Going to meet Kristina Grancaric in her office is an unusual experience: most days she sets up ‘office’ in a different restaurant or bar, where people drop in to see her and she reviews the place as part of her work with the website Yelp. Today she has chosen Nano, a small, friendly café in the Sant’Ambrogio area, where we feast on melted tomino cheese and chat about her Canadian-Italian lifestyle and work in social media.
Born in Canada to Italian and Croatian parents, Grancaric had a truly international upbringing. Picking up Calabrese from her grandmother in Winnipeg, where her mother’s parents moved in the 1950s to work on the railroad, holidaying in Croatia and travelling round Italy as a child, she felt at home in multiple countries. Her family moved to Rome when she was 9, immediately finding it too crowded. She and her brother were adamant that they wanted to move somewhere quieter, so six months later, the family moved to Florence. ‘My brother and I were really involved in the decision of where to live. We used to come to Italy every summer, so we lived it enough to understand we liked it. We’d already visited Florence, Rome, Venice and other cities in Italy, so we had an idea of which we preferred.’ She didn’t find it a challenge to move continents as a child: ‘I went to a bilingual school, which eased my way in. I had teachers taking care of my language. But of course, you become a little bit timid, because you’re used to people understanding instantly what you’re saying.’
She’s lived here ever since: ‘I always really liked Florence—I made friends here right away.’ After graduating and working for a relocation company, she got involved in Yelp. ‘I found the advertisement on LinkedIn and at first didn’t understand what it was at all. I thought it was for freelance writing when I applied.’ Yelp is, in fact, a user-run online directory service. Started in San Francisco in 2004, it is now widespread in the United States and is expanding throughout Europe and the world. ‘It’s real people writing real reviews about real things. You can review anything with a physical location, from restaurants and dentists to streets.’ Grancaric has been Yelp’s community manager in Florence since April 2012, creating both an online and offline Yelp community here (www.yelp.it/Firenze). ‘Every city has a community manager, which makes the site work. I know the city, and I generally know the people who are writing.’
‘It’s great because I don’t really have office hours. I have my deadlines, but I can definitely manage my time. It’s a big responsibility, but it’s great. I also love organising the events that promote Yelp and help people get to know some fantastic places in Florence. I welcome any age or nationality and try to speak to everyone there.’ The free events so far have included a murder-mystery aperitivo at Acqua al 2, tea tasting at Tealicious and a 20s party at Nicla’s makeup store.
Grancaric claims that in working for a U.S.-based company while living in Italy she has the best of both worlds. ‘I love the Anglo-Saxon work ethic, the organisation and getting things done on time. But I also love the warmth of the Italian people, the passion. I love the food, culture, fashion—everything’s a pleasure, and they really take it as a way of living. I love the lifestyle.’
‘The humour is also very different in different countries,’ she points out. ‘That’s something very odd that a lot of people don’t understand when they go to a different country. Some things make us laugh in a different way in another culture.’
She feels lucky to live between two cultures, even though it is sometimes hard to have family so far away. ‘I have an Anglo-Saxon mentality in many respects, but I feel very Italian in others. I take the best of both cultures and try to live in a very international and open minded way.’
Meet Kristina Grancaric at her next Yelp event in Florence: a sushi aperitivo at Bitter Bar on Friday, April 5 at 7:30pm (www.yelp.it/Firenze).