Weekly Photo Challenge: Selfie

Nothing makes me nostalgic for Canada than receiving super, duper mittens in the mail. I’ll be rooting for my home and native land with these new mittens, and putting my hands up in the air while, watching Canada kick butt at the Olympics in Sochi.

wearewinter by Jennifer Avventura

This is my response to the weekly photo challenge: selfie.

31 Days as a Beach Bar Waitress – Sardinia, Italy

Jennifer Avventura My Sardinian Life Expat WaitressThe long hot hours of work are finally over and I’m looking forward to catching up on lost sleep. Everyday I worked 12pm – 9pm without a day off, as that’s how the cookie crumbles in Sardinia. At times, it was difficult to keep the smile on my face and more often than not I wanted to sucker punch a few guests in the face for stupid remarks. Overall, it was a beautiful whirlwind working at the lovely beach bar Mistral Bar at La Marinedda beach. I met some fantastic people who quickly became friends and I saw 31 stunning sunsets worthy of a painted picture.

Here is a little list of what I endured in the 31 days as a Beach Bar Waitress

  • “Do you live here?” Me: No, I fly in from Canada every morning. Ryanair now offers a direct flight from Alghero to Niagara Falls.
  • “Where are you from?” Me: You have to guess. Guest: Finland, Denmark, Australia, South Africa, England, Bulgaria, Holland, Ireland, Scotland, America … (they never, ever guess Canada).
  • “Why are you here?” Me: I hit the love jackpot.
  • “Wow, what sport do you do? You’re very fit.” Me: I serve drinks all day to idiots like you.
  • “Where are you from?” Me: I’m from Canada. Guest: Oh, you sound American.
  • “Excuse me? But why is the beach half of what it was last year? Did the sea eat the beach?” Me: (mouth hanging open) Uh, yeah, the sea was very hungry this year.
  • A woman walks into a beach bar full of guests eating lunch. She stands naked but for the small g-string attached to her curvy hips and she just stands there… her fake mountainous cleavage obscuring the view of the diners.
  • Three men from Napoli sit down and ask for three beers. When they have finished the first round I ask if they’d like a second and this is the response “well, we can’t eat the bottles now can we?” I quickly retreated behind the bar and popped open three fresh beers and brought them to the table when I’m greeted with “Ma che cazzo – chi ha ordinato questo? What the fuck – who ordered this?”
  • Two couples come in to eat and drink on the busiest day of the month – the Frozen Open Surf contest. They are polite, happy and after three hours one of the men ask for the check. When I deliver the check to the person who asked I am greeted with anger and really, really bad swear words from the other man. He told me that I should have given the check to him, and I’m an idiot for not knowing that. I told him “I’m sorry sir, but I can’t read the minds of raging lunatics.”
  • My Mizuno running shoes kept a lot of the customers talking for 31 days.Jennifer Avventura My Sardinian Life (9) A four-year old girl said “Your shoes are ugly. They are not beach shoes.” People would obviously stare at my running shoes and make all sorts of comments. I had an argument with a marathoner (N.B. never get into a conversation about running with a multiple time marathoner … it will never end) about me being lazy and not training for a marathon even though I told him I have zero interest in running marathons.
  • I cleaned up enough pee on the bar floor to last me a lifetime. Parents … I know it’s a beach but please put a diaper on it when entering a bar.
  • I learned that if you do your job efficiently that Italians do know how to tip.
  • I saw 31 stunning Sardinian sunsets, surfers and a popular Italian minister.

For this year it’s over, and it seems so is summer; I watch a storm roll in over the mountains of the Gallura and rest my weary waitress head to the table and dream of Mom’s chicken noodle soup.

What did you do that’s spectacular this summer?

Travel Theme: Mystical Niagara Falls

I see Canada as a country torn between a very northern, rather extraordinary, mystical spirit … ” – Robertson Davies

(click on any image to view in a larger format.)

This is my response to the weekly travel theme from Ailsa from Where’s my backpack. To check out more awesome mystical photos click here.

To tip or not to tip in Italy?

In one of my online expat forums a few good questions about tipping in Italy were posted: Do we tip in Italy? What is the coperto? Why did the restaurant automatically add 15%?

A tip (also called a gratuity) is a sum of money tendered to certain service sector workers for a service performed or anticipated. Such payments and their size are a matter of social custom. Tipping varies among cultures and by service industry.¹

This is a rare sight in Italy but I found it at one restaurant just yesterday.

Many travelers who are from countries where tipping is customary; and are visiting non-tipping countries are often left wondering – to tip or not to tip? I’ve seen graphs from five years ago, stating that it’s customary to tip 10% (in addition to a service charge) in Italian restaurants. I disagree with this, five years ago and today. We have never left a 10% tip in any restaurant in Italy and I know other Italians who never tip the 10% which is stated in these charts.

To tip or not to tip? That is the question on everyone’s mind.

Do we tip in Italy?

There is really no straight forward answer to this. If it’s in your means to tip, then tip; but make sure that the hotel or restaurant has not already included an automatic service charge to your bill. Read all fine print.

I worked in a fancy hotel/restaurant this past summer and on occasion the customer did slip a few €10’s into my pocket. The tips came from the Brits and Italians – two countries not accustomed to tipping but they tipped anyway. I’ve also worked in a little coffee-house, not one tip, ever.

What is a coperto?

The coperto perfectly translated means cover charge. Most restaurants add an automatic, per person coperto. The €1-3 coperto is charged for taking up space in the restaurant; it goes towards the cleaning of the linens, glassware and sometimes it’s divided among the staff.

In Sardinia the average coperto is €2.50. From up-scale, posh restaurants to Mom and Pop diners with paper place-mats and plastic cutlery will charge the coperto. Be sure to check the small print on your menu. Some regions in Italy have tried to ban the coperto but to no avail. It still exists and people are still paying it.

Why did the restaurant add and automatic 15% to my bill at a restaurant in Venice, Florence or Rome?

The truth – you’re a tourist and they know it. Most locals are not given the automatic 10-15% when they dine in these tourist spots. However it’s illegal … unless it is written in the menu.

What is the difference between a service charge and the coperto?

A service charge is based on the customers discretion of service rendered. The service charge is divided among the wait staff, bartenders, kitchen staff and sometimes even the management. Generally the service charge is an extra 10-15% of your total bill.

A coperto is an automatic charge that goes towards the cleaning and repairing of linens, glassware and taking up space in a restaurant. Between €1-3.

What if the restaurant added a 15% service charge and the coperto?

Be sure to read all the fine print on the menu before handing the menu back to the staff. Then be ready to fight it, if you have it in you. It’s illegal and they are taking advantage of the unknowing tourist.

What to look for on the menu or bill:

Aggiungere – To add

10-15% automaticamente aggiunto per servizio. 
10-15% automatically added for service.

Coperto – cover charge

I have never tipped extra in the 5 years I have lived in Sardinia. We didn’t tip extra when we went to Rome or Padova. Why? Because of the coperto. If we are dining with 10 friends at a fabulous restaurant by the sea the total coperto charge will come to €25. That’s a lot of extra money for cleaning linens or replacing broken glassware. Generally in a posh place the wage it somewhat higher than say a beach bar. Some servers in these posh establishments will take offence at your extra tip.

However – if you find yourself at a wonderful wooden beach bar which is packed with tourists, generally there is no coperto. The staff in these type of establishments make poor, poor wages.

How do I know this?

I was offered to work in such a beach bar this year and was offered the following:

€1000 a month; 7 days a week; 8-10 hours a day for 5 months (May-September is high season in Italy.) Pretty crappy, eh? So, tip that bartender or waitress who has run around making fancy cocktails and bringing you the local beer. They will be grateful.

To tip or not to tip in Italy? That’s up to you – the traveler, businessperson, backpacker or tourist. Just remember to read all the fine print otherwise you may find that you’ve been double charged a service fee.

What is the custom of tipping in your country?

Source: Wikipedia¹
Related articles from around the globe:
How to order like a local at restaurants in Portugal 
How much to tip the waitress in Hawaii

“It’s getting so cold, I wanna put my toque on.” – Coldtober in Sardinia

Cold air. Cold in here. Cold air. It’s getting cold in here. So, put on all your clothes. It’s getting so cold, I wanna put my toque on!” Sung to the tune of Nelly’s – Hot in Here.

It’s not only sunshine and rainbows on the second largest island in the Mediterranean; it also gets cold, very cold. Autummer no longer, ’tis now the season of Coldtober. Coldtober has generally been my favourite month in Sardinia.


Last October we had beautiful Autummer days where we lazed on empty beaches, not a tourist in sight. But this year, this year it’s been a rotten wet and cold Coldtober.

The following photo I snapped yesterday afternoon. We’d just received yet another lashing of torrential rain with a snowy mixture of hail and winds so fierce that it made the hail seem like bullets hitting against the side of the house. It was intense.

Bravely I tried to stick my head out the bathroom window; I wanted to snap a photo of this great tempesta. The hail was unforgiving and the wind relentless. I got walloped in the face with hail, wind and rain – certainly not your expectations of a beautiful blue paradise. Afraid for my camera, I retreated back inside to the warm comforts of my bed and with remote control beside me I popped in a chick flick.

Today – I dress myself as follows. I’m not kidding.

Me and my Canadian toque

Wicked weather all over the world. Just last week I was in a pair of shorts and a t-shirt, we debated going to the beach but instead decided to clean out the car.

In western Canada there was a large earthquake registered at 6.3M which caused a Tsunami alert for Hawaii just 18 hours ago.

In Queens and Manhattan people were told to evacuate as Sandy starts her wicked decent on the east coast of USA and Canada.

What’s going on in your neck of the woods? Are you in Sandy’s path?

Chicken Soup for the Expat Soul

There is nothing like Mom’s homemade chicken noodle soup to cure all hangovers aches and pains, sniffles and sore throats. But getting Mom to cook us that favourite dish when we live across oceans and mountains is asking the impossible.

So, what’s an expat do to? Learn the tricks of the trade!

It is with great pleasure to announce that I have mastered my Mom’s Chicken Noodle Soup. I’m going to share with you how to do it yourself whether you are staying in a hostel in the Alps or are snowboarding in the Blue mountains. Oh – and it’s super cheap too! This is the recipe for you.

Before we get started, I think it’s important for you to know that I don’t measure things, ever. Instead I use the eye-ball approach. How many guests x amount of veggies & chicken = when I think it’s enough I begin to chop.

Chicken Soup for the Expat Soul

You will need:

  • 2 large pots (one for par-boiling the chicken and the other to simmer the soup in.)
  • Water. I usually fill the pot 3/4 full.
  • 1 Flavoured cube like Oxo for the broth base (yes, you can also make your own broth with the water from the par-boiled chicken – but I think that’s gross.)
  • Carrots
  • Onion
  • Garlic
  • Celery
  • Parsley
  • Basil
  • Noodles (I prefer the small thin noodles but it’s not important what you use. I’ve used penne and farfalla in the past.)
  • Olive oil (because life is better with a bit of oil).

Getting started

  • Par-boil chicken for about 10 mins. It’s best to use chicken on the bone.
  • Chop all ingredients to whatever size you desire.
  • Add all ingredients (at the same time) to the 2nd pot of boiled water.
  • Add par-boiled chicken to the veggie pot.
  • Add a splash of olive oil.
  • Stir occasionally.
  • Simmer for 2.5 hours. (Note – this can be made within the hour but the flavours develop if allowed to simmer longer.)
  • Remove chicken from the bone.
  • Add your noodles towards the end of cooking.

Now all you need is a dash of parmesan cheese and your Chicken Soup for the Expat’s Soul is ready.

I made this soup for dinner yesterday evening. And, as usual it was a hit. There were about 8 servings for the low, low-cost of €6.00! Snaptastic! The most expensive item was the half chicken at €3.00.

Dig in and enjoy.

What comfort food from home do you make for your family?

Check out some other expat blogger’s recipes for a cold day:

Pumpkin and pancetta soup via Girl in Florence
Cold weather? don’t worry, re-heat some ribollita via Our Adventure in Croatia

Top 10 Reasons I’ll Miss the Italian Job

It would be a complete injustice if I wrote only about the horrors I faced this year with my Italian job(s). There were a few good points to waiting tables in Italy and I’ve listed them for you in a fun Top 10 List.

Top 10 Reasons I’ll Miss the Italian Job

10. The fabulous multi-cultural clients.

9. The extra €20 slipped into my pocket, every other night.

8. Being offered to sit and drink with clients during my shift (was offered many, many times but never took anyone up on the offer).

7. Nightly raids of the (permitted) gelato station – pistachio here I come!

6. Well-behaved gorgeous children from all walks of life.

5. The Russians. They were hilarious, generous and polite.

4. The blazing orange sun-set.

3. My Italian, Sardinian, Czech, Hungarian and German colleagues. They were all a fabulous bunch of people.

2. Packing take-away lunch and dinner for my husband from the staff dining-hall. The food was good – plus I had to pay for it!

1. Speaking English to Italian clients; speaking Italian to English clients and speaking a mix of both to the Russians. They laughed, I laughed, and we all laughed together. Priceless moments.

What are some of the pros and cons of your expat work?

Related articles:

Top 13 Reasons I Quit the Italian Job
The Raw Reality of Expat Life in Small Town Sardinia

Top 13 Reasons I Quit the Italian Job

I had a job this summer. For 30 days, I was an English-speaking waitress who worked in a buffet restaurant on the island of Sardinia, Italy. Here are the reasons I quit my job.

Top 13 Reasons I Quit the Italian Job

13. Being belittled by an angry co-worker in front of 10 other co-workers because I forgot a cappuccino, on my second shift.

12. Being docked €5.00 a day to eat prepared meals in the staff dining-lounge, even if you choose not to eat with your angry co-worker(s).

11. The corns and calluses were growing on my feet faster than a speeding jet.

10. Working for 5 hours then sleeping for 5 hours – rinse and repeat twice a day, is no easy lifestyle.

9. Losing 12 pounds off my bones in 21 days is a sickly sight. And I ate like a horse – which is pretty usual for me.

8. Finding out that my co-workers’ rent is paid for the 5-6 six months of employment was utterly shocking! No one offered to pay my mortgage – why?

7. Seeing co-workers bringing in their laundry to be laundered by the hotel – for free. (My laundry basket runneth over.)

6. Button down shirts with a fancy necktie and long black pants should be banned, anywhere where the temperature rests on boiling.

5. Working 4.5 hours on a scheduled day off – is not a day off.

4. No over-time pay – say what?!

3. Management asking for English translations on all menus – without pay!

2. Being told to speak only in English when conversing with co-workers. Wait a minute – I thought I was in Italy, the only Italian speaking country in the world. Hey Dorothy – can I borrow your sparkly red shoes?

1. Working 4.5 hours in the morning + 4.5 hours in the evening = does not equal the 6.4 hours which is clearly stated in my contract.

Related articles:

The Raw Reality of Expat Life in Small Town Sardinia
My Expat Job Struggles | Sardinia, Italy

1st International Day of the Girl | October 11, 2012

The United Nations has officially declared October 11, 2012 as the world’s first International Day of the Girl Child.

The theme of this year’s IDG is ending ‘child’ marriage.

Over 30% of girls in developing countries are married before 18 years of age; around 14% are married before the age of 15. Early marriage is a risk factor for early pregnancy and poor reproductive health outcomes. Furthermore it perpetuates the cycle of under-education and poverty.³


Around the World ¹

  • Around the globe, girls are three times more likely to be malnourished than boys.
  • Of the world’s 130 million out-of-school youth, 70% are girls.
  • Each year roughly two million girls between the ages of 5 and 15 are trafficked, sold or coerced into the sex trade.
  • Girls are disproportionately affected by a number of harmful practices, including early and forced marriage and female genital mutilation.
  • Girls continue to face obstacles in access to education and other basic services. 

In Canada ²

  • Young women from 15 to 19 experience nearly 10 times the rate of dating violence as young men.
  • Nearly 70% of victims of internet intimidation are women or young girls.
  • Girls and young women are nearly twice as likely as young men and boys to suffer certain mental health issues, such as depression.
  • Issues of body image and self-esteem remain prevalent among girls.

We must empower our young girls with a healthy self-esteem and the right tools for a brighter future.

We must put a stop to the suffering of a ‘child’ marriage.

If you’ve read this far I highly suggest you read: Canada’s Honourary Youth Ambassador  for International Day of the Girl 2012 – Ms. Alaina Podmorow. She began her quest for change when she was just nine years old. She is now fifteen years old and has won several awards in Canada for her continued support for young girls in Afghanistan. She’s an inspiration for young women everywhere.

Are you wondering what I’m going to do for International Day of the Girl?

  • I will blog, tweet and FB about International Day of the Girl.
  • I will go to my English tutoring session this afternoon and empower two young Italian minds to be the best they can be!
  • I will spread the message to my three young nieces, who, I hope will spread the message along to their friends.
  • I will hold this close to my heart until there is an end to ‘child’ marriage.

What will you do?

1 Sources: Plan Canada; UN Women.
2 Source: Statistics Canada
³ Source: WHO International Day of the Girl Child