Facebook Page

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Hi everyone 🙂

I have decided to open a Facebook page for the blog, to make it easier for people to send me questions and messages. You can find it if you click this link.

Feel free to send me questions, messages, requests and suggestions and I will do my best to answer!

See you soon 🙂

Language in Wales and the language identity

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Os treisiodd y gelyn fy ngwlad dan ei droed,
Mae hen iaith y Cymry mor fyw ag erioed,
Ni luddiwyd yr awen gan erchyll law brad,
Na thelyn berseiniol fy ngwlad.

(Though the enemy have trampled my country underfoot,
The old language of the Welsh knows no retreat,
The spirit is not hindered by the treacherous hand
Nor silenced the sweet harp of my land.)

 


[Land of my Fathers – translation taken from http://www.wales.com ]

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Image by texas_mustang (Flickr) [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

 

La versione Italiana è disponibile qui.

Hi 🙂 !

I am on holidays in sunny Italy for a little while and I am taking this chance to write an article that is very important for me.

Today I will talk about language, which is one of the most fascinating things in the world for me. More in specific, we’ll talk about what happens to the language of an expat, (or at least what happened to me) and about language in Wales. And it’s important, how could it not be?

Language gets you by everyday for so many things, and language creates part of your identity and of your attachment to a land.

What does this really mean?

Your mother tongue (or tongues) might be the one with the deepest roots into your mind, the one you’ll always be able to untangle at best, but the languages you learn and use create connections and help you to shape new parts of you.

I’ve seen people struggling to learn and appreciate a language and then suddenly becoming fluent and fascinated by it when it started creating attachment to places, people, situations. This is what it is about. After years in another country, its language is not just practical words, it’s the sound of friends and loved one, of first discoveries, of favourite places, of flavours and music, of whatever your memories shaped them to be. Part of who you are.

Languages are all different, so people who are bilingual often not only feel they have multiple identities but also different ways to express themselves at best, according to the register and the situation. Some languages are more structured, more polite or louder, cryptic, charming, funnier, and they convey us in different ways. Translation is not always possible and you can just try and adjust the meaning.

This is the reason why I write in English first; Italian might be deeper rooted in my brain, but English makes me feel free to express myself and use a more concise logical structure at the same time. English is my adult life language, while Italian was used during my younger life, so all I got to know, realise and mature in the past few years has had an English form. I interchange the two languages according to the context and often think mixing the two with no distinction. If you embrace it, that’s what bilingualism does, it gives you more tools to express yourself and reshapes your personality.

For a really interesting read about language as identity and language for bilinguals and interpreters, I suggest you read this and this articles.

Language in Wales

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Once you arrive in Wales, you’ll notice something straight away: the country is bilingual. The signs on the road are translated and so are the announcements in the train stations, the information in the leaflets and so on.

Welsh is infact still spoken, particularly in the North and in some areas of the South of Wales, and a lot of work has been put into ensuring that the language is being kept alive as much as possible. The language is still taught in schools (and some primary schools and nurseries are bilingual), there are tv and radio channels dedicated to it, language books and translations more or less everywhere and Welsh is even required in some job descriptions, particularly in the public administration sector.

As I mentioned, the language of a country is important to its identity and cultural heritage, so let’s have a look to the history of Welsh language in the past centuries, to better understand the importance that it has for the people who speak it.

 

When the Romans conquered Britain, they respected the languages and traditions of the Celtic population, however after the decline of their Empire and following the Germanic invasions, the celtic tribes moved to the most peripheral areas bringing their languages with them.

After the Norman conquest of Britain, Wales started being progressively anglicised especially after Edward II became prince of Wales. In 1535 the Union Act imposed English as the official language, helped by different economic and social factors that pushed the country into becoming more and more subject to the English influence.

Another important factor for the transformation of the language used was the Industrial Revolution, since at that time many young people moved to England for new job opportunities and at the same time many English people came to Wales following the discovery of the coal resources and the opening of the coal mines in South Wales.

At this point, almost half of the Welsh population still had Welsh as their mother tongue, but kids risked corporal punishment if they were to use it at school, which brought to a dramatic decrease in the number of speakers.

As mentioned, nowadays a lot is being done to try and keep the language alive and encourage people to learn it. The Welsh Language Act, in favour of the language, was issued by the Government in 1967.

Welsh English

The Welsh English is close to the Standard British English, but obviously, the Welsh language that came before it has a strong influence on the way English is spoken in Wales, in terms of accent, grammar and vocabulary.

I won’t go on and describe all the characteristics of the language (you can write me or comment if you wish to know more), but let’s see some of its main features (if you’re not THAT much into linguistic, this is the time to wave the nerd alert flag 🙂 ):

 

  • It is a non rhotic variety, but Welsh speakers can easily pronunce the /r/ in every position.
  • There are some consonants and combinations not found in Standard British English. Some of them are: rh /r̥/ (Rhwd), bh /x/ (Bach), ll /ɬ/(Llanelli), dd /ð/ (Caerddyd) and ff /f/ (Fforest).
  • Some letters are pronunced differently, like that is pronunced like /ʊ/ (Bws).
  • The intonation is raising-decreasing at the end of the sentence, creating the sing-song effect.
  • The words “like”, “then” and “now” are often used in the sentences even when there is no grammatical need for them.
  • Inversion between object and verb in order to emphatise a sentence (“Going away, he is”).
  • Isn’t it” used at the end of the sentence even when different pronuns would be needed “I think she is feeling better, isn’t it” (instead of “isn’t she”).
  • Some of the words from Welsh are used in everyday sentences, like cwtch (hug, cuddle), ach y fi (expression of disgust), while other words from the English language are used with a different meaning, like tidy (cool, nice).

 

 

If you like this topic as much as I do, I highly recommend you read this article, which is very humorous and gives some every day life examples.

Learning the language

ysgol2

In terms of actually learning the language and getting used to it, if you are from outside Wales, it might take time. I suggest that you don’t get scared before trying. If you feel that your level of English is not up to the challenge, you could take a course that can help you improve (there are several in Swansea and probably in Cardiff too). Other than that, speaking and listening as much as possible will make you more and more familiar to the language and the slang. As mentioned in some previous post, Youtube, Skype and watching films are your best friends in this if you’re still outside the UK.

If you are interested in courses in the area, the University of Swansea and Gower college offer some of them. Some further links can be found below:

http://www.gowercollegeswansea.ac.uk/Part-Time-Course/Languages/english-speakers-other-languages

http://www.swansea.ac.uk/elts/

http://www.cityschooloflanguages.co.uk/our-english-courses/

http://www.escwales.co.uk/

This is all for now, if you wish to let me know your approach to language or how you live the language change as an expat, I would love to hear about that.

Diolch (thank you!) 🙂

Coming and going

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Hi there readers! I am in Italy for a few days, remembering what the sun and heat are 🙂

This is not a proper article, but just a small window that I open for myself.

A question for all the expats out there: how does “coming and going” feel to you?

Every time I leave the UK, I feel really attached to this place: to the people and to all the little things that I normally would not take a second look at, and just because they seem to tell  me, “you got here”. I know this is not really “home”, but as they say, “home is where the heart is”. I am still fascinated by the country and I feel much more in the right place now that I am here.

Everytime I go back to the home country I realise I have missed the sun and the colours, the simple food and the days as a family. I have missed my pets and my friends and my books. I have missed being alone with my thoughts and having the whole day to write about them. I haven’t missed the pessimism though and the feeling of not knowing in which direction to move or what to do to try and solve problems.

This is what coming and going is about for me: it’s about what you leave behind and what you decide to miss when you make the decision to be elsewhere, “seeking your own perhaps” (quote!) and accepting all the nostalgia, regret and freedom that may come with it.

Then I leave again and I dive into my routine of good and bad days without a proper plan.

Being in two places means I am unable to properly settle. That’s what I feel as an expat after years of drifting, and even though by now I am almost used to this, my mother country is a difficult place that I can’t stop loving even though I keep it at a distance away.

Every time I go back at the starting point, I make a summary of things so far and think about what I could do (or keep doing) next. It is hard to settle because when you’ve left once, the possibilities open in front of you, and you never know if you’ll wish to hop life again.

What do you guys feel about this? Is coming and going difficult? Pleasant? What do you learn from it?

If you want a nice read on the topic in Italian, this is the article that inspired my thoughts and the author has a really nice blog about her expat life.

Thanks you if you read so far and sorry if this was boring:) however please do comment if you like, I’d like to hear your experience!

I will be back soon with an article about language, stay tuned!

Typical food and practical questions about Life in Swansea

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La versione Italiana è disponibile qui.

Hi, I am back! 🙂

Since starting this blog I have been in touch with a few readers who have been asking me questions about Wales and life here, and last week I met two people who have just moved to Swansea to have a chat with them (I mainly just found an Italian football game for them at the pub, really 🙂 ).

It was a fun meeting and some more questions came up, so I though I could try and incorporate these in an article, in case anyone else is wondering about them.

What is the typical food?

Before starting this topic, I have a confession to make. I have been a vegan since January and a vegetarian before that, so I have no idea what most of the foods I am going to list taste like, but I will do my best to give you some idea of what is available.

First of all, aside from traditional Welsh/British food, there is a lot of choice of different type of foods available: Italian, Chinese, Japanese, Indian, Turkish, Middle-Eastern, French, Thai, Polish, Portuguese, Spanish, Lebanese, etc, etc.. so you won’t get bored 🙂

St. Helen’s road is particularly multi-ethnic and you will find different restaurants and shops selling food and goods.

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In terms of traditional foods though, let’s list some:

Cawl (pronunced kowl) – a thick broth – soup made mainly of lamb, leeks swedes, carrots and other vegetables. It is possible to make a vegetarian version without the lamb. It is prepared especially on St. David’s day (Patron Saint of Wales), on 1st March.

Cawl_Cymreig

Leeks – they are the typical vegetable of Wales.

Rarebit – also known as ‘posh cheese on toast’,  is a dish made with a sauce of melted cheese and various other ingredients and served hot, after being poured over slices of toasted bread.

Cheese – there are various types of local Welsh cheeses, one of the most famous probably being Caerphilly.

Laverbread – is a traditional Welsh dish made from laver (seaweed) and it is traditionally eaten fried with bacon and cockles as part of a Welsh breakfast.

Glamorgan Sausages – is a traditional Welsh “vegetarian sausage” for which the main ingredients are cheese (usually Caerphilly), leeks and breadcrumbs.

Sunday roast – it can be found in many pubs on a Sunday or just made at home, and it consists of a meat roast with roasted potatoes, potato mash, and vegetables like carrots, broccoli, sprouts, etc with gravy and yorkshire puddings. There can be many different variations according to taste.

All day breakfast – served in most pubs it is usually made from sausages, fried egg, mushrooms, bacon, toast and baked beans. Vegetarian versions are often available serving veggie sausages. Vegans can ask for a veggie breakfast with no eggs or butter. The traditional ‘Welsh breakfast’ however, is made of eggs, cockles, laverbread, with bacon and sausages.

Jacket potato – These are big baked potatoes that can be served with a wide range of fillings: baked beans, cheese, meat, tuna etc

Curry – Thanks to the strong connection that the UK has with India, curry can actually be considered a typical dish, served also in pubs.

Fish and chips – Found especially in seaside resorts, fried fish and chips is a typical dish in the UK.

and let’s not forget what you will mainly eat anyway:

Veggie_burger_with_feta_flickr_user_moe_creative_commons

But what about the cakes?

Welshcakes – made from flour, sultanas, raisins, and/or currants they can also include such spices as cinnamon and nutmeg and they are typical little cakes found in Wales.

Wesh_cakes

Bara brith – can be a yeast bread enriched with dried fruit or something more like a fruitcake made with self-raising flour and traditionally made with raisins, currants and candied peel.

There are obviously more well-known British cakes and sweets available everywhere like muffins, scones, cheesecakes, cupcakes, etc.

and what about the drinks then, I hear you say.

A local Welsh Ale is the SA Brain and there are local ciders like Gwynt Y Ddraig and Ty Gwyn.

BThe_Brewery_Tap

Original Image Source: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:BThe_Brewery_Tap.jpg

For my vegetarian/vegan friends, there are two main veggie places in Swansea: Govinda’s and Crumbs Kitchen 🙂

Also, you might feel confused about what time of the day it actually is, hearing people having tea at 6pm, dinner at midday and a breakfeast that does not look like a breakfast at all, but don’t panic, in Wales they just use to call the lunch ‘dinner‘ and the dinner ‘tea‘ or supper. Not confusing at all 😉

Is it possible to take part in races and is it required to have a medical certificate for them?

There are several 5k, 10k, half-marathons and marathons that take place in Swansea and Wales and a quick search on the internet can give you several results. In terms of 5k the most famous is probably Race for Life in support of Cancer Research UK (unfortunately women only 😦 ) and there is the Admiral 10k (that also lets you fundraise for a charity, like most other sport events) that takes place in the city. For a list of half-marathons, this website is useful.

In terms of medical certificate, there is no need to go through a medical examination, you usually just need to sign a paper saying that you are in good health and take responsibility of the statement, but no other paperwork is required.

What is the best gym?

There are several gyms in town, the main ones are the LC2, the YMCA and The Gym (yeah just “the gym”). They are all in the centre of town. There are other smaller gyms of course, but I have never tried them.

LC2 – Is the one with the wider range of classes and very good equipment. It is situated in the centre of town, not far from the Marina and offers many classes and also has a swimming pool. More information can be found on the website.The cost of the contract gives you access to the equipment and the classes and it is possible to book the classes online. the price of the membership is the highest among the three.

YMCA – This gym is also close to the centre (near St. Helen’s) and offers gym equipment as well as classes. This gym doesn’t have as much equipment as othersm but the classes are great and the atmosphere is really friendly and there are other cultural activities going on like theatre and dance. More information can be found on the website and the membership can include just the gym or also the classes. There are also martial art classes that take place in this gym through other associations like Two Dragons and Saru Jujitsu. There are volunteer opportunities offered at this gym for various projects, support to the community and a LGBT support group. The price of the membership is medium.

The Gym – This Gym is also very central and presents the cheapest option among the ones listed. It is possible to use the equipment and there is no contract, but there are no classes available. This gym is open 24/7. More information can be found here.

Is there any place to play football in town?

If you study or work at the University of Swansea, there is a team called Team Swansea that you can join. Otherwise for more information about teams in the area you can check this website or this.

Just to mention that a swimming pool, badminton, tennis, golf, archery and more facilities are available as well in the area 🙂

Are there ironing and laundry in town? Do they iron clothes as well?

Yes. If you check the website, this one offers cleaning and also ironing services and is very central. There are also launderettes in town.

What mobile phone provider is the best?

I am not sure what provider is best, I have been with O2 since arriving here and I never had reason to change. There are various offers for either contract or pay as you go and most providers have a shop in town, so it’s easy to just go in and ask information (or look it up on the websites). Some of the main providers available are Vodafone, 3, Tesco Mobile, EE. Some of them also offer some ‘international sim cards’ that can make calling abroad a bit cheaper (especially landlines).

Are there Catholic churches?

Yes, there are Catholic churches in Swansea and also in Mumbles. The ones closer to the centre of town are: St. Benedict in Llythrid Avenue, Sketty SA2 0JJ, Diocese of Menevia in 27 Convent Street, Greenhill SA1 2BX and then Our Lady Star of the Sea in Mumbles Promenade Terrace, Mumbles
Swansea, South West SA3 4DS. More information can be found at this page.

Are there Welsh courses?

Yes. Swansea University offers Welsh classes and so does Gower college. For more information see here and here.

Is it possible to surf in the area?

Yep! Wind and sea are two things we do have here. A quick research on the internet will give you results for courses in the area.

What is the agency fee for renting a house?

It depends on the agency, but asking around I heard it might be around £150-£200 (if anyone has different experiences feel free to comment/correct me!)

Upcoming events:

  • 2014 is the centenary of Dylan Thomas’ birth and since this writer was born in Swansea many events are taking place at the Dylan Thomas centre.
  • On 17th May, there will be a Veggie Minifest, which should be interesting if someone else is interested in vegetarianism and healthy living. This is the facebook page of the event.

I hope this information is useful, thanks to Garry, Fabio, Alex and Tim for helping me finding information! Cheers guys!

As usual please get in touch for any question and see you soon! 🙂

Dylan_Thomas,_Maritime_Quarter,_Swansea

Visiting Wales

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La versione Italiana è disponibile qui.

Hello!
Sorry it has been a month since the last article, but finally here it is.

A heatwave has been experienced in Europe during the past couple of weeks and even in Wales we have been able to see some sunshine! (So yeah everyone is wearing beachwear 😉 )

When the weather starts being so pleasant you remember how many nice places there are to visit around here. I probably won’t be able to list them all, but below is a list of selected places you should visit while in Wales.

Cities

Some of the main cities in South Wales you might want to visit are Cardiff and Swansea. They are not the only cities in Wales obviously, but they are the ones I have visited often (so, sorry if I am not expanding about any others!). Other main cities in Wales are Aberystwyth, Newport, Bangor, St. Davids.

Cardiff (Caerdydd in Welsh) is the capital of Wales. While you are in the city it is possible to visit Cardiff Castle, see the Millennium Stadium or do some shopping in the city centre and through the shopping arcades. Cardiff Bay is also easy to reach and there you can see the Millennium centre where performances and events take place or have a walk along the bay and check the restaurants and shops in that area.

Cardiff_Bay_at_night

Cardiff

Swansea (Abertawe) is an hour away from Cardiff and also on the sea. Although the city centre is not as big, there is a nice beach. Walking along the coast you can reach Mumbles which is the nicest area and it is definitely worth a visit when the sun is shining. There you can simply go for a walk or for a nice meal or ice-cream in one of the restaurants and if you keep walking along the coast you reach various little pebbly bays.

Both Cardiff and Swansea have Universities and many people come to study also from abroad.

Meridian_Tower_Swansea_Skyline

Swansea

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Swansea Marina

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View from Mumbles

The Gower peninsula

In the Gower peninsula you will be able to find some of the nicest beaches in the country and on a nice day, a visit there will take your breath away.

Some of the nicest places to visit are: Caswell Bay, Three Cliffs Bay, Oxwich, and my favourite, Rhossili Bay. While in Rhossili you can walk on the beach or climb up the hill and if the tide is low you can try and reach Worm’s Head.

I will let the pictures speak for themselves but when the weather is warm and not too windy, some of these places can be really peaceful and beautiful. They are easy to reach by car or bus from Swansea.

3cliffs

Three Cliffs Bay

oxwich

Oxwich Bay

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Rhossili Bay

worm's head

Worm’s head

Tenby

Tenby is in Pembrokeshire and it is a lovely city with very nice beaches, ideal on a warm day. The pastel coloured houses and the tourist shops make you feel like you are in a French or Italian seaside town and it is very popular in the Summer. There is a castle as well to visit and the city is easy to reach by car or train.

tenby

Tenby

National Parks

The Brecon Beacons is a mountain range in Wales with six main peaks and around it lies the Brecon Beacons National Park that covers 1344 km. Some of the activities that you can do in the park include walking, cycling, mountain biking, horse riding, as well as sailing, windsurfing, canoeing, rock climbing, camping and caving.

Brecon_beacons

Benbowen at the English language Wikipedia [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)%5D, from Wikimedia Commons

Snowdonia is another National Park that takes its name from Snowdon, the highest mountain in Wales. The park covers 2,140 km2 and has 60 km of coastline. Many people go there for hiking.

snowdonia2

Castels

If you like visiting castles, there are many in south and north Wales for you to see. Some of them are not too easy to reach unless you have a car, however others are accessible travelling by train or bus.
In the Cardiff area you can find Cardiff castle, Caerphilly castle and Castle Coch. Caerphilly is a medieval castle built in the 13th century, while castle Coch has been rebuilt in the 19th century on the remains of a 13th century fortification.

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Cardiff Castle

caerphilly

Caerphilly Castle

Coch

Castle Coch

In the Camarthenshire you can visit Carreg Cennen, Dinefwr castle (11th Century) and Kidwelly Castle (12th century) while in Pembrokeshire you can visit Pembroke castle among others.

dinefwr

Carreg Cennen

Kidwelly_castle_whole

Kidwelly Castle

By Iphrit (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

pembroke

Pembroke Castle

These are just some of the ones I have visited, but if you check this wiki page you can get an idea of how many castle you can find in Wales in the north and the south (although some of them are now just ruins).

There are also a number of historic houses and properties that you can visit. One I have visited is Dinefwr house and park, in Camarthenshire, which was really beautiful and made for a great day of exploring and visiting. When I visited, a very good exhibition about II World War was also being held there which made the visit all the more interesting.

dinefwr2

Dinefwr

St. Fagans

St. Fagans is an area not far from Cardiff and it is an open air museum about life, culture and architecture in Wales. Visiting this place you can see more than forty re-erected buildings from various parts of Wales and other exhibitions.

As I said, I am aware that this list is not at all exhaustive, but I hope it might help to give you an idea of how many things are there to visit around here!! 🙂

Thanks for reading and fingers crossed that this wasn’t the end of the Welsh ‘Summer’ 😉 !!

Culture shock, anyone?

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“Allow your eyes to adjust”.

 

Per la versione Italiana cliccate qui.

When moving to a different country, sooner or later, culture shock might occur.

It doesn’t have to be the same for everyone as we all have different reactions to the change, but what is culture shock anyway?

In the mildest of cases, it is just the realisation of how differently people behave in everyday situations, and that the difference is not just down to the language, but to habits, culture and lifestyle. From the stuff you can find in houses and supermarkets, to the way people may (or may not) be welcoming, everything can surprise us.

In the worst cases, it might make you feel alienated and unable to adapt to the new place you are in, resulting in a great nostalgia for your home country. Fear not though, as everyone can go at their own pace in adapting to this and the more you know about things, the less scary or odd they usually appear. Of course if nothing works, you could also just realise that the place is not for you after all.

I think the most useful thing to help you overcome the cultural shock is, getting to know people.

Most places in Britain are multicultural, which allows you to meet different kind of people and find your place whatever your background, lifestyle and preferences, in particular when living in a city.

My experience of Wales is that people have always been welcoming and happy to help me understand and fit in at best. You will always find people who are not like that, but that is true in every part of the world, so it is just a matter of choosing the right crowd 🙂

Curiosity helps, a lot! Making comparison with your home country won’t help you to adapt to the new situation. Instead, go and see new places, try new food and ask as many question as you need. You will still wonder if an electric kettle is really necessary in an hotel, why people walk around in shorts when it’s 5 degrees outside, how do you keep calm and carry on with just tea or why are the shops open only while you are at work. You will be amazed at their queueing skills and by the fact that the train service apologises for being late. At the same time they will not understand your obsession with putting salt in the cooking water, why you gesticulate so much even over the phone and how you cannot understand that the gravy doesn’t go on just everything. It doesn’t matter. You don’t have to become British, just open your mind and understand how things work here as much as possible. Your English doesn’t have to be perfect for you to communicate, but make sure you make the effort to practise as much as possible and learn to understand the local accent and phrasing.

As I mentioned before, there are many ways you can meet people other than through work and education, some examples are:

Visit around
There are plenty of nice places to visit around here (and yes an article will follow about this soon) and when you visit most of historical sites like castles and old mansions, useful information is provided to you to better understand what you are seeing. Even just wandering around beaches and parks, visiting museums, entering pubs and trying local food (and drinks) will help you to get a better insight of the place. If you want to know more you can read books about what most fascinated you about these experiences or visit some museum. People are usually quite proud of their culture and love to share their views with you.

Take it as an adventure! Even if you get lost (I am an expert in that), just make sure you have enough cash on you to take a cab back home and explore away.

Go out with friends
Once you start meeting some friends, don’t be shy and go out with them. That will help you to discover new places and things to do that you probably didn’t know before. You will get to know the celebrations and holidays and what to do at Christmas, Bonfire, St. David’s, etc.

Night life
The night life here is quite exciting! I can speak mainly about Swansea, since that’s where I live, and I can tell you that at night the city really comes to life and is crowded with people going out to pubs and clubs. The attitude towards alcohol here is a bit more carefree and socially accepted. So if you are not used to it, you might be surprised.

Sport/Hobbies/Entertainment
Trying to do some fitness at the gym of joining a course (a fitness class, or even a language or a marketing or a cooking class, etc) will help you to meet new people and try new things at the same time. Maybe you could be adventurous and decide to learn some Welsh 😉

In most cities there are cinemas, theatres, arcades, leisure centres, swimming pools and whatnot.
In Swansea and Cardiff there is a stadium as well, where you can see football and rugby matches.

Watch TV
I am saying this even though I am not a fan of the telly and I watch very little of it. However, when you are trying to understand another country, the mass media, do help. Watching their news, their comedy, their TV show, and even their adverts at least for a while, gives you a better idea of how the communication style, the general perception of things, the humour and the communities work here and also improves your English. And you really should watch some British stand up comedy anyway, because it’s quite awesome 🙂

Meeting friends online
As a last option, if you really are really shy and struggle to socialize in any other way, the internet is your friend. Many people choose this option before they move somewhere, looking for people to befriend through correspondence prior to getting to their destination. Doing this, they have at least one person that might help them find their way at the start or simply be their friend.

There are many forums and websites online that offer pen pals ads. Some websites like Penpal Party or similar, can help you with this. The one I know best is Japan Guide, which as you can guess focused on Japan, but actually lets you add or view ads for other countries too and I have met many nice people from around the world thanks to this website. Another possibility in this direction is a language exchange. If you are from another country, someone might want to improve or learn your language and you can get some help with English and meet people at the same time. Ads for Language exchange can be found even on Gumtree , or on more specialized websites.

The Community
Personally, I prefer to mingle with people who are alike me in the mind rather than in cultural background, but nevertheless, if you find yourself desperate to share that joke or that meal that only someone from your country could really appreciate, most likely, you can find people of your same nationality in your new city, maybe even working with you, at the gym or in the shops. The most biggest communities, often organise themselves in meeting places where they can share all of this, so if this helps you, you can most certainly have an opportunity for it in most British cities.

In my experience, the only real culture shock for me, was the boundaries between people, who are obviously different. Coming from Italy, I was used to a different kind of social interaction, that I can only describe as warmer. The British are more introverted and cool when it comes to this; physical contact or eye contact doesn’t happen as often and behaviours that for them are normal, might appear rude to someone not used to this. Also don’t get surprised if everyone calls you ‘love’ and ‘darling’ in the shops and on the bus all the time, because for the sake of consistency, that is just normal. In time though, you learn it is just one of the many differences between our and their habits and you get used to it. Or just keep embarrassing your British friends hugging them for no reason, that’s also an option 🙂

I hope this helped a bit. After several years here, I tend to forget some of the first impressions, so if I missed anything, feel free to contact me!

Thanks 🙂

queen


Art by Mr. Brainwash.

Looking for a job

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Per la versione Italiana cliccate qui.

For most of us, the main reason to move to a different country is finding employment or looking for a better job.

There’s no need for me to talk at lenght about the economical crisis most countries are going through and the fact that for some it is worse than for others. There is a lot of migration to the UK and some of the main migrating groups are Polish, Indians and Italians.

It is not easy for me to judge the employment situation here; the news talk of an increase in the unemployment rate but compared to a country like Italy (the only other country I have experience of), there are more opportunities to find employment or change job in the UK.

This said, although the situation is better than in other countries and the social welfare policies are good, the crisis seems to have arrived here as well and you can hear stories of people being laid off for lack of work and other who struggle to find a job. Don’t despair though, cause if you are adaptable to start with or just take any kind of job, you are likely to find something eventually. So, even you may not find a job at the first attempt, don’t give up and focus on your abilities. As you are probably a foreigner like me, rely on your language abilities as well as on the knowledge you gained from your studies and work experiences.

So, where to look?

If you already know what your field should be or what company you want to work for, their website will often give all the instructions useful to apply for a job.

If you are not sure however, it is best to look up adverts with employment offers on websites like:

Go Wales
Graduate Jobs
Eures

or you can look up “Graduate” or “Undergraduate jobs” on a search engine, or contact job agencies like Reed, Adecco, Hays, etc.

LinkedIn can also be a useful tool to browse jobs in your area of interest and if you are students, I suggest you always look into the chance to get a scholarship or to participate in projects like Erasmus or Leonardo da Vinci that might allow you to do an intership abroad.

Writing the CV can sometimes be tricky.

Although there is no need for it to be in a specific format (I have always use the Europass website), you need to be careful that your translation is as accurate as possible and if unsure on something, it is best to keep it simple.

You can find a lot of information and suggestions on internet dictionaries and forums (Wordreference has a good one for Italian, Spanish and French) and I suggest that in particular when talking about your education you make sure to write the right qualification or the one that is closer to the ones available in your country of destination (as all countries have a different education system!)

For what concerns the UK, there is an useful chart on this website.

I hope I have covered most of what was needed. Obviously always use your common sense and read the contracts carefully. I don’t think I have any advice to give for job interviews (as they are just advice you’d get for any other interview!) but do feel free to contact me for any further question and I will look into it! 🙂

As a side note, I remember that before starting my job I was scared about my telephone manner as the only experience I ever had was in Italian. Youtube helps you with some videos about this if you search for “English phone manner”, but to be honest, the training and experience I had in work had been much more useful.

I hope this was useful, see you soon!! 🙂

Croeso y Cymru – Welcome to Wales

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Per la versione in Italiano clicca qui.

croeso

Whatever your reason might be, you are thinking of moving from your country and more specifically to Wales or somewhere else in the UK. Personally, after graduating in Italy, I have been looking for a job in my area for quite a long time and nothing came up at all, mainly because of the economical crisis that my country and many others are experiencing at the moment. I have studied languages, I was always very interested in the UK and loved visiting it, so I decided to try and find a job here.

Enough unnecessary details about me though; as this is the first real post of this blog I thought some practical information might be useful.

Getting to and from Wales

There are two main airports that are convenient to reach Wales: Cardiff Airport and Bristol Airport. You can find information about their flights and airlines on the official websites.

Both airports are linked to various cities in Wales by train or by coach. I find the National Express coach service to be particularly useful as it connects the main cities directly to the airports, without the need to have several changes of transport during the same journey.

If you are a bit unlucky like me, there might not be many flights from around here useful to reach your destination at an affordable price, so you might have to travel to one of the London Airports (Gatwick, Stansted, Heathrow, Luton) which can be quite a long journey, but there are coaches and trains that can take you there even while travelling at night.

Additional trains information can be found at this website, that allows you to plan your journey and see what is the easier, quicker way, the prices and the necessary changes.

Settling down

So now you’re in Wales! 🙂 It is exciting, but before running around visiting, you probably need to look for an accomodation, if you haven’t already started.

Before moving here, I had already started looking online for houses I could visit once I landed in my destination city and that helped me to find a place more easily.

Depending on your needs and possibilities, there are different things that you can consider: sharing a flat or a house, looking for a place for just yourself, looking up adverts from privates or going through an agency.

There are several websites that can help you looking for adverts, or once here you can ask to the letting agencies to help you in your research. There are also agencies that specialize in accomodations for students versus accomodations for professional, if you care about that.

So here is a list of website that you might consider looking at:

http://uk.easyroommate.com/
http://www.gumtree.com/

Or try and research “Letting agency” + the city you are interested in.

Tips: It could be a good idea to stay in a bed and breakfast for a few days while you visit the places that you think might be good for you and evaluate the best option. It is always best to see the place in person, meet the housemates or ask some basic information about them, check that the house is close to where you need to be or well connected by buses (if you don’t drive). It is also a good idea to check that there is a supermarket and a surgery nearby.

Remember to ask if the house is furnished and if bills and council taxes are included in the final rent as well to avoid surprises with the final price.

Transports

I mentioned the buses; it is useful to become familiar with this service if like me you don’t drive or have a car. Most cities have a bus station where information is provided, but you can find more on the First Group website.

It can be tricky at first if you are not familiar with the city, but it gets easier, I promise you! The tickets or passes can always be bought on board of the buses, so no need to ask for them at the bus station or in shops (like it happens in some European countries).

Opening a Bank Account

When it comes to opening a bank account, you have many choices of banks: Lloyds TSB, Barclays, HSBC, Co-operative, etc, however it can sometimes be a little tricky to provide all the documents necessary if you have been in the country for just a few weeks.

In particular, it can be difficult to provide a Proof of Address, given that you have just moved and received no letters or bills yet. Different banks have different requirements for this kind of stuff and personally after a few rejections, I have managed to open one with Lloyds TSB and have always had a very good customer experience with them.

Some suggestions to avoid problems with providing proof of addresses, is asking your landlady/landlord to sign a tenancy agreement that shows that you are indeed residing at their address. Otherwise, if you already have a job there, you can ask your employer to write a letter addressed to yourself at your new address with a job offer, or with a simple confirmation of address.

NIN Number

The National Insurance number makes sure your National Insurance contributions and tax are recorded against your name. You need to apply to one if you want to work in the UK and this needs to be known to your employer and to the HMRC (HM Revenue & Customs).

In order to apply for a NIN you must have the right to work in the UK. If you do, you can just contact the Job Centre plus and they will send you the forms to apply and might contact you for a short interview as well and ask you to bring some documents with you.

For more information, see this website.

Registering with a Surgery

Thanks to the amazing Welsh (and British) weather, you never know when you’ll need a doctor, so it is a good idea to register with a surgery as soon as you can, as to be prepared in case of need. On the NHS website, you can see what is the surgery or dentist practice closer to you and if you go there, you can just fill in some forms and register with the GP.

Embassy
Once you start living in the UK, depending on your country of origin, you usually need to let your Embassy know about it. You can generally find their contact information online and your Ministry of foreign affairs’s website can normally tell you what you need to do in these cases.

So, this is all I could think of for now, but if anyone requires additional information about any of the topics above, please leave a comment to this post and I will do my best to answer 🙂

Thanks! 🙂

An Introduction

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Per la versione in Italiano clicca qui.

I am an Italian who has been living in Wales, UK since June 2010.

After an article was published on the website Italians in Fuga regarding my life here, I have received many questions and requests from people who wish to move to the UK or more specifically to Wales. I always try to answer as best as I can, but this gave me the idea to start this blog, to collect some articles about my experience here, ranging from practical information to every day details that can be of interest to someone wanting to move here.

Most of the information I will be providing here will be specifically relating to Wales as this is where I live, however feel free to ask me question about the UK in general and I will do my best to answer.

If anyone has any specific request for information, please feel free to leave a comment to request it or send me an email to harleenquinzel78@gmail.com.

Thanks for reading 🙂