Getting Used to the Sicilian Work Week

Among the cultural shocks faced when moving to southern Italy the one that surprised me the most was the different approach to work. Coming from Sweden having strangers greet you in the street and strike up a conversation was a welcomed change. People seem friendlier or at least curious about who this new volunteer in this small town of eight thousand inhabitants was. Introducing yourself, where you are from, and your age became part of the daily routine and the more people I met the harder it became to just walk across town without being stopped.

While I was aware of the fact that Sicilians, just like their Mediterranean neighbours, take siestas it was still surprising that even the grocery stores were closed for multiple hours in the middle of the day. With the shining sun beaming above, making you exhausted from just being outside for an hour; it is understandable to need a break but it was still a concept that I needed to get used to.

Even more shocking was the pace at which people work. Not only for my own volunteering work but for how the locals I talked to view their job. It became clear that Sicilian work functions under a task based structure rather then an eight hour workday. As long as you finished your work tasks for the week it did not matter how much and when you worked. For me, this change in attitude was the biggest adjustment to overcome moving here.

While yes, your productivity changes throughout a workday in Sweden as well, it seems more expected and accepted in Sicily. You approach your tasks at a pace that fits you and as long as you deliver on a final product it is your own responsibility to manage your time. Being used to the self reliant structure of university studies this adjustment suited me well once I had grown used to it but at first, I found myself restless.

However, with the realisation that it is my responsibility to structure my work and the approach to my day to day, it became liberating. I now feel content with being able to take a break and just relax for an hour or two to recover my energy. I thank my flatmates for helping me reach this realisation and for helping me find ways to fill my time once the restlessness set in.