I’m Elena Gabrielli, introvert, grammar geek & proud Ravenclaw :)
I teach online Italian and beginner Japanese to introvert students who want to learn without pressure and I share tips for shy and anxious learners.

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I’ve recently written on 5 things I miss about Italy, but of course, there is also il rovescio della medaglia. So many things are not working as they should: bureaucracy is a nightmare, the social system is a mess, politicians are corrupted and overpaid. There is a general agreement that being furbo is better than being onesto. Sexism is still a huge issue and it shows on television, in everyday life, sadly in the crime news section as well.
Moreover, some of the things that come as a culture shock for people visiting Italy also feel like reverse culture shock when I go back there.

To be completely honest it feels a bit weird to be writing this post right after coming back to London from a brief holiday in Bologna. I’ve been increasingly missing Italy and the sense of familiarity of being at home, but it doesn’t mean I can forget why I left. So here is a list of 5 things I don’t miss about Italy, some lighthearted and some very serious, and just a small part of what needs improvement.

Language takeaway

Il rovescio della medaglia: The other side of the coin
Furbo: Cunning, sly, shrewd
Onesto: Honest, just

things I don't miss about Italy

Dubbed movies

As a principle, I don’t watch dubbed movies. I don’t like the silly way in which lips movements and sounds don’t match and I find it weird to see Ryan Gosling speak in Italian. When watching a dubbed movie you miss much of the acting, because a big part of it lies in the voice and the way it’s used. Finally, you miss the chance to listen to a different language, practice your skills or just enjoy the sound of it.
In Italy, every show and movie is dubbed. Some cinemas offer limited shows of original versions, but it’s an exception rather than the rule.

Dubbing is, in my opinion, one of the reasons why Italians don’t excel at English, especially if compared to North Europeans. While in Sweden and other Scandinavian countries most series and movies are shown with subtitles, in Italy the exposure to English while watching TV is non-existent.
Also, in Italy, there are a bunch of famous voice actors that dub the vast majority of movies and series. As a consequence, you’ll hear Meredith Grey speak with the same voice as Lorelei Gilmore, just to name two, and in general only the same voices over and over again.

Language takeaway

Film doppiato: Dubbed film
Sottotitoli: Subtitles
Doppiatore: Voice actor
Film in lingua originale: Original language film

Football hysteria

Italians love their football. Rivalries between two teams from the same city are like family feuds and if someone’s team gets smashed in the derby they might cry. If an Italian asks you what is your favourite team, beware: your answer will shape the idea they have of you forever.
While it’s good to have a passion it’s not so good to be a maniac, even more so if that applies to the whole country. Maybe I’m biased, but I’m going to tell you about an episode that left me puzzled to try and show you what I’m talking about.

Last year I went to a wedding during the European Cup. Lovely restaurant on the hills just outside Bologna, delicious food, joyful atmosphere and all. However, that night Italy was playing against Germany to qualify for semifinals (spoiler: we lost). Turns out for most guests it was inconceivable to miss the match. They expressed their concern to the newly-weds and the party stopped for 2 hours while the game was displayed on a big screen in the middle of the hall.
I’m not sure how the couple felt about it, but I hope no one among my family and friends ever expects me to be as accommodating…

Language takeaway

Calcio: Football
La partita: The game, the match
Tifoso: Fan (of a team or athlete)
Qual è la tua squadra preferita? What is your favourite team?
Per chi tifi? Who are you supporting?

No car no fun

In Italy, we aren’t great at public transport. At best it is late, at worst it’s not working at all, in any case, if you live just outside any city you will need a car to go pretty much anywhere, even a short distance.
I grew up in Castel Maggiore, a town situated about 10 km from the centre of Bologna. Despite the closeness, it’s connected to the city by sporadic trains and only 4 buses per hour, until about 10 pm. After that you can’t get to Bologna by public transport and believe me, nightlife in Castel Maggiore is not very exciting when you’re older than 14.
Since I moved abroad I’ve been enjoying the possibility to move around without necessarily having a car. Sometimes it takes more time and it’s more inconvenient, but you can avoid the stress of being stuck in traffic, looking for parking and paying for gasoline.

Language takeaway

Guidare: To drive
C’è molto traffico: There is a lot of traffic
Ingorgo: Traffic jam
Cercare parcheggio: To look for a parking lot


To be fair I think television isn’t great in most countries. From the common obsession for cooking shows and the sadomasochistic attraction for trash TV exposing the worst side of humanity, I rarely even find a reason to turn it on.
Italian television has its own peculiar plagues though. We have an overwhelming quantity of political talk shows where people end up insulting each other in a way that doesn’t fit your ideal representatives. Italian series are generally based on family or everyday situations and have mediocre screenplays, dialogues and acting.

Most of all, Italian television is still largely ruled by men. Women are on their side, sometimes they act stupid and they are mocked or receive paternalist reproaches. In the worst case scenario, they are literally part of the furniture: they stand in the background wearing very little clothes. You might as well get some plants to do that. What is worse is that when I was younger I took it for granted and I thought that was happening in every country. One of the most striking examples is the veline from the popular comedy show Striscia la Notizia: two girls, one blonde and one brunette, that dance on the news anchors’ desk and have a merely decorative purpose.

There are some exceptions and some women that host their own shows, but many of them mimic the same kind of sexist language and ignorant behaviour seen elsewhere.

Language takeaway

Televisione: Television
TV spazzatura: Trash TV
Velina: TV hostess/dancer from the show Striscia la Notizia. In popular culture, the word became a synonym for a TV presenter’s assistant who is valued only for her looks.

No future

Quite a punk statement, uh? In the last ten years or so, since the start of the great recession, I’ve been having this nagging feeling of hopelessness whenever I think about my country. It’s heartrending to see people my age and younger struggle to find a job, to be paid appropriately or to be paid at all whenever they have one. It’s outrageous to be faced with unacceptable working conditions because if you don’t take the job someone else will, even under those conditions. It’s infuriating to see that even dignity sometimes is too much to ask for and that planning for the future seems like a utopia.

In a world where freelancing is becoming more and more widespread, Italy has a tax regulation that nips every attempt to start working as self-employed in the bud.
As a consequence of years of blind working policies, it’s way too common for people who are 30 and above to live with their parents: they cannot even afford a room in a shared house.
And to add insult to injury in recent years ministers and other public figures defined the millennial generation as “bamboccioni” (mommy’s boys), “choosy” and “sfigati” (losers).

Language takeaway

Disoccupazione: Unemployment
Grande recessione: Big recession
Stroncare sul nascere: To nip in the bud
Oltre al danno la beffa: To add insult to injury
Bamboccione: Mommy’s boy, big baby. Word used in 2007 by Tommaso Padoa-Schioppa, then Minister of Economy, to define people around 25 who still live with their parents.
Sfigato: Loser

Are there things about your country that you don’t miss at all since living abroad? If you live or have lived in Italy what do you think are its negative sides? Let me know in the comments!

If you prefer to listen to me talking about the same topic in Italian and get a chance to practice the language, here is a video for you 🙂

Want more Italian language & culture? Find me on Instagram!


I’m Elena Gabrielli, introvert, grammar geek & proud Ravenclaw :)
I teach online Italian and beginner Japanese to introvert students who want to learn without pressure and I share tips for shy and anxious learners.

When you ask an Italian living abroad what they miss about Italy they will tell you, pretty much in this order: the bidet, our amazing food, nice weather and of course family and friends. And yes! I very much agree with all of these, but today I want to share with you a few more Italian things that make me feel nostalgic and emotional. These things aren’t easy to find here in London! Ready?

things I miss about Italy


I would describe this as a generally positive and open attitude towards others that shows in everyday situations. It’s different from the utter terror of embarrassing silences that brings the Brits to start small talks about the weather at any time. It’s more of a genuine curiosity for others and their lives – sometimes dangerously close to nosiness (or being a ficcanaso). Together with Italians’ tendency to easily talk about private matters with strangers, this can bring to unexpectedly personal and long conversations with random people before a job interview or an exam at university. You’ll probably never meet that person again but you still got the chance to bond for a few hours.
My favourite example of cordialità takes place in waiting halls. When you get into a doctor’s office it’s polite to say Buongiorno to others waiting in line, even though you don’t know them. And when you leave it doesn’t hurt to say Arrivederci. Such a small detail, but it suddenly makes me feel at home!

Language takeaway

Cordialità: cordiality, politeness, friendliness.
Ficcanaso: a nosy person.
Buongiorno: Good morning.
Arrivederci: Goodbye.


Often translated as happy hour Italy’s aperitivo actually presents a relevant difference with its British equivalent: the focus is not on drinking. You don’t go and have aperitivo because you want to chug as many beers as possible for half price. You go to catch up with your friends, enjoy their company and conversation in front of a spritz, and for the free food. Yep, because in Italy there’s an unspoken rule stating that you shouldn’t drink on an empty stomach. You’d get wasted in no time otherwise, right? What you get with the aperitivo is not a lot of cheap alcohol, but lots of free food included in the price of a drink. And we’re talking pasta, pizza, salad, plus all sorts of snacks. Oh, how I miss it.

Language takeaway

Aperitivo: Happy hour, the Italian way.
Spritz: Wine-based cocktail originally from Veneto, in Northeast Italy. It’s prepared with Prosecco mixed with Aperol or Campari, topped off with mineral sparkling water.
Ci vediamo per un aperitivo?: Shall we meet for happy hour?

Il pranzo della domenica

When I was a kid Sundays used to be a big deal. My parents dressed me up in my vestito della domenica (Sunday best) and took me to the church (gulp). Then we would go and have lunch at grandma’s and often my aunts, uncles and cousins would be there as well. Then, if the weather was good, we would go to a park. Shops, supermarkets and malls used to be closed on Sundays – good old days before shopping became an activity people enjoy more than strolling in nature. Sunday was the day when everyone rested and of all the stuff we got from our Catholic tradition, this one was pretty cool.
Now I don’t go to the church anymore (phew) and shops are open seven days a week (boo), but my family still gathers on Sundays to have a “special” meal. I think Sunday’s lunch is one of the best ways to represent the positive side of Italians’ obsession with family and their close relationship with it.

Language takaway

Pranzo della domenica: Sunday’s lunch.
Vestito della domenica: Sunday best.

La piazza

More accurately, meeting up at the square and the social implications coming with it. La piazza (square) in Italy is not just a place where two or more streets meet. It’s the place where people meet to have a coffee, to celebrate, to commemorate or to protest. It’s the heart of every Italian city, town or village.
But there is more to this than just going for a coffee with someone. What I miss is also being able to text a friend, ask them to catch up and agree to meet in 2 hours at the square. Easy, spontaneous, no need to plan it weeks in advance and to travel for one hour to the other side of the city. So different from the hectic life in London!

Language takeaway

La piazza: The square
Scendere in piazza: To demonstrate against something.
Ci vediamo in piazza alle 4?: Should we meet at the square at 4?
Spontaneità: Spontaneity

Sentirsi a casa

This one can apply to anyone living abroad. No matter how confident I feel with English and how familiar I am with the culture, to an extent, I will always feel like a foreigner. Some nuances might get lost in translation, some specific words might not come to mind when needed, some habits might still be obscure. I might not understand references to a TV show from the 90’s everyone knows, or a joke, or a pun.
Most of the time it doesn’t affect my life and it doesn’t make me feel less at home, but when I am in Italy it’s refreshing to feel that I actually “get it”. The things that are left unspoken, the small details in a conversation, an eloquent glance, everything makes perfect sense to me. I miss being able to relax completely when I communicate, grasping every small bit of what’s going on, knowing exactly what language register is appropriate in any social setting. But also going to the doctor and describing my symptoms without any difficulty or knowing the specific bureaucratic language. I will keep learning, observing and assimilating language and culture, but I know that I will hardly feel just as comfortable with it as I do with Italian.

Language takeaway

Sentirsi a casa: To feel at home.
Gioco di parole: Pun.

If you live or have lived abroad, what are the things you miss more about your country? Are there some that you don’t miss at all?

Here you can find a video in Italian about the same topic, to help you practice the language 🙂

Want more Italian language & culture daily? Find me on Instagram!


I’m Elena Gabrielli, introvert, grammar geek & proud Ravenclaw :)
I teach online Italian and beginner Japanese to introvert students who want to learn without pressure and I share tips for shy and anxious learners.

The days are getting longer and I find it much easier to study a bit after dinner while it’s still bright outside. In May I finally started to teach Italian again and I’m willing to move my teaching online as soon as possible. It’s frustrating to waste two hours on the tube for every hour of lesson. I want to be able to dedicate that time to creating more awesome learning materials for my students!

new swedish learning routine

How did it go last month?

First of all, I was finally able to put into words the reasons for my crisis with Japanese. It will take some time to solve the issues, but it’s a start. I did watch a few movies (you’ll find my recommendations below) and listened to music.

I’m enjoying practising writing on Instagram. The language learning community is active and lively there and I like to see how everyone is doing and to be inspired.

I didn’t watch any movie in French and Swedish though. It’s difficult to force myself to pick a film just because it’s in my target language. Movies are a very serious business for me and I can only watch something if it fits the mood.

French reading practice worked alright, I also used French for a few Google searches instead of English.

Studying Swedish this month was really pleasant, more so than usual. I accomplished most of my goals: I learnt over 100 words on Memrise – Swedish 5, studied regularly on Babbel (affiliate) and Learningswedish.se and practised reading every week. I have mostly absorbed and had a slow learning approach for a while, but I finally feel it’s time to step up my game.

A new Swedish learning routine

I’ve been feeling more confident about Swedish recently: I’m familiar with the sentence structure, I can predict some patterns and I learnt enough vocabulary to start producing sentences beyond “the pen is on the table”. With the help of a dictionary, I am also able to read simple articles and posts written for native speakers. This is why I want to challenge myself: this month I will start exploring 8 Sidor, a website with simplified news in writing and audio. It’s aimed at intermediate learners and I’m not even close, but reading is my strongest point so I’m going to dare.

Last week I got some news that made me rethink my Swedish learning routine: an invitation to the wedding of my boyfriend’s sister, at the end of the summer. As I’m going to meet most of the family (no pressure at all!) I want to be able to have decent conversations with them in Swedish. I am sure everyone will be amazing in English, but that would be cheating, right?

I am going to prepare to have conversations on a few topics that might come up during the event and to answer and ask questions about myself and others. My keywords will be: reinforce (what I already learnt) and build (new skills and confidence).

In the past few months I had dropped Duolingo as I didn’t find it useful in the first stages of learning, but now I’m going back to a few sessions a week. For me, it works much better as a reviewing tool.

I added to my resources a new website (thank you, Marie, for recommending it!): hejsvenska.se. It’s fun and covers everyday vocabulary that might actually come in handy.

Babbel, Learningswedish.se and Memrise will still be part of my weekly routine. In particular, I want to create a new deck on Memrise for words, sentences and expressions to use in conversations. The areas I want to reinforce or build are:

  • Introducing myself: nationality, age, profession, where I live.
  • Family.
  • Likes and dislikes.
  • Verbs: present tense, past tense, future tense.
  • Small talks.
  • Talk about my country.
  • Food, drinks.

These are mostly very basic topics but I want to be sure I can talk extensively and with confidence about them. You might have guessed it: talking is the hardest part for me – in any language really, even my own!

The biggest change to my routine will be adding a lot of production. Every week I will pick one subject and write a brief text about it, researching vocabulary and getting it corrected. I will then have a conversation about the same topic, expanding it with new words and expressions.

Can you think of any other area I should prepare for the big occasion? I might be too nervous to think clearly!

Language goals for French and Japanese

I will give myself as much freedom as possible with Japanese. We had a bad breakup and we need to become friends again, so we’ll be kind to each other. Hopefully, there will be many more movies – one per week sound like a good deal.

For French I will have the chance to talk as I’m seeing an old friend from France later this month, we’ll see if I can still express myself. I will also keep reading an article per week.

Japanese movies recommendations

In May I watched two beautiful movies by director Hirokazu Koreeda, After Life and Air Doll. You can find two bite-sized Japanese lessons inspired by these films in my last post.

I also watched three very good animated works.

Kiki Delivery Service (魔女の宅急便 Majo no takkyūbin), an old favourite of mine, is the story of a young witch growing up, learning to live by herself and to be independent. It’s a very sweet movie by Hayao Miyazaki, produced by Studio Ghibli. Not only the film itself is lovely, but it’s also set in a town inspired by Stockholm and Visby. Watching it right after coming back from Sweden got me nostalgic and emotional.

Patema Inverted (サカサマのパテマ  Sakasama no Patema) is a science fiction work set in a dystopic world. Humans have messed around with gravity with worrying results. Amidst a dictatorship fuelled by fear and hate, a boy and a girl will meet and bond despite all adversities.

Pom Poko (平成狸合戰ぽんぽこ Heisei tanuki gassen ponpoko), directed by Studio Ghibli co-founder Isao Takahata, is a tale rooted in Japanese folklore and with a strong environmentalist message. Tanuki 狸 (Japanese racoon dogs) are threatened by humans destroying their forest, so they decide to open a war against men. A cleaver, fun yet bitter portrays of Japan and its modernisation (or westernisation?).


I’m Elena Gabrielli, introvert, grammar geek & proud Ravenclaw :)
I teach online Italian and beginner Japanese to introvert students who want to learn without pressure and I share tips for shy and anxious learners.

I recently wrote about falling out of love with Japanese and how I am trying to go past my crisis through my biggest passion, the one that brought me to Japan in the first place: movies.

Instead of forcing myself to study in a traditional way I am allowing time to enjoy my favourite activities and only when possible to get a little language take away from it.
So here are two good Japanese movies I watched this month and I recommend whether you are studying the language or not. Each of them inspired me a tiny Japanese lesson to share with you, I hope you enjoy it!

Do you have any recommendations for Japanese movies? Do you usually focus on a specific vocabulary area or grammar topic when watching a movie in your target language?

learn japanese through movies

After Life – Hirokazu Koreeda, 1998

Original title: ワンダフルライフ Wandafuru raifu
Recent works of Koreeda are sometimes compared to Yasujiro Ozu (though he feels closer to Ken Loach) for his attention to family dynamics and to everyday life’s details. Some of his earlier works though have more of a supernatural approach. This is the case with his 1998 movie After Life. This film uses an interesting narrative device in order to explore human feelings and the varied experiences people go through during their lives.

Language takeaway: words and expressions used to talk about the past or your memories.

思い出 [おもいで omoide]: memories, reminiscence.
記憶 [きおく kioku]: memory, recollection, remembrance.
最初の記憶 [さいしょのきおく saisho no kioku]: the first memory.
覚える [おぼえる oboeru]: to remember.
はっきり覚えている [はっきりおぼえている hakkiri oboeteiru]: to remember clearly.
忘れる [わすれる wasureru] to forget.
忘れられないこと [わすれられないこと wasurerarenai koto]: something unforgettable.
印象深い [いんしょうぶかい inshou bukai]: deeply impressive, memorable, striking.
一番思い出深い風景 [いちばんおもいでぶかいふうけい ichiban omoidebukai fuukei]: the scenery that resides deepest in my memory.
過去を振り返る [かこをふりかえる kako wo furikaeru]: to think back on the past.
思い出を遡る [おもいでをさかのぼる omoide wo sakanoboru]: to go back in memories.
生きた証を残して死にたい [いきたあかしをのこしてしにたい ikita akashi wo nokoshite shinitai]: I want to die leaving evidence that I lived.
あの頃のこと考えると… [あのころをかんがえると… ano koro wo kangaeru to…]: if I think back to that time…
大切な思い出を選ぶ [たいせつなおもいでをえらぶ taisetsuna omoide wo erabu]: to choose a precious memory.

Air Doll – Hirokazu Koreeda, 2009

Original title: 空気人形 (くうきにんぎょう Kūki Ningyō)
A beautiful, heartrending, dreamy and cruel movie about an air doll, created as a sexual substitute for men, that magically comes to life. Koreeda delivers another movie brimming with humanity, a beautifully directed work enhanced by an impeccable soundtrack.
Nozomi, the protagonist gracefully played by Korean actress Bae Doona, discovers the world little by little as if she was a child. Her lines of dialogue are spoken clearly and slowly. Moreover, other characters give her explanations of concepts she doesn’t know, providing you with some good examples of monolingual definitions.

Language takeaway: Grammar – ~て形+しまう -te form + shimau

This expression has two main meanings:
to finish completely
to do something by accident (conveys involuntariness or regret, or is used when pretending said feelings).
In many sentences can be translated into “end up ___ing”. It’s often used in its past form: ~てしまった -te shimatta.
Ex. ケーキを食べてしまった。 [keki wo tabete shimatta] I ate all the cake (oops! I didn’t mean to but…).
その映画を見て泣いてしまった。 [sono eiga wo mite naite shimatta] Watching that movie, I ended up crying.
From the movie: 心を持ってしまった [kokoro wo motte shimatta]. I found myself having a heart (I was not supposed to, but it happened).
Polite form: present ~てしまいます (-te shimaimasu), past ~てしまいました (-te shimaimashita).
Colloquial form: present ちゃう (chau), past ちゃった (chatta).


I’m Elena Gabrielli, introvert, grammar geek & proud Ravenclaw :)
I teach online Italian and beginner Japanese to introvert students who want to learn without pressure and I share tips for shy and anxious learners.