This is the second month of the new year and it is time to meet a new expat who lives in Haarlem. Giulia came from Italy, she was always fascinated by northern countries. She works as an engineer and as a hobby she makes youtube videos. She is working on a project: 10 funny facts about the Netherlands.
1. Where are you from?
2. Why did you leave your home country?
Because I got a job offer to work in Haarlem.
3. How did you end up in the Netherlands?
I wanted to work abroad since I’ve been in Berlin for an Erasmus during University. I have always been fascinated by northern countries and destiny brought me here.
4. Why did you choose to live in Haarlem?
Well, first I wanted to live in Amsterdam as it is a big city full of opportunities and things to do. The price of houses there are crazy I thought, so I kept my mind open for Haarlem as well and as soon as I started to explore the city I discovered how much it has to offer, a combination of a quieter lifestyle, fewer tourists and much more of a Dutch vibe. Haarlem is a little jewel.
5. How do you cope with being away from home?
I contact my family pretty much every week and visit them once a year. They also like to visit me at least once a year as they fell in love with Haarlem. I miss my group of friends the most but with the technology the distances are reduced. A face-time talk while drinking a glass of wine, each on his couch, does a great job.
6. If you found it hard to settle down in another place what were the things that helped you get through the hard times?
I think technology and being able to talk to people from home so easily, including video calls, which makes us a feel like we’re really close. But overall I did not find it hard to settle down, Dutch people are very open and many times when I was going for a coffee by myself I ended up with a waitress sitting at my table for a chat. Also, Haarlem Expat groups on Facebook is an endless source of help and suggestions, as well as the expatsHaarlem website.
7. What do you do for a living?
I am working as an engineer.
8. Do you have a hobby or any other activity you enjoy doing?
I love fitness and I love the big gyms in Haarlem like Kenamiju and Fit for Free. When I can I also like to record and upload videos on Youtube, as it is a funny way to learn about yourself and have worldwide contacts. Recently I’m working on “10 funny facts about the Netherlands” video. My channel is under the name “Esploria” come and have a look.
9. In your opinion what is the hardest thing being an expat?
1) Getting used to all the differences, in culture, and in bureaucracy. It is all about talking to other expats and collecting info.
2) Having a hard time to feel at home. If I go back to Italy I love it but I do not feel I belong to that country anymore and the same is for the Netherlands. But I have been super lucky to meet an amazing man here in Haarlem and I can say that my home is with him now.
10. In your opinion what is the best thing about being an expat?
I think is the feeling of freedom that you get by realizing you are doing everything on your own. The feeling of connecting with people that are expats as well, even if they come from a completely different culture. And as well the possibilities that come to you as soon as you find the courage of step outside your comfort zone which might be your family and the life you were used to in your own country.
11. Do you have a good/funny/nice/heartwarming story about Haarlem and the locals? What is it?
Once, the night before moving into a new flat, I got locked out. All the boxes were inside the flat and in 8 hours I was supposed to start the moving. Luckily the flat was on the ground floor so .. I went in a shop nearby that by a miracle was still open and I borrowed a long ladder to get into the backyard. All good, but there was also a door to open to enter the yard….
An old man was observing me and my partner doing these suspicious climbing activities as the night was coming, and said something to us with a grumpy face. Then he disappeared into his house and we were sure he was going to call the police ….but he comes back with the key that opened the door in the backyard. That was an amazing experience, that man deserves still a lot of thanks. We will never know why he had the keys of the courtyard of my flat though…
12. Do you have a favorite Dutch dish you would recommend?
I like the takeaway fries. That’s it. Sorry as Italian I have a hard time falling in love with Dutch dishes as they are mostly street food.
13. What are the things you like most about Haarlem?
I like the fact that there is everything: shops, festivals, canals, cozy cafés and restaurants, parks, good coffee shops. And there are really not as many tourists as in Amsterdam so walking in the center is not a fighting experience
14. What are the favorite places you like to go out to eat and/or drink in Haarlem?
I like Yogurt Bahn for a healthy and tasty snack.
15. What do you think are the must-see locations in Haarlem?
Corrie Ten Boom house is a museum for free where you can have an English or Dutch tour of an old house in which Jewish people were hidden during the war. There is also an old movie about that and several books. It’s super interesting and well maintained.
16. If you could give only one piece of advice to fellow expats who are new to Haarlem what would it be?
If you want or do not want something state it clearly. Once I got a terrible sandwich, filled with coriander that I hate. When the waitress came and asked, “how is it?” I replied, “I had a hard time eating it as is full of coriander which was not listed on the menu”. She replied, “Ah, I understand, sorry it was not on the menu”. And she went away. She did not bring another sandwich and I had to pay for a sandwich I did not eat. In Italy it is a lot about reading in between lines and in the Netherlands is more about saying what you want.