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?

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

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
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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
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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

Canadian Waitress in Italy | Dumb Blondes

Two and a half months ago.

Genoveva bumped into him in the lunch line; he laughed a curious laughter as she introduced herself.  “Mi scusi … Salve, mi chiamo Genoveva.” She held out her hand as a peace-offering. “Ciao. Mi chiamo Andrea. Cosa stai facendo in albergo?” He pumped her hand with such force that she thought her heart might stop. “Sono una cameriera nel ristorante a buffet e tu?” They moved slowly down the lunch line together. Today’s special: Baked fish, roast potatoes, traditional Sardinian gnocchi, sautéed eggplants drizzled in the finest olive oil and seadas. “Sono responsabile della sicurezza, qui da sei anni. Di dove sei? Non sembri molto italiana.”

It was true; Genoveva is not Italian. Even with her slight name change she can’t fool anyone “Sono di Canada. Il mio marito è sardo. Sono qui da quasi cinque anni. Sei Sardo?” She didn’t think he was from Sardinia; his bombshell blonde locks gave him away but his accent was so Sardinian. “So you are American! Right on, we can speak English then. I miss speaking English. My father was born in the south of Sardinia and my mother is from Poland. Sardinia has been my home for the last twenty years. Why are you here, in Sardinia?” She silently punched him square between the eyes and said “I’m from Canada, not America.”

His next response surprised her that she almost choked on a piece of gnocchi. “You’re from North America. It’s the same thing as America. Therefore you are American.”

North America Image via WikipediaHe was right in an odd strange way, but what he failed to realize was that within that one continent are twenty-three very different countries. “No, I’m from Canada. I hold a Canadian passport. I say EH and I had a polar bear as a pet when I was a kid.” Her natural sarcasm had taken hold of her. She could see him pondering the idea of twenty-three countries within one continent, smoke coming out of his ears. “So, you lived in an igloo too? I’ve always wanted to live in an igloo.” Genoveva has never in her Canadian life seen an igloo; with the exception of the travel documentaries she used to watch. She did try to build one when she was eight years old but her polar bear sat on it. “Yes, I lived in an igloo. It’s like, so really cool.” She picked up her lunch tray and bid Andrea adieu and she hoped to never see him again.

Three days later

“Hey, America! How’s it going?” Agitation gripped her as she invisibly kicked him between the legs. “Ciao Andrea. I’m from Canada; remember the igloos and polar bears? We spoke about this just three days ago.” This was one time Genoveva wished she had a super cell phone because if she did, she would open an app and show Andrea the international border line dividing Canada and America. “Oh come on, Miss. America, it’s the same thing.” In her mind’s eye she dropkicked him so hard his Polish head split open on the reception floor; instead she said “I’m late for work. Ciao.” She ran into the restaurant and hoped again to never, ever see his ignorant face.

Today

Genoveva wanted to buy a small token of appreciation for her hairdresser and walked into the local flower shop. “Ciao Anna, come stai?”

“Sto bene, grazie. Cosa vuoi oggi. I’m good, thank you. What do you want today?”

“I would like a small bouquet, as a gift for a friend.”

Genoveva picked out a beautiful long stem bamboo shoot, a sunflower and some beautiful white flowers. Anna wrapped them nicely in colourful paper when Genoveva heard a familiar voice; her skin crawled.

“Hey – Genoveva! How’s it going? The hotel season is finally over; I haven’t seen you around the hotel in the last few months, what happened? I can’t wait to get back to the south of the island. When are you going back to America?” His blonde moments outshone everything about him. “I’m from Canada and I live here in Sardinia. Five years now.” Anna the wonderful local floral lady piped in “Si. Genoveva is from Canada but she’s one of us now.”

Defeated, his smile turned down and his face turned sour; he looked at this worn Adidas and said … nothing. He had memory flashbacks of their conversation in the lunch line: twenty-three countries, one continent – America. The local Sardinian woman defeated Andrea with a simple, honest statement about Genoveva fitting in. Finally.

**If you liked this story, try these:

Canadian Waitress in Italy | Embarrassing Moments
Notes from 1997 | Toronto to Bondi Beach, Australia

Canadian Waitress in Italy | Embarrassing Moments

It was a summer of firsts for Genoveva: first time she ironed … in fifteen years, first time she spoke her flash Italian skills to the general traveling public in a busy buffet restaurant and it was the first time in over twenty-two years that her natural blonde locks came through. Not sure which was the worst of the lot, Genoveva decided to let the blonde shine on though for the duration of the summer. She was in fact, so busy with her new Italian waitressing job that she didn’t have the time to fuss with her lengthening blonde locks; a ponytail would have to suffice.

Day One

In a dusty dresser drawer she found a new-ish pair of dress pants. Black as per restaurant protocol with a super large flare at the bottom. They reminded her of the 60’s; the free love era, where everyone and their dog wore bell bottoms. She whined to her Sardinian husband “Nobody wears bell bottoms … in Italy! Do you think these are okay for work? I’m pretty sure I will be the laughing-stock of Sardinia. Canadian girl in bell bottoms … honey … are you listening?”

He was listening, listening again to his wife’s ramble about clothes. He didn’t care what she wore as long as she went to work. “Sono belle, non si preoccupi. Nessuno sta guardando i pantaloni, più si ha che super-sexy grembiule rosa che copra le gambe.” It was true; Genoveva did have to wear a long apron which fell to her knees. She pranced around their loft in her new waitressing uniform, feelings of elation at a new exciting job – serving the public … in Italian.

“What about the button down shirt? Do you think my boss will notice that I bought it at the Chinese shop in Tempio? I mean the cute Chinese woman DID cut the long sleeves off, and then re-sewed short sleeves! How weird! Look … honey … LOOK! I don’t know if this can pass, heck she cut and sewed all in a matter of minutes. How can someone do that so fast? Honey …?”

She studied the conditional present of volere (to want) for hours before her first night shift and until the back of her tongue stuck to the top of her mouth, trying desperately to get those r’s out. “Che cosa vorreste? Or … honey … should I say che cosa volete?” A loud grumble came from the tool shed, in English this time “Say what you want, don’t worry.”

She worried about her bell bottom pants making the local gossip column; she worried about the iron job on her €10 Chinese cut-job shirt and she worried about speaking Italian to Italian people who pay mega bucks to park their expensive selves in the dining-room. “Honey, I’m ready! Ajo! Let’s go. I need to be there early. It’s not a good sign if I show up perfectly on the hour. Twenty minutes early is good. Ajo! AJO!” He opened the rusty car door for her and she sat down with a heavy sigh. A popular song danced in her head; it’s the same song that appears every time she is slightly stressed “Don’t worry, ‘bout a ting. Cause every little ting, gonna be alright.”

Later that evening …

“Honey, I’m home! And I have to pee really bad!” She ran past her husband who was sound asleep on the sofa and into the en-suite bathroom. She was too happy, too excited; floating even. Everything went oddly perfect on her first Italian dinner shift and it didn’t bother her when she joined English and Italian words. She spoke Italian to English clients and English to Italian clients, the customers got a kick out of her; they asked her where she is from, what brought her to Sardinia, oh … love, they all understood, that was why they were on holiday in the first place – rekindling dead romance. She even managed to snag a €10 tip from one table visiting from Venice. They were very sun-tanned and Genoveva made a mental note to up the sunscreen. At least the €10 Edward Scissor hands button down shirt was paid for.

“Oh, honey I really like it there. I know it was my first night and all, everyone is so nice … OH MIO DIO … WHAT THE WHAT?!? NOOOOOOO!” Her elation quickly disappeared as she looked into the seat of her bell bottom pants while sitting on the throne. A split … a BIG split that ran all the way from the front zip to the back of her bell bottom pants.
“HONEY! MY. PANTS. ARE. SPLIT. RIGHT. DOWN. THE. ENTIRE. CRACK! OH MY G..!” Embarrassment washed over her already hot body and a tear made its way down her sweaty right cheek. Moments of the night flashed though her pulsating veins; she remembered the hostess having a keen eye on her behind; she remembered bending over (from the waist) to pick up a crate of water, she remembered a moment when she was wedged between two tables rambling on in Ital-ish. Genoveva thought that maybe the hostess was a lesbian or that her boss was the pervy kind as he offered a huge smile and a helping hand with the crate of water. She thinks back to the tip that slipped slyly into her long apron, an apron which covered her bell bottom pants, an apron which should have covered everything … well almost everything.

Genoveva’s husband awoke from his slumber, he turned off the TV and walked into the bathroom to greet his hysterical wife “What colour are your underwear?”
Nudo! OH MIO D … NUDO.” She shrieked in angst, pain and embarrassment. Her husband rolled into bed, in fits of Sardinian laughter.

Without realizing it Genoveva’s bell bottom pants went down in Italian restaurant history.

Stay tuned for more tales from Canadian Waitress in Italy.

Notes from 1997 | Toronto to Sydney (Guest Post)

Check out my second guest post ever from the kind folks over at The Blissful Adventurer. I’d love your opinions, good and bad on this story. Happy travels.

The Blissful Adventurer

**The Blissful Adventurer is running about Italy at the moment so in his stead we happily endorse and support the work of the following blogger, Jennifer Avventura of My Sardinian Life | La Mia Vita Sarda. Please check out this post, leave comments for exchange with the author, and give their blog a read.**


Jennifer Avventura is a freelance writer living in Sardinia, Italy. In her spare time she runs, hikes and writes the popular blog at My Sardinian Life | La Mia Vita Sarda.
The Blissful Adventurer - Michael Housewright


Notes from 1997 | Toronto to Sydney

“Mom, I’m moving to Australia for a year.”

“But … where will you go? What will you do? Where will you live? How will you make money?” my mother asked in her usual motherly way.

Thirty-two long air flying hours later I was sitting at the bus station outside Sydney International Airport without a clue where I…

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Chase The Dart | Believe in Dreams

Sometimes in life, you need a dart, a dart board and some courage. The board is there to make the final decision. Your only requirement is to throw the dart.

There are a myriad of options why one never throws the dart. There are limits to our logic. Most of the time we spend holding the dart, afraid to throw it, afraid of what the board will tell us.

I’ve held my dart for far too long. It’s time to let go, time to focus on the dream. Time to travel. The time is now. One way or another a life changing event will unfold. Again.

Throw the dart.

I can’t.

Just do it. It’s not the first time nor will it be the last.

But … but … packing up and moving again. Do I have it in me to culturally, emotionally and spiritually open myself up to a new country … again?

Yes, you can.

The dart flies out of my hand, through the air, swoosh. Eyes closed and heart pounding.

I … can’t … believe … I’m … doing … this … again! I’m nuts! Totally nuts!

The dart lands with a thud, stuck to the plastic map and wall. I can’t move, I won’t move. My new reality is about to unfold, another new beginning is about to start. Oh dear, I’m moving where … ? Continue reading

Canadian Waitress in Canada – Chapter 2 – The Casino’s Main Act

She pulls out her note pad, her hand twitching as she wraps her fingers around the cool plastic. “A drink from the bar?” She tugs at her computer swipe card hanging from her white apron; pulling, twisting, unconsciously releasing her inhibitions. Catching his eye again she holds his glare, she feels the intensity growing in her belly, she feels like a raging horny teenager when he looks at her. Continue reading

The Wandering Waitress*. A Guide to Traveling the World One Tip at a Time.

So you want to give up everything, eh?  Move to another country, get a job in a small café in Australia and become a beach bum?  It’s easy to do and you don’t need a university degree to do it. Continue reading

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