Challenges of Expats – Interview of the month April

In my goal to support expats, I present you this month’s interview. Let me introduce you to Lidia. She is originally from the city that was not built in one day: Rome.

Being an Expat, is it easy or challenging? Why did she leave her native country?  She arrived years ago and is still living and working here with pleasure. Lidia reveals how she adjusted and integrate into Holland.

Just sit down, relax and enjoy 🙂

Interview with Lidia Bernabei

From Italy to The Netherlands…


Who is Lidia, would you tell us a more about you?

Lidia: ‘’I am 45 years of age and have a lovely child named Luca who is now 16 already. I have always worked here and now own my travel agency called ’‘SoleLuna’’. In the meantime, I got divorced but my ex and I are still good friends and remain flexible which is such an advantage for Luca. I remarried Giovanni, an Italian I met here, with whom I have a son Valerio who is 7.J’’

When did you move to The Netherlands?

Lidia: ‘’I moved in 1995 to the Netherlands and lived in Apeldoorn with my husband at the time. Then, in 1999 I relocated to Haarlem.’’

Are you used to moving abroad?

Lidia: ‘’Yes, I studied Interpreter Studies first in Italy then in Ireland (Dublin) when I was at university.

Prior to that, from 17 to 21, I lived several months per year in Mogadishu (Somalia). So, every few months, we were switching from one culture and country to the other.

How do you compare those countries for you as an Italian?

Lidia: ‘’It is strange, because when I’m in the Netherlands, sometimes I feel very Southern European. When I am in Italy the other way around. But when I was in Somalia, Italy felt for me just like Northern Europe! But I was so used to it and never really questioned it. North or South..it is just a feeling’’

What was the reason for moving to Nederland?

Lidia‘’I married my husband Arnoud in Rome, and moved right away with him as he was from Apeldoorn. I was 25 at the time. This was in 1995.  ‘’

How about your impression of  The Dutchies?

Lidia:’’ People in Apeldoorn were my first impression of all the Dutchies. This impression was what I call ‘’individualistic and isolated’’. It was so hard to meet people, to make friends, to contact others. In Italy it takes 5 minutes and here, it took me 5 years!!! ‘’

How did you integrate and adjust?

Lidia:: ‘’ Honestly? I didn’t 😉.  Well, not in Gelderland! That’s  why 4 years later, I moved to Haarlem. What a difference. Here I could start meeting people and start connecting!

When I first arrived to the Netherlands, I did started to work immediately, so that really helped. Also with the language, I learned quickly. I worked small jobs, such as call centres, shops, but it helped me!

Also, I was one of the pioneers of‘’Italiansonline.net’’ for all Italian Expats. ‘’

What was your biggest Challenge moving to the Netherlands?

Lidia: ‘’ First, as I mentioned: the social aspect, making friends. There is a big difference depending on the region you end up in.  When you can live in Haarlem, Amsterdam, North-Holland, that’s where you find many expats. Here is where people are interested in you as a PERSON, not your country or culture. When I lived in Apeldoorn, people were not used to expats, so they asked questions about ‘’Italians’’ and not about ‘’Lidia’’. I was not interesting as a person, but rather as an Italian.’’

Please tell us your Number ONE TIP when coming to The Netherlands.

Lidia:’’TOP tip ONE: Learn the LANGUAGE!!! This helps to get respected.

Tip number two: Try to integrate! Do not isolate by being an expat. Go out there!

Tip number three: don’t be too hard with yourself and go back home sometimes ( …not for nothing I made of travelling back my job;-)

Thank you very much!


Picture taken at in Quercianella, Italy, and where I organize the holiday in Tuscany at sea.


5 replies
  1. Rachel Smets
    Rachel Smets says:

    Thank you Maria Parente and regarding Dutch lessons, I will ask to post a question on this page so that others can share their experiences and suggestions for Dutch classes with you. (y)

  2. Maria Parente
    Maria Parente says:

    Very interesting and useful interview. Thanks for sharing. I am living in Haarlem over an year. I would like to learn Dutch, do you know some good places/schools to learn and gain some confidence with the language? Much appreciated

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