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?

Expat Waitress Tips

“Sometimes when we are generous in small, barely detectable ways it can change someone else’s life forever.” – Margaret Cho.

Thank you,
for your niceness, professionalism and kindness. We hope to find everyone here next year. Prepare the table for 6 o’clock.”

This past August I had the extreme pleasure of meeting some of the greatest, kindest and most humble people ever. Always ready with a smile on their face and always with a please and thank you.

It was a pleasure to serve you all and I look forward to meeting you once again in the near future. Wishing you all a lifetime of happiness and sunshine.

Jennifer Avventura

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 | 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 Bondi Beach, Australia

***This post was originally written as a guest post for The Blissful Adventurer while he was busy gallivanting in Italy earlier this year.

“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 would go next.

I sat on the wooden bench for what seemed an eternity, while listening to departure times over the intercom system to cities and towns yet unfamiliar to me. I flipped the pages of my passport in anticipation, but for what? I really had no plan.

When my mother asked her questions, I simply said “I’ll figure it out when I get there.”

Hints of Irish Spring soap filtered through the warm Australian air triggering memories of my childhood past.

He sat down beside me without a care in the world, dropping his green and orange backpack at my feet.

“Hi, I’m Ireland. Where ye heading?”

“I … I … don’t really know. I have no plans. Where are you going?” I said slightly nervous at Ireland’s gregarious smile.

“Kings Cross, it’s the place to be seen! Want to come?”

“Sure, okay.” I naively said.

We hopped on the next bus to Kings Cross station. My body and mind clock still on Canadian time, I was glad to have found this gregarious travel companion.

He ran on in his lovely Irish accent, telling me stories of bombs and beer, talk of jobs and ex’s left behind. His story was similar to mine with the exception of the bombs.

We arrived into the early morning sun and booked a hostel room at Jolly Swagman Backpackers.

“All dorms are co-ed,” said Mr. Dreadlocked, tattooed surfer who sat perched on a stool made of beer cans.

“Coed? Like boys and girls in the same room?”

“Ah, don’t be an eejit! There’s nothing to it. Book us into the same room,” Ireland said.

I didn’t have time to object as he thrust his credit card at the surfer. He booked us for the night into a four bed dorm. Ireland told me I could reimburse him the room fee by buying dinner that evening. I was beginning to feel crowed in Ireland’s presence; he was slightly over-bearing and rather obnoxious.

Thoughts of uncertainty danced in my head, I had never shared a room with a boy, let alone three other stinky boys.

“Hi, my name’s Canada.” I held out my hand in eager anticipation

“Hola, I’m Spain and this is my boyfriend New Zealand.” Spain was gorgeous with long flowing dark locks and a mysterious golden light in his eyes. Did he just say boyfriend?

New Zealand grabbed Spain by the back of the neck and deeply kissed his beautiful Spanish boyfriend. My momentary flash of Spanish romance quickly evaporated into the rising heat of the room.

“Welcome to Kings Cross, Canada,” New Zealand said, barely coming up for air.

I discarded my backpack on the overly used, dusty bunk bed number three and enquired about an eating establishment.

“Eat? Eat?” Spain questioned with a local sarcastic sneer. “This is Kings Cross my dear, the last thing on one’s mind is eating.”

“Well, I’m hungry, it’s been a long day. Did you know I spent thirty-two hours…?”

I was oddly interrupted by a soft twang.

“You’ve come to the wrong place Canada. Kings Cross is a cesspit of sexual desire, a place where dirty deeds are done dirt cheap and a place where food is used for other purposes.” New Zealand squealed.

“Oh.” I said, slightly embarrassed.

Seeking dirty deeds was the last thing on my mind. I’d just finished a long term relationship in Canada. Australia was to be my awakening, my place to find me, a place to seek my soul.

“Ireland, I’m going to grab something to eat. If you want your reimbursement come now, or I’ll give you cash later this evening.”

“I’m coming,” boasted Ireland as he slapped Spain and New Zealand on the rear.

I turned to leave when I noticed a sign:

Bondi Beach – A Backpackers Oasis by the Sea
FREE Bus for Backpackers
Daily Departures: 8am and 5pm.
Show up at one of the times. It’s easy.

Early the following morning with a MacDonald’s breakfast settling uneasily into my stomach, I left the three boys to their vices and headed for the beach. I never saw them again until Future knocked and brought me to their door.

On the road to Bondi Beach and independence, I wrote a postcard to my mom:

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

Canadian Waitress in Canada – Chapter 1 – Niagara Falls

It’s a typically slow, freezing-cold January night, and she’s already been working four hours into her usual four table section in a five hundred seat restaurant. Eleven foot tall windows outline fifty percent of the dining room and with arms stretched out wide she has a spectacular view of Niagara Falls. She never tires of the view, she’s always lived in beautiful pristine places; but this was different, it wasn’t the beach. It wasn’t that deep down warm feeling she felt sitting in hot sand with the ocean at her toes and the sun beating down its mid afternoon rays, no, this shit weather brought out the worst in her, it was only by the ocean that she identified with herself. The only place she feels herself, her sanctuary from the ordinary, she tucks herself into pockets of the world; living, breathing, thriving and developing her sense of self. She craves to have that feeling again and wishes winter would fuck right off. The dirty mess of melting snow, too many below zero to care and the constant brushing of the car was making her one miserable thirty year old woman. It was time she escaped the snow shit capital and seek the refuge that the ocean provides.

Niagara Falls, Ontario, Canada

Barely making small talk with her tables, she doesn’t care where they came from, where they are going or what they are doing in The Falls.

Yes sir, I understand, but you are in Canada and the change from your bill will be in Canadian dollars.”

The customers look at her with puzzled bewilderment and she contemplates pointing out the brightly illuminated international border that they crossed. But bites her tongue instead. It hurts. She doesn’t care. She has no time for stupidity. She is polite, professional and to the point, if her customers give, she will give. She has been in this industry for twenty-two years and has had enough of being a servant.

Her mind is like a busy airport linking her identity together, like points on the compass she never truly knows which direction she is going until she gets there. She has traveled five of the seven continents, seen poverty in its depths and riches beyond her wildest dreams, she knows what she wants, isn’t afraid to speak the truth and will just about roll over anyone in her way. In the last ten years all she has done is work, save and travel, work save and travel, not a bad lifestyle by any means but it drains her bank account, and now she’s trying to figure out how to save for another odyssey and live in the meantime. The six fifty an hour job she has had for a year is paying the bills, but will barely pay for another trip or the increase in bust size she has always dreamed of. She knows with enough hard work and the larger than life white striped smile she could do both, work extra hard and survive; travel.

At times she wishes she could take a flying leap out of the atrium windows and fly away, the sense of escape intrigues her, moreover she would like to throw that irritating impossible to serve customer crashing out, spinning out of control to the pavement below. She’s groggy and hung over from ladies night, drinking two glasses of wine and two pints of Guinness she debates on calling Gina, canceling their plans for hor’dorves and cocktails later that evening.

Quickly walking into the dish pit with her usual arm load of shit: plates stacked precariously on top of each other, bread basket smashed into potatoes holding it in place, a half eaten steak dangling off the plate onto her pinky finger, she spills lobster butter down her tie and curses the hot thick liquid making a new home, balancing forks and steak knives she just about wipes out on that damn spill by the coffee station that has been there for an hour. It’s no surprise that she is able to carry the armload of junk, it’s all she’s ever done, it’s all she knows.

Entering the dish-pit the ever gregarious French head dishwasher greets her with the same excited nature he always does:
Jana! How de ’ell are ya?”
Oh you know, same old same old. I’m hung over and want my bed.”
Too many boys knocking down yer door Jana, will make you a tired girl.”
If only that was the reason she felt tired, she could deal with it, but the drinks wore on her like an old sock waiting to be discarded. Unloading her armfuls, she scrapes the leftovers into the garbage and ponders on the amount of food wasted in a restaurant, it’s appalling and makes her sad. She thinks about all the restaurants worldwide and can’t fathom that there are people starving.

The dish-pit becomes busy with waiters waiting to unleash their heaps of garbage, when someone calls out:
The main act from the Casino is here, he’s waiting for a table.”

Thoughts of doubt dance in her head, she’s in dire need of a good laugh, but she’s skeptical that he really is here. She finishes scraping the waste, washes her hands and heads directly to the dinning room and to her amazement, sure enough, it’s him! Brilliant, fucking brilliant!

His charcoal curls dangle from beneath his visor, muscles popping from his t-shirt and his smile larger than life, he is surrounded by five men and wonders if they could be his body guards. Seeing him standing in the middle of the dinning room carpe diem rings in her ears and she leaps into action. They have money, yes of course, they have plenty of money. He after all is the main act at the casino and has been for many months, she wants to dip her hand into their money pockets, she wants another beach holiday but first she must smile. Approaching him with the utmost confidence she lets them know table ten is available. They thank her, she looks directly in his eyes; their gazes locked, and in that split second she feels the fire ignite. That single look stirred passion deep within her, and she could feel her sexual allure escaping her.

They take their seats, his closest to the window, he peers out at the astonishing view, she grabs their attention,
Good Evening Gentleman. How are you today? Have you dined with us before?” Shaking their heads left to right, “Do you mind if I take a minute and go over our menu?”
Asking them to open their menus she looks over at him, he looks at her quizzically and jokes, “My menu is upside down I can’t read it.”

Walking over to him, she turns his menu right side up, she makes direct eye contact with him, his eyes pierce her directly to the core. She tries to hide her slight sexual nervousness, she can’t look at him without feeling aroused, thoughts of devouring him passed though her mind as she launches into the menu sizzle.

Bottom left hand corner of your menu you will notice our grilled to perfection chart, if you are in for steak this evening, which I hope you are, it’s what we do best so please take this into consideration as we do go by these guidelines. Down the center of the menu is all our steak dinners. All our steaks are center cut, well aged and perfectly marbled, which for you mean, you are in for a dynamite dinner. Top right hand corner you will find our prime rib. Our prime rib is our hero product and we are well-known for it, we slow roast it for twenty-four hours in our own special spice, tonight we are carving it at a perfect medium-rare to medium.”

She makes it though the sizzle, she doesn’t stumble over her words, she was finally getting a grip on herself, her nervousness faded as she spoke, she realized they are just another ordinary table in for dinner, with extraordinary lifestyles, and she was curious.

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