Lavorando all’Italiana

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For about 3 weeks now I have been working at Carel Industries in Brugine, Italy. It’s about 20km from Padova and Piove di Sacco (the nearest town) is a 3km bike ride from my stay.

Carel houses internationals in the foresteria across the parking lot from the headquarter buildings. Currently, there are 2 Chinese employees, and 1 Italian who lives near a river 3 hours away so he chooses to live here Monday through Thursday.

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From him I learned never to wash your moka coffee maker. He ran into me soaping it and practically reprimanded me for ruining the future coffee. Apparently, you leave your ground coffee inside the moka, only rinsing and refilling it before your next cup. The metal has to fuse with the coffee to make the coffee taste more like coffee. (?) According to him, it will forever taste like soap if you wash it.

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Italians are proving to be a very hospitable people. Every Monday my colleagues ask me about my weekends, past and future, during our 10 minute company coffee breaks. There are two of these, officially, at 10am and 4pm. But after lunch everyone heads to the espresso vending machines. We have chiavi which we insert into the machines and purchase café lunghi or cappuccini for 0,35€. The latter of which you are only supposed to have before pranzo; it’s “un-italian” to have cappuccinos after lunch.

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Today, my manager offered to take me grocery shopping (something 3 different people offered to do on my first day). From him I learned Italian beers are not as good as Belgian beers. Although I couldn’t find hummus, the store had an entire isle for pastas and another for olives and its oil. It takes me a longer while to grocery shop in Italy. My meals are free at the company’s cafeteria so I need breakfast foods and snacks. In Italy, breakfast is a pastry and coffee, but I purchased eggs and hope to scramble some tomorrow morning.

During the week it is relatively quiet. Because I live in a village, getting to any bigger cities involves biking for 12 minutes, taking a bus to the Padova train station for 30 minutes, or hopping on the smaller Veneto Regional Train to the Venice Mestre station. Also 30 minutes. Bus tickets are 3,10€, while the train is 2,50€.

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Fortunately, my colleagues are very proud of Italy and want to show me around. I have standing offers for dinner in Padova, motorbike rides to Chioggia the “little Venice”, and to be determined treks to the Dolomites Mountains as well as the beach in Sottomarina.

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It entirely helps that I can speak Italian at an intermediate level. Sometimes I can fool people into asking me what part of Italy I’m from. Other times I will speak English, then switch to Italian and get the very puzzled looks. I enjoy this. But chatting the Italians up has given me more information into what their lives are really like and where I should go to see amazing sites without all the tourists. My motorbiking friend, who is also a DJ and would make for the coolest 50 year old uncle, suggested Castello a region in la toscana.

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Working in Italy has allowed me to get to know the country a little better as well as demystify notions that Italians are lazy. Carel is a very respectable company with lots of organization, efficient work flow, and technical products. I am studying fluid flow in pipes, heating and cooling cycles on psychometric charts, and re-learning many thermodynamics equations. And this is what they refer to as “marketing”. First you analyze, model, simulate. Then, you make recommendations, project and present ideas. Most of their business unit is comprised of engineers who are good with words.

Engineering and business are relatively the same in whatever country you work in…The Italians have just found a way to balance it all with personal happiness.

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