Italians in Britain

Immigration? This time? Large swathes of Italians, perhaps half of young people, want to leave the country. Many want to come to Britain. Are they sure?

The 'Full English' pizza. Appealing to Italians everywhere, right?
Tim Hedges
On 7 January 2014 21:04

Following the EU austerity policy, large swathes of Italians, perhaps half of young people, want to leave.

In the years up to the First World War, emigration was due to poverty, even hunger. Now it is lack of trust in the institutions and lack of hope that things will ever be better.

Rather than the New World, many now seek a life closer to home and it seems that Britain is one of the most popular destinations. According to Il Fatto Quotidiano newspaper, whilst registered immigrants to the UK number around 250,000, the real figure for Italians in Britain may be double that. Most are young and looking for work.

The Italian Embassy in London is concerned about how these people are fitting into the British way of life, and the Ambassador, Pasquale Terraciano, is offering tutorials on how to integrate. We were able to get a sneak preview of the advice being given.

Ciao carissimi. The weather has turned out nice again.

First things first, the British are different and they expect you to behave like them. You don’t have to wear a bowler hat or say ‘old boy’ but you do have to make an effort. Start off by getting some ill-fitting clothes.

At work they don’t like you turning up thirty minutes late for a meeting and saying you were unavoidably detained (you were chatting up your manager’s secretary, weren’t you?). Meetings start on time. Crazy, I know.

Oh, and they don’t expect you to walk out of the office for a coffee with a friend. And men don’t usually walk arm in arm looking in clothes shop windows. British lack of emotion, I guess.

Talking of coffee, in England it tastes as if was made in Italy, but has lost much of its flavour after the weeklong journey to London and being reheated to lukewarm.

But it’s OK, you can’t afford the coffee anyway. And what the Brits regard as an edible pastry costs as much as a three course meal in Rome.

Ah yes, eating out. You are advised not to eat in any restaurant marked as ‘Italian’, unless it costs more than £75 per head. Then again, most of them do.

The British never look as if they are enjoying themselves in a restaurant. They’re not. The British tax wine, because it is naughty, at around £3 per bottle. Then the restaurant puts a mark-up of 400%.

It is considered impolite in Britain to ask why, with the cost of alcohol, everyone is drunk all the time. They don’t need to spend on sunglasses.

The weather in winter is like a bad night in the Italian Alps. Summer is about the same. When entering a room, always say the weather has turned out nice.

A word on driving: You know that line down the centre of the road? The British want you to keep to one side of that, even on a corner. As it happens it is the wrong side.

Do not check your hair in the rear-view mirror while driving. It seems there’s some law about it. Oh, and those flashing yellow lights on each side of the car, they’re for showing if you are turning left or right, apparently.

Taxis in London go at a reasonable speed; the driver knows the directions and does not play deafening music or gesticulate with both hands at other drivers. It’s a bit boring but it’s OK, you can’t afford it.

Affordable property: Ha! Find a girl.

British girls are affectionate but assume you mean what you say (so don’t say it). They spend the evenings watching cookery programmes but don’t cook like your mother. Or anyone else’s mother: they don’t cook.

The British do not make hand gestures, except at opposing football teams. It’s best simply not to speak.

Listen, you’re sure you want to go ahead with this?

Tim Hedges, The Commentator's Italy Correspondent, had a career in corporate finance before moving to Rome where he works as a freelance writer, novelist, and farmer. You can read more of his articles about Italy here

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