An encounter with an Italian

One aspect of living in London that I'm still getting used to is the flatmate turnaround. I've lived here for ten months and I've already lost count of how many people I've lived with. On one hand, it can be
really stressful to share the place you call 'home' with strangers. On the other hand, it can prove to be interesting, at least when the person doesn't turn out to be a drug-abusing, chain-smoking, 40-year-old DJ with no teeth and serious anger issues (I mention no names).

To my delight, last night someone new moved into the empty bedroom next to mine that had been locked for two weeks - and he seemed to be relatively conscientious, well-mannered and didn't look like he had the stare of the devil (maybe not the first qualities you look for unless you're in this type of situation).

Within the first five seconds I discovered he was Italian, and within the first ten I realised this meant he was married to coffee. Five minutes later I was stood, awkwardly holding an espresso that burnt my brain as I breathed in, and weighing up what I'd prefer: the chance that he could see me pouring it down the drain, or drinking it and seriously risking a nervous breakdown.

An opening conversation with someone new usually covers where you come from, what job you do and how long you've lived in London. Our first conversation consisted of Mr Italian talking passionately about coffee as I resisted the urge to drown my espresso in milk.

He told me that he has never been into a Starbucks before, and on his first and only trip to a Costa, he spat out his coffee and started shouting at the barista who was responsible for his suffering. "It wasn't real coffee" he shouted, with a look of pure disgust.

As always, I excelled in the social situation and the secret came out that I drink instant, decaf coffee - hence why I was force-fed the espresso. I asked him if he ever drank a normal-sized coffee, rather than what looked to be no more than a mouthful's worth. He said no. I asked him if people ever drink cups of tea in Italy. He said no (and laughed). As I hovered over him unpacking, and holding the smallest mug in the world, I wondered how social situations work in Italy - because this one definitely wasn't.

I went back to my bedroom, mainly to disguise the sounds of choking, and realised how important a full mug really is to us Brits. A cup of tea is the first thing we do in most social situations. Perhaps it's because we're an innately awkward bunch, hiding behind a cup of tea like it's armour, whereas the Italians put nothing but a Polly Pocket-sized mug between themselves. What do they do with their hands? How do they fill awkward silences?

It pains me to think of awkward situations, such as meeting your partner's parents, for example, without a boiling kettle as background noise and a disarming mug of tea to stare at. Oh well, I need to go and hide my Pot Noodles before one of our brains explodes.


  1. There's nothing worse than trying to hide the fact that you're finding a speciality coffee unbearably bitter, when someone's spouting off all the reasons it's so brilliant.

    Bravo. Spike his next thimble of caffeine with Nescafe Gold and show him a REALLY good beverage!

    1. Haha or I might just replace his 'mugs' with thimbles and see if he notices (I doubt he won't)!

  2. Haha this made me giggle! I completely agree that espressos are vile, and also totally feel you on the way us Brits hide in awkward social situations with a cup of tea. It's the ice breaker of all situations, "Can I get you a drink? Tea, coffee?"

    It sounds like this could be a nice little friendship forming. I think you could learn lots from him, and he could learn lots from you. I'm a tad jealous!


  3. Thanks for the great post!:)

  4. hahahah!! Ohhh Jessica I feel so sorry for you. I feel your pain about living with housemates. Jeez, and mine were nice people! Sharing your space is hard but harder still when they are perfect strangers. On the plus side, is he at least hot? Italian is a romantic language after all.
    I would have struggled to drink 'proper' coffee too, but I guess its a bit like dark chocolate. The stronger you have it, the more you get used to until you're on to the 'real' stuff and the softy creamy milky stuff tastes vile.
    I know what you mean about us brits and tea. Truly, I don't know what I would do without a humongus mug of tea. It solves any situation, makes friends, soothes the soul - I wouldn't know what to do if someone refused a brew!


    1. I know, I'm still getting used to the fact that anyone can come into the place I consider home and start living in it, too!

      Haha I always feel awkward when someone refuses a brew. Why would you do that?! Although, now we're going through a heatwave I should probably learn how to make iced tea - but it just wouldn't be the same!

  5. Hi Jessica,

    I've just discovered your blog and really enjoyed reading through some of your posts! Especially this one. Such an interesting, well written little story. I've heard tons of interesting stories about different housemates in London from various people. I look forward to having similar stories one day (although hopefully none of the housemate horror stories, mind).

    And who doesn't drink tea? Madness.


    1. Aw, thanks for such a lovely comment! It completely depends on where you're living but my experiences of flatmates has not been good - but at least it makes for blog material! x

  6. Haha how funny! Would love to hear how you get on with the Italian in future! I know what you mean about holding a big mug of tea, it def helps situations!! :)