In my goal to support expats, I started regular interviews, bringing true stories to the surface.
Being an Expat: Easy or Challenging? How do you become an Expat? What is the reason? Some hope to find a job, some join their partner, others are relocated by their company. Whatever the reason, each person needs to adjust and integrate. The kind of struggles come to surface in each interview.
You may relate as an expat, or learn from it as a ‘’wannabe’’expat.
Interview with Livia Maria Galassi
Italian national moving to The Netherlands.
What was the reason for moving to Nederland?
‘’I moved in the winter of 2004 to be with my husband, who was still my boyfriend at the time. He lived in Rotterdam and is half English and half Italian.
Meanwhile, we have 2 children together and I also work part-time.’’
How do you remember your first months here?
‘’CRYING Crying and more Crying….’’
Livia:‘’It was winter, cold, raining and I come from Italy!!!
But, the worst was that I knew NOBODY!
Only the people that my boyfriend knew, but they are not my friends.
So, I had no one really, and that was so hard and such a struggle.
I decided to go to school to learn Dutch, but because I already spoke German, it was so easy for me and also, I was used to learn languages. Basically, I didn’t enjoy the Dutch grammar at all, but I tried. Every time I wanted to practice what I learned, I asked my husband to help. However, when he came home from work at night, that was not really his idea of ‘’a relaxing time at home’’. Conclusion: no more Dutch at home.
Though I persisted and then decided drastically to ONLY talk Dutch with everybody else and stop using ‘’the easy’’ English entirely This was the fastest way to LEARN!
And guess what? It worked! After a few months, my husband overheard me in a conversation with someone and he was amazingly shocked to hear my fluent Nederlands J.’’
Your integration went pretty fast after all?
Livia: ‘’Not really, because it took me 3 years to be honest.
During those first years, I had very difficult to understand others in Dutch. Even if I learned the language, a really conversation (with fast talking) was hard for me to grasp.
When I went out with my husband and his friends, not all conversations were in English, so I just tolerated it, but it was NOT FUN. Actually, I got bored and didn’t even like going out anymore.
And my husband’s friends were all mostly men, so there was not so much in common at all.’’
What was the turnaround for you to feel ‘’settled in ‘’?
Livia: ‘’When my first child went to school! That’s where I finally started having my first real contacts with other mothers in school.
On top of that, I went to school for hairdressing, and my network increased immensely. And I’m working part-time now and have regular customers.’’
What are your TOP 3 observations about the Dutch culture?
Livia: ‘’As an Italian, we find it natural to have people over at home for coffee. Here, I gave up asking….because each time, I received some form of an excuse (no time, I have to go, my kid…..). It feels as if ‘’spontaneous’’ is an obligation.
There’s NO CHAOS! Everything is very well organized. You have a question or concern with registration somewhere, and you get an answer clear and quick.
You are well respected, as long as you follow the regulations. Just don’t go against the Dutch mentality.’’
Please tell us your Number ONE TIP when coming to The Netherlands.
And not only if you have a job to do, but for everyday life. Knowing some Dutch will really help you to take a bus, know what kids are talking about, finding your way around, etc…’’