A Week In Bari, Italy, On A $20,900 Salary

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Today: a translator working in education who makes $20,900 per year and spends some of her money this week on a mojito.
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Occupation: Translator
Industry: Education
Age: 26
Location: Bari, Italy
Salary: $20,900
Paycheck Amount (1x/month): $1,400 USD
Monthly Expenses
Rent: $670 (Split between my boyfriend and me)
Student Loan Payment: $0 (Only because I don't earn enough to reach the threshold for paying back UK student loans.)
Utilities: $65 (electric, gas, water, and building tax)
Netflix: $8
Internet: $32 every three months

Day One

8:30 a.m. — After getting up around 7, I get ready, make myself a coffee, and walk 10 minutes to the train station. My boyfriend, T., often gives me a lift, but he's under a lot of pressure at work at the moment, so on the days he doesn't have leave the house until 9:15, it doesn't seem fair to wake him up. Train is late, as usual. $1.28
11 a.m. — I have an unusually eventful morning at work: I'm supervising English exams, and one of the candidates breaks down crying. Then, in a unrelated incident, a woman comes storming in and starts shouting at my colleague. I'm feeling pretty down about the way things are going in this job, especially since I found out earlier this week that my contract is being "suspended" next month (Italian private companies = difficult work environment). I pop over to the bar and buy a mini savory croissant, a mini pie, and a mini panzerotto (essentially a donut with mozzarella and tomato). $2.10
1:30 p.m. — T. comes to my office for lunch, and we eat rice, potatoes, and mussels (a typical local dish) that his mum made. This happens a lot, and I'm extremely grateful for it, but I feel bad that I don't have time on my hour lunch break to go to her house and eat it there, like most Italians do.
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5 p.m. — I dash out of work early because a) I have nothing to do, and b) we are going to a wedding tonight and I'd rather not turn up rocking the sweaty hair, too-much-time-in-front-of-a-screen eyes, and melted makeup look that I'm currently sporting. $1.28
7 p.m. — I shower and get ready in record time, and we head to the wedding in a nearby town. In Puglia (and I don't know if this is the case in other parts of Italy), instead of asking for gifts, it is custom to give the bride and groom cash to cover the costs of the event, which is always massively elaborate. I understand it, but with three weddings in July alone, it's taking its toll! Still, the reception is incredible. I go hard on the sparkling wine whilst we're eating the huge spread of antipasti, which includes fried mussels, burrata, and every cured meat under the sun. I have to stop drinking for the rest of the meal (two different pasta courses and then some fish) so I don't embarrass myself. The dessert buffet opens, but we leave around 1 a.m., because we're going on holiday tomorrow! $115
Daily Total: $119.66

Day Two

8 a.m. — Wake up, make myself a coffee, and drink a load of water because at the grand old age of 26, my body has decided to hate me whenever I drink. I immediately get to work on using vinegar to clean the shower door, which I think we all agree is not the ideal Saturday morning activity, but is very necessary given its grimy state.
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12 p.m. — I run downstairs to the deli/shop to get sandwiches to take on our journey today. I get us two each with ham and mozzarella. Our friends arrive (in a separate car, as they're staying longer), and we are on our way to Salento! $8
2:30 p.m. — We stop off at a beach none of us have been to before to have a swim. The water is beautiful and crystal clear. We all have a mojito and drink it in the water, and a nap (not in the water) for good measure. $11.60
5 p.m. — We're with T.'s friends, who I always really enjoy spending time with. One of them lives in New York and is craving an espressino freddo, which is a tiny iced coffee cream. We stop at a bar and all get them. He pays.
7 p.m. — We finally arrive! We go straight to the beach and stay there until sunset, drinking beers ($4.65). We have an interesting conversation about the tourism industry here. I've been feeling extremely low about my job recently (in a totally different sector) and so hearing people being positive about the potential of this area makes me feel less like a failure for living in a place with such a dry job market. $4.65
9 p.m. — We head out for dinner at a kind of beach shack serving fresh seafood. We order raw prawns, pasta with clams and mussels, baked mussels, octopus meatballs, and a jug of house wine. By some strange turn of events, we end up being joined by an Italian MasterChef finalist, so I grill him about cooking schools in Bari (a girl can dream). The food is delicious, but the price shocks me. I pay for T., as he filled up the car with gas earlier, and we always split costs while on long trips. We stop on the way home to buy a crepe from a van. I go overboard and ask for Nutella, pistachio cream, and coconut. It's predictably dry. $75
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Daily Total: $99.25

Day Three

9 a.m. — We go to the shop to get picnic supplies, and I spot sunscreen specifically for the face. I'd usually consider this kind of thing to be a beauty industry scam, but I keep getting chin breakouts and I think it's the massive amounts of sunscreen I have to apply to avoid becoming radioactive. I also buy some conditioner but later realize it's for curly hair, which I don't have. $9
11 a.m. — We spend the day on a different stunning beach. With everything that's been happening at work, I've been feeling conflicted about the region recently, but weekends like these make me realize that there are many, many benefits. I vow to try and be more positive. We buy beers, iced coffees, and water from the tiny kiosk throughout the day, and use a blowup mattress to get as far out to sea as possible. I step on a sea urchin, which hurts. $15
8 p.m. — On the way back to the house, we stop at a bar for aperol spritzes and to watch the sunset. The other girl in our group pays. I'm glad that we all spent this weekend together, because I feel like I got to know her a lot better, and it confirmed my feelings about how much I admire her! We buy chips too, but they turn out to have dead ants in them (okay??). I take them back and the girl at the bar just shrugs and gives me a new one. Oh, Italy.
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9:30 p.m. — We head into a nearby town to eat meat (despite being so close to the sea). We have grilled vegetables, eggplant parmigiana, and an insane amount of grilled meat including bombette, which are little pork rolls with things like cheese and herbs inside. We drink red wine and beer. Our friends pay, as we have no cash, and as with most things here, it's cash only.
11 p.m. — We head to an ATM to pay our friends back for the meal, but they refuse, saying they want to pay to say thank you for the hospitality. We are staying in T.'s parents' beach house, so I literally have not been hospitable in any way. I take them all for dessert. We have granitas and profiteroles, which are delicious. $13
Daily Total: $37

Day Four

6 a.m. — Horribly early alarm, as we have to drive two and a half hours to get to work on time. We offer our friends the keys so they can stay and sleep longer, but they refuse. I pay for breakfast for us all, because I feel bad that they have to get up so early. We head back to Bari bleary-eyed, but soooo much more relaxed! $8
9 a.m. — Back to reality. T. drove all the way back, and I feel bad for him that he has to now go and work in this heat. I pay for his coffee from the bar, and grab one for my colleague, too. $3.50
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1:30 p.m. — After staring at my screen for four-and-a-half hours, I want to burst into tears. I'm also very aware of how low my vegetable intake has been recently, so I get a tuna and farro salad from the bar for lunch. The rest of the day is spent organizing the files on my computer. $4
6:20 p.m. — I rush out of the door as fast as humanly possible and jump on the train. I call my mum on the very short journey. She's discovered that my dad and I are throwing a surprise party for her in October, because nothing gets past her. I ask her for her friend's email addresses so I can send out the Save the Dates, but she claims not to have them. My dad later asks me to "use Facebook or Instagram" to get hold of them. Bless. $1.28
7 p.m. — I pick up a little food on the way home: lettuce, salad tomatoes, an avocado, prosciutto, milk, cheese, cacio e pepe-flavored chips, filled pasta, and a bottle of rosé which I love but should not be spending money on. Then I pop over to the butcher to buy chicken. I make a kind of Caesar salad. T. and I eat together when he gets back from band practice. $30
10 p.m. — We entertain the idea of going for a stroll along the seafront to meet up with friends, but we are both exhausted and fall asleep watching Dangerous Tourist on Netflix.
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Daily Total: $46.78

Day Five

8:30 a.m. — After my usual morning routine of coffee and not much else, I hop on the train for my last day before my contract suspension. $1.28
10 a.m. — T. calls to tell me he's locked his car and house keys inside our flat, and that he's going to have to get the train to come and pick up my set. This is better than the time when he left the house keys inside the flat after he'd just put pasta on to boil, and I was working an hour away. I think the heat must be getting to him! Luckily, his sister comes to the rescue and brings him the spare set.
1:30 p.m. — I eat last night's salad without the chicken and a colleague gives me a slice of leftover pizza. I am kind of sad to be leaving these guys behind — we've had fun together over the last few months.
6:30 p.m. — FINISHED! Freedom, I guess? But also total financial insecurity?! I don't know whether to laugh or cry, and I take the train home, shower, and head into town to meet my colleague, who's also had her contract suspended. $1.28
7:30 p.m. — We spend a couple of hours drinking Peroni at a bar and then my friend leaves to call her boyfriend. T. arrives too, bearing pasta that his mum has made! We head to a different bar (the one where we met) and have a couple more beers before heading home to eat the pasta and pass out. $10
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Daily Total: $12.56

Day Six

7 a.m. — First day of my month with no guaranteed income begins. I head to the bank to get forms approved to see if I am eligible to claim state support for this month. (I'd like to make it clear that I found out about not working only a few days before the end of the month, otherwise I would have course have dedicated more time to job hunting beforehand.) I wait for about 40 minutes, which isn't too terrible, and they stamp papers for me.
11 a.m. — I go to the market to buy eggplant, courgettes, peaches, garlic, onion, eggs, and trash can liners. When I get home, I put together a salad with roasted eggplant and black beans. $4
1 p.m. — T. picks me up, and we go meet a friend we haven't seen for a year! She lives in Berlin and is one of the people I feel I've connected with most since I've been in this country. We go to a dog beach (!) and chat with some people who make us mussels. We smoke a joint together, and then I have a swim, but the rocks are really slippery. Let's just say I'm glad nobody was filming.
4 p.m. — I get home, T. heads back to the office, and I spend the afternoon updating a translation of a menu I did for T.'s uncle. I also unexpectedly get a couple of agency jobs, albeit small ones, so I work hard to get them finished before the 6 p.m. deadline.
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7 p.m. — T. kindly drops me at a friend's house. We catch up, and she shows me the graphic she has made for my mum's birthday. I tell her to let me know how much I owe her, and she says $25. I tell her it's not enough. I think it's really important that artists get paid what they deserve. The freelance world is a strange place and can be very exploitative. I'll give her $50 once she's finished the job, because it looks amazing and it's clear she's worked many hours on it.
8 p.m. — I run home. It feels great to exercise after a couple of weeks off. T. is at band practice because he has an important gig on Friday, so I shower and make myself a dinner of ravioli and salad. I make a pizza di patate for him for when he gets home, and spend my evening reading cookbooks and watching YouTube videos.
Daily Total: $4

Day Seven

7:30 a.m. — Up and at 'em. T. gives me a lift to the office where they'll check my papers to see if I'm eligible for any kind of benefits. Over coffee, I tell him how I feel about it all, and he makes me feel much better. He's really looked after me lately and stopped me from losing all faith in myself. I expect to wait all morning, as is the norm for anything here, but I'm the first one in! I am eligible for $700 worth of benefits for three months whilst I am looking for work. I hope I only have to make use of the first month.
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9:30 a.m. — I walk home, which takes around 40 minutes, and chat with an English friend of mine in the phone. She also lives in Italy, so we have a lot in common, and we talk for around an hour hour, complaining and rejoicing at the same time about our strange expat lives!
12 p.m. — I go to the market and buy courgettes, more eggplant, a lemon, milk, salted ricotta, watermelon, and pasta. One of T.'s friends is coming for lunch, so I make pasta alla norma and a frittata with courgettes. He brings a bottle of wine, and we smoke a bit whilst we catch up. $7
3 p.m. — Friend leaves and we nap...
7 p.m. — We head to the beach for a little swim!
8 p.m. — Back home to eat what's left in the fridge and SLEEP! I have a feeling it will be a fun-packed weekend, and I want to be ready for it!
Daily Total: $7
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