10 Living Abroad Fails To Cheer Up Your Day

To cheer everyone up this long working week, especially if you’re struggling to understand a new language, here’s a few times I have very much and completely failed at basic tasks since being in Naples:

  1. For at least a week having a confusing conversation where I refused ‘marmellata’ as I don’t particularly like marmalade, and wondering what an earth the Italian was for jam.
  2. Having similar confusion with ‘prosciutto’ and ham (which in Italy is ham and in England is prosciutto).
  3. Wondering why my landlady’s nickname for her husband was ‘Louie’ when his name began with an ‘F’.*
  4. Attempting and failing at conversations at work, per esempio attempting to help with the daily office coffee order.
  5. Giving up on buying a new pillow case as I had forgotten the Italian for ‘pillow’, ‘case’, ‘cushion’, ‘sheet’ and ‘bed’ until the shop assistant grabbed a person who knew a little English. I went as red as the pillow case and sheet I was buying.
  6. Accepting a giant piece of mozzarella from my new manager a few days into my new job and eating it whole, to realise that mozzarella – which I love – is in Naples a large part like milk – which I hate with a gag-reflex passion.
  7. Being disappointed to find ham placed on my pizza post-cooking, rather than lovely crisped in the stone oven, as once again I forgot the difference between baked and… something else. Not baked? Similarly, being tired after work and ordering a ‘mozzarella’ pizza instead of a margherita. Cringe.
  8. Attempting to buy the Italian equivalent of paracetamol and realising what should have been closer to 70 cents was actually 7 euros. That’s what you get for paying with a note.
  9. Getting lost on my way to a friend’s for dinner. Getting lost would not normally make the list, but this involved following one main road along. Somehow I ended up back at the metro stop near my flat and, already late, grabbed the metro to her flat instead with deflated shoulders.
  10. Finally, being confused every time I greet or leave people as to whether I should nod, wave, shake hands, hug or air kiss (also, a reminder to some bearded gents – it is an air kiss). Or going right instead of left for said air kiss (picture some close shaves with head bumps). Or being more confused when Brits I have met here go for the air kiss – surely I was safe here with a hug?

When trying to learn a language you need a thick skin, as you will make so many embarrassing mistakes which no one but you will care about. Feel free to comment any stupid mistakes you have made while learning a language, it is always better to laugh at it all. Clearly I have not been practising enough as this list is nowhere near long enough – so get ready for ten language fails take 2.

* ‘He’ in Italian is ‘lui’. Yeah.

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