand, South America….you pick. While the world is faced with continued economic turmoil…for some time to come, have you considered a brief stint back home in Canada? You know you will get paid for true hours worked (if you can get work,) and you have friends and family that can help with maintaining lower expenses. I know this may seem like heresy, but after your last few months….maybe time to regroup in a more familar environment will allow you to reset you goals…and find another destination? Just thinking of you. May good luck find you when you need it.

    • Ciao JR,

      Thank you for your kind and informative reply! I am not 100% sure that I am leaving Sardinia, at this point. If I get the job in Cayman I will go. My husband and I have thought about Australia several times but it seems like such a BIG move at our age. My husband is a business man and prefers to work for himself, he had many fabulous ideas on the go at the moment, it’s just finding the right one. We have thought about moving back to Canada, but like I said in a previous comment, when we exchange our Canadian dollars to the Euro we lose too much and in the end it’s not really worth it. I was really hoping that after two years of writing this blog something would have come my way, or I would be off the ground flying like so many other travel bloggers. Maybe I am doing something wrong, maybe I need to be self-hosted. Too many maybe’s. I appreciate your concerns, thank you!

      • Hi Jennifer,

        I’m a fellow expat living in Gallura. Out of interest, would you consider a freelance gig working from home? Or are you more inclined to seek jobs where you can ‘get amongst it’?

        My company is hiring at the moment, we may be able to help with something.

      • Ciao RD,

        Another expat in the Gallura, right on! I would be more than willing to work a freelance gig from home. Do you have more details? Thank you for your kind offer. Looking forward to hearing from you.

  35. Hi Jennifer,
    It’s not only Sardinia and not only in a small town in Sardinia…it’s Italy!!!
    I’m very fortunate that I have a good job where I get paid every last day of the month and it’s all legal, I’m insured, with a contract etc etc… The paycheck is very little (€1500 a month is really a lot in Italy!!) especially as I’m used to the Netherlands. The system sucks big time here!!! Most of the things are not logical at all…. and I can go on and on and on! Unfortunately this is Italy as well what touriusts don’t get to see. They see the dolce vita and that’s it. It’s hard for women to biuld up a life here. Working part-time in this country means working less hours a day but still every day! (That’s no part-time for me!). If you’re around my age (soon I’m turning 32) you can kiss your fixed contract goodbye as they are scared you want to have children! Once you get children they don’t want to offer you a job because you might stay at home if your children need you eg…. On the other hand, I love the weekends in Italy! I have never been able to relax how I can in Italy. I met the love of my life here, the eating culture is wonderful and the nature leaves me breathless every time. What can I say, it’s definitely not paradise in Italy!! But hey, we’re is it??

  36. Good on you Jennifer for being honest about how life can be in Italy. Many people have a rose coloured vision of Italy, but if you live and work there is can be very difficult indeed. I have pointed this out to some people only to be told I am cynical. I love my time in Italy, but dread having to do anything official, because I know I am going to be in for a hard time. Thank goodness I don’t have to find a job there.
    Why don’t you come to visit me in Bagni di Lucca soon. I will be there from 6th September for a couple of months. It sounds like you need a break.

  37. It really is SHOCKING your first-hand account, I think quite possibly it is infinitely harder in some ways for Italians born and bred to grow up in this environment – so many unemployed unable to leave home – down-trodden! I have friends in their 40s still living at home in Italy IMAGINE – I left home at 17! Fingers crossed the money will come to you when you least expect it and need it the most! My dolce-vita is yet to come in Italy but I am hopeful I can get casual work on yachts when I need it.
    Love your writing – and publish that novel!!

    • Ciao Ingrid,

      I also have friends who are in their 40’s and still living at home! And like you I also left home when I was 17 to explore greener pastures. I could not imagine still living at home, how would one find their sense of identity?

      Oh, yeah and that novel … I’ll get around to it one day. I’m not sure really where to start and have feelings of failure like I’m sure many new writers have.

  38. Omy gosh I was so angry to read your mishaps that I got carried away, I’m not offended with your ehm exposure and…Im sorry you didn’t get my point. it’s just my warped sense of humour I suppose – I was trying to be sarcastic . I AM angry with the system AND NOT WITH YOU. Apologies are called for because i’m a Sardinian and I am deeply ashamed that you should receive such treatment and injustice here. It would be easy to justify the behavior of your employer citing the economic slump or general underdeveloped status of the islands weak economy – the sad fact is that behind the mask of these apparently emancipated people remains unfathomable ignorance and lack of respect.

    • Ciao Joe,

      Thank you for taking the time to clear the air, it means a lot to me. They did tell me from the beginning that they are downsizing and wanting to save money this year. That is one reason they hired me … the didn’t have to pay a monthly rental fee for me. This establisment remained over capacity for the entire month I was there. We were overworked, underpaid and treated unfairly. Why could they not just hire a few more people and we all work our 6.4 hrs?

  39. Italy has a history of managers that enslave their staff, propose absurd contracts and let them sign something totally different, pretend to work overtime without even considring extra wages. It is not “a system”, that is just an excuse of the managers, it is criminal. The worst thing isthat it is so common that almost every type of work is affected one way or another. The only real way to overcome this is to feel extremely satisfied of the work you’re dong and therefore you accept sacrifices as a personal achievement in your future, an investment.
    You can always seue them but most of the time it will end on people phoning your e managers and knowing you did not accept to be enslaved, resulting in not accepting you at work.
    My love for Sardinia is just as strong as the anger towards this way of working. And on top of this every professional can realize that most of the managers are not competent enough to run properly a company, actually obliging them to be criminals to overcome their incompetence.

    I know it is an angry post and I perfectly understand it, that is why Italy needs to be changed.

    • Ciao and thanks for the comment.

      I’m not angry, any longer. I’ve accepted it as it is. I cannot change this system or the rules alone and I have no desire to. It is what it is.

      I have no issues with said manager. I actually think he’s a pretty funny guy and have seen him several times out and about. He was just doing his job, doing what he’s been told to do by his higher ups.

      I am very proud of the work I did in that 30 days. And I know for a fact that more than a handful of guests wrote letters of achievement on my behalf to the management. No, I didn’t ask them to write these letters, they told me they had already written them. I had one guest ask if there was a local English bookstore in town, for which there is none. The following day I supplied him with 5 English novels, for free, to keep. That’s just what I do. I’m a people person. But I couldn’t accept the working terms, had things been laid out in the first interview how they should have been, I would not have even started to work there.

      There are people who have been working there for many of year, and they have told me several times “That’s just the way it is.”

      This company was eager to hire me … why?
      English is my mother tongue and they didn’t have to pay my rent for the duration of my employment. They are about saving this year from what I have been told. This I can understand … but … for the 25 other employees that come from all over Italy to work here, their monthly rent is paid for. Strange but true.

    • Is there a system with no exploitation? I’m sorry but when I go back home I see same exploitation with another name. Yeah, you’ll get your salary but woe behold if you have any sick days – you’ll soon see it go down!!!!

      • It’s unfortunate but people all over the world are being exploited. It’s been that way for centuries saddening to say. My dream is for a better and equal world. It’s nice to dream. 🙂

  40. This is such a nightmare. I have heard stories similar to yours, but usually people give up and live with their parents. It’s a pity you couldnt work with a computer from home on some job. I am lucky to be almost retired, so not looking for work-and am sure I oculd never make a living here as a painter. In fact i think it would be better to ship the paintings to the US when I am ready to sell them. The paperwork here is horrid, on all counts, not just for work but for organizing your life (permesso di soggiorno, patente, etc) But yours seems so UNJUST. I dont beleive its jsut because you are a foreigner, as everyone seems affected. And the politicians drive around in government cars and dont pay for gas, lunch, and entertaining-all on the backs of the Italian people.

    • You have so many valid points Janice and thank you for taking the time to let me know.

      It’s not just because I am a foreigner, like I’ve said, it happens to everyone in this area. I cannot, and will not speak nor vouch that this happens with all employers and employees. I am 100% sure that there are decent employers on the island that are willing to pay a good employee. This is only what has happened to me, in my small town. I believe in the larger cities on the island, the system would be different.

  41. …reading that really hurts and the fact that many of your friends comfort you by saying it happens all over the place doesn’t make me feel any better. What I register is the total lack of respect of employers in regards to its personnel, as if years of labourer’s strife in to obtain elementary rights never occurred. Reading your experience just threw me back into the middle ages, i’ve come to consider Sardinia as one of last feudal systems in Europe, perhaps next time round you should thank the Lord of the castle for giving you the opportunity to work for him.
    As for proper remuneration for services rendered…well you didn’t starve to death over these past few months so whats the big issue?? I’m disgusted and being an islander I am ashamed and apologize, for what its worth, for this unlawful inhuman treatment which you had to support.

    • Ciao joesard

      I apologize if I’ve offended you with my post. However, you’ve left me a little concerned. I’m not sure of you’re angry with me for publicly stating what happened to me or if you are angry at how the system treated me?

      I appreciate your comments, all the time. So I hope we can clear the air on this.

      Kind regards

  42. My disclaimer is that I love, love, love living here. Really love it.

    That said, yeah… isn’t it lovely (not) when they try to pay you as little as possible for your effort. Even being self-employed I have had to weed out clients that just don’t “get” that I’m a human and not a machine. Luckily I’ve managed to land some good clients who appreciate the hard work I do.
    Also, when I wear my “other hat” as a travelling tango DJ, I have a very similar experience – I have to be careful about DJing in parts of Italy where I have previously lived: they pretend to think I still live there and try to get away with paying me a “local DJ” fee and not cover travel expenses. As if I’d PAY to work! Puh-lease.

    In any event, I do prefer being self-employed. I do like having the power to decide how my business is run and how I’ll be treated as an employee (an employee of myself…haha)… And after a lot of hard work and patience, things are turning out quite well for me. But it is true what you say: the grass in Italy is the same shade of green as elsewhere.

    Are you happy in Sardinia or would you leave if you saw other opportunities elsewhere (in Italy, Europe, etc.)?

    • self-employment seems to be the way to go Tina! Though I must admit, I myself have opened a partita iva (on the behest of the companies I work for in Florence) and to be honest, the taxes are eating me alive. It’s great if you have a lot of work coming in but not if it’s unsure month to month. I have to pay a minimum amount on the IVA/inps even if I don’t make 14,000 a year which sucks but I do know translators/english teachers that are doing ok.

      I think when you are in your 20’s and 30’s it can be particularly hard since being considered ‘young’ means underpaid and overworked (true for most countries), I am a really optimistic person but I have to admit, this year has been tough for me. Businesses giving the run around and always making excuses about why they have no money – can’t give me a normal contract or just lying. The trick is finding that good employer or those good clients, or working remotely from Italy but for a US based or European company. I have done that for 3 years (but also am required to pay US taxes.. ouch`!).

      • Mammamia, are you paying taxes in both countries??? Thought if you paid in the US you didnt have to also pay income tax here in itlay.

      • It’s a tug of war living here. Between taxes and not getting paid what’s due, it’s enough to leave anyone in a fit! It’s also been a tough year for us, like many others in the country. Like you, I try to look on the bright side of things, always but this year has been so financially depressing.

      • it is hard, to answer the previous question. I have one job that is USA based in which I work remotely and thus pay taxes in the USA for that job only. The other jobs I pay tax in Italy for. No job is taxed twice but it’s a headache all the same. You need to make between 1500-2000 a month to justify Iva-taxes etc and I don’t make that. that being said, like you I love living here and want Italy to be my home. I too have been threatened with non-payment, less payment, late payment, no overtime and everything you can expect. I don’t want to make a lot of money, just enough to support myself and not have to rely on my boyfriend… lets hope the rest of 2012 is more financially fruitful 🙂

      • gginitaly84 – aren’t you under the Regime dei Minimi at your age? That’s what I’m under (though I only have one year) and it helps a lot! It is true though, that you need enough work coming in to make it worth it.

    • Ciao Tina,

      I think that if one has enough money to start a business in Italy, things would run differently and smoothly. I haven’t this experience but hope to one day.

      I am happy living in Sardinia. Like you, I love, love, love, living here. I love the food, people, weather, culture and traditions.But it’s so hard sometimes.

      I would leave Sardinia if I saw better opportunities elsewhere … however, I am not willing to make a permanent move as our house is here. I am willing to work 6 months to a year somewhere in Italy or the rest of the world.

  43. Jennifer I am happy you published this post, it really is useful for those coming to Italy with stars in their eyes to read. I myself have many times been in the same situation, my first job as a nanny in Florence got me paid about 4.50-5 euros per hour when I calculated my monthly wage/hours. It seems like companies have every excuse in the world not to give you a decent contract unless you are willing to be a slave. I have been let down so many times when my visa/life/situation was at stake and it’s just ‘the way it is’ ( hate that phrase). Same for my boyfriend, he worked at a comune job for 2 years, was promised an ‘indeterminato’ by his boss, them even saying it was ‘ready to sign’ on the desk only for them to change their mind days later after he had worked every august – 6 days a week. He left the job, thankfully.
    I can’t even imagine working 7 days a week or even 6! That’s just demoralizing. I am crossing my fingers for you and I know you will get that dream job you deserve even if it’s not Sardinia!

  44. Hi Jenny, great post, it very much describes the situation. I once applied for a job as representative and it came down to having to put in money yourself and only to earn on new engagements and sales, so no risk at all for the employer.

  45. It is like that all over the world.

    I’m contracted for “x” number of hours per week, I put in a few extra hours for prep and follow-up, I put in some volunteer hands-on teaching time each week… and the expect me to put in dozens of hours more per week. When I demand payment for those house, “This is China. This is the way it is.” My reply, “Then stop asking me to do extra work if you will not pay me.” Then I get called a greedy foreigner.

    What I did miss the most about Western countries though, is the ability to say no to extra hours if you won’t be paid for them.

    But then you just have to watch out to make sure that you are not fired because they expected a person to do extra work wtih no pay.

    • That’s the thing, I was never told that we work 2.2 hours extra a day and we are not paid for it. They pulled the wool over my eyes good on that one. And when I finally did ask they told me the same thing I’ve been hearing for years “That’s just the way it is.” It’s really unfortunate and saddening at the same time, there are numerous ppl out of work, who have had to sell their homes, cars, cats and dogs just to survive. People are so willing to do anything, and the employeers take full advantage.

      I have no problem with working a few extra hours … but pay me. And if you aren’t going to pay for extra hours tell me in the first interview.

      • Communication.

        It is one of those things like manners that have jumped on the magic carpet and has flown away.

        That is just it. And that is the “system”. With the number of people out of work, employers can demand more of their staff, expect more, and pay less. Because, people need and want that job. And not say anything in the initial interview.Employers know that people will continue to apply for the job and the turn over will continue.

        It is sad really. But the question then becomes, how can the whole situation be resolved?

      • You are correct on the communication. It’s really lacking in upper level management jobs in this area.

        A few friends, who are from here, have told me in the future that I must make a verbal agreement with an employer about my terms. And that the contract may and will state otherwise, I still must make this verbal agreement (under the table, and hush hush) to get what I want. This is something I’ve never heard of!!

        If I worked 12 hours in Canada, they paid me 12 hours, plus over time. No questions asked.

        Here, I must be sly. Sign my contract for 7 or whatever hours, then speak with management that I will work for only 8 hours a day, not 9 … oh it really just becomes too much.

      • Well not always… I was on salary and had to work extra at times and didn’t get any extra pay or time off in lieu. Once I had to work a 12 hour shift for a day camp in the heat because one of the staff wanted a day off to go camping… when it was clearly stated that you were expected to work 5 days a week. She threw a fit and I had to cover and work her shift and my own. To top it off I had to pay for things out of my own bank account and then it took months before they reimbursed me. When I asked why they had their own system… and that was how it was. Now it was too late and they would have never told me this unless I asked. I was alone at the time (did’t meet hubby yet) and was left short on a few occasions… not to mention all the bank service charges that covering their costs led to me. All I got was a shurg and this is the way it is… and yes this was in Canada! I was stuck… so when they asked if I would cover daycamp again I just said NO!

      • Jen, I was really in the dark about life in Italy as it is one place I have always wanted to visit. How I thank and applaud you for telling the honest truth about REAL life in Italy day by day. We all have that dream you mentioned. Lovely romantic Italy! When you say it is really just like every other place on earth, grass is never greener It is what we naive “dreamers” need to hear. I truly hope you can leave and live an easier life someplace else where you will be happy in a relaxing life style that suits you and where you can raise a family if that’s what you want. May all your dreams come true!
        Cherie, 69 yr. old who loves to travel

  46. What a frustrating and infuriating experience you’ve had. And you’re right, it’s the same for most workers in Italy, Italian or expat alike. If I wasn’t self-employed, I’d never have been able to consider a move here. Are you going to keep looking for work? Anyway, thanks for sharing the other side of the coin. My friends in the US are under the impression that I spend my days sipping wine in a piazza and gazing at the Italian countryside. Not!

    • Ciao Liz,

      I think a lot of people think we sit in our ancient rocking chairs and watch the dolce vita pass us by. But they are not living the reality to the absurd employments laws, or no laws.

      As for work … I plan to leave Italy.

      • Will you really be leaving Italy? I live in Bogotá at the moment and appreciate the misunderstanding of “living abroad” – my Northern friends think I’m living in paradise, tropical sands, etc. when really I live in a dirty, polluted, and chaotic metropolis of over 8 million. It seems no matter how many times I say I live here, people are always asking “hey, are you still traveling?”.

        I found your blog, looking for info on what it’s like to live there, as I’m thinking of studying interior design in Florence. I’ve just finished Midnight in Sicily by Peter Robb (Aussie expat, lived in Sicily in 70s-80s, if you haven’t read it, it’s informative and interesting). Living in Colombia I don’t think is too far off from living in Italy – they share a great many cultural and political traits. But I’m Canadian and am thinking maybe the chaos will start to get to me and that I should reinvest in life in a more stable environment (say, Sweden…).

        Cheers – really great posts!

      • Ciao Liz,

        Thanks for stopping by and commenting. Yes, I really live in Italy. I’ve been here since May 2008 and love it. Sure there are times I wish I were back in Canada but those times are so few and far between that I cherish my time here in Italy. Where are you from in Canada?

  47. My thoughts are well done Jennifer for having the guts to write this truthful post. Sure there are positives to living in Italy just like there are negatives. The whole world over has both sides 🙂

  48. Thanks for telling about the thorns as well as the roses. I feel you were very unfairly treated, but then I do not accept Il Sistema either.
    Budget Jan

    • Ciao Budget Jan,

      Every rose has its thorns, you are correct. It would be unfair if I only spoke about the bright side of life here. I appreciate your comment and taking the time to read my article.

      Thank you.

  49. Hi Jennifer, what a terrible experience. Unfortunately I believe also on main land Italy things are the same. I guess the only way to survive in Italy is by setting up your own little business … not that that is easy, but in the end less frustrating maybe.
    Good luck in finding a new job or maybe getting a good idea to start on your own!

    • Ciao willemijn,

      Thanks for the well wishes. I agree that I think it’s best to start up your own business in Italy, even though it may be frustrating to begin with, I think in the long run it would be much better than to have to work for someone else. At this point, I am not in a position to set up my own business, but I will keep trying.

Your comments are greatly appreciated, thank you.

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