Adjusting to life as an Italian in the UK

TransferWise content team
19.09.16
3 minute read

The UK is now the top destination for Italians working abroad. There are over 130,000 working here and another 10,000 studying.

The UK has great career opportunities, some amazing scenery to explore - and let's just not talk about the weather.

There are a few things the Brits do differently that you need to know. So, when (not) in Rome…


Your Italian is wrong

do you speak english

Don’t expect Brits to speak Italian – except when ordering food. Then it’s painful to listen. The worst part is that you now have to mispronounce Italian words too.

From now on:

  • Bruschetta has a ‘sh’ sound.
  • Panini is singular.
  • The g in gnocchi is no longer silent.
  • Espresso inexplicably has an X in it.

Get this wrong and Brits will actually correct your pronunciation of Italian words.


Don't acclimatise

brits and the weather

Britain can be cold and wet. You were prepared for that. You brought your biggest umbrella, warmest coat and biggest scarf.

You probably weren’t prepared to see Brits half-naked at the same time. When the sun is out, Brits get their tops off in the park. When they’re having a night out, anything goes.

Warmly dressed Italian student Amelia Porée at Brighton University is still trying to make sense of it all:

> “Brits look out their windows at the weather then dress for a totally different climate. They like talking about the weather, but don’t seem to actually feel it.”


The Unwritten Rules

queing

Brits don’t often show their displeasure.

In fact, bump into someone and they’ll apologise. But there are things Brits really don’t like, which can seem normal to Italians.

Never talk about money or how much you earn. Don’t visit someone at home unexpectedly. Don’t stand on the left of an escalator. Don’t make conversation on public transport.

Break any of these rules and there’s a real risk someone might tut at you.

The most important rule is to never push in line. Queueing is the UK’s national pastime.


Understand the British bathroom

british bathroom

The first thing you’ll notice stepping into a British bathroom is the carpet.

To an Italian, carpets and bathrooms go together like Crocs and… well, anything.

In contrast, one perfectly sensible bathroom feature is nowhere to be seen. Try explaining a bidet to a Brit and watch them recoil in horror.

Then you go to wash your hands and find two taps. One is freezing. One will burn you. Take your pick. The Brits are great at engineering, yet combining hot and cold in one tap is beyond them.


Opening a bank account

bank account

While it used to be a tedious process to open a bank account in the UK, nowadays you just need to present a proof of identity and proof of address.

Several banks allow you to open an account before you even arrive in the U.K.

Check out this guide on how to open a bank account in the UK for more.


That’s fantastic

british slang

Don’t be surprised if, when telling your boss that you will be back from lunch in a half hour, she proclaims “OK fantastic!”

No, your newfound speedy eating habits are not a stellar accomplishment in her eyes. Rather Brits are accustomed to saying “Great!” or “Fantastic!” as a means of confirmation.

However, the seemingly positive phrase “That’s interesting” can be a subtle way of saying, “I’m not fully convinced” in Brit-speak.


Finding a flat

London flat

Especially in a city like London, finding a decently priced room can feel a bit like trying to locate the Loch Ness Monster.

But not all hope is lost. Gumtree is a comprehensive -- and free -- starting point. Yet, although they require a subscription, Easy Roomate and SpareRoom can yield quicker results, expats tell us.

And looking to buy or rent your own place? Try Rightmove.co.uk.


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