Welcome to Haarlem Talks! This is a new monthly interview series for ExpatsHaarlem. Being an expat myself I was interested in a lot of things other expats think, feel or experience living in Haarlem. In Haarlem Talks, we get to know a new Haarlem expat every month through a series of questions regarding, lifestyle, likes, dislikes and other personal things! I hope you enjoy!
Meet Samantha Caputo a stay at home mom with 3 beautiful children from the US. She loves Haarlem’s beauty without the craziness of a big city, she enjoys reading and writing in her spare time and she thinks the Corrie Ten Boom House is Haarlem’s hidden gem.
1. Where are you from?
We come from the United States of America
2. Why did you leave your home country?
My husband was offered a job in Amsterdam.
3. How did you end up in the Netherlands?
We actually lived here once before when my husband was doing his Ph.D. in Leiden. We lived there for nearly 5 years, had 2 babies and then moved back to the US when he finished. I was 20 weeks pregnant with our third baby at the time. We lived back in the States for 2 before an opportunity came up for a job in Amsterdam. We weren’t even considering moving back at that time (we had a 1, 3, and 4 year old and the thought of another international move was terrifying). But after lots of conversations, we decided it was the right move for our family.
4. Why did you choose to live in Haarlem?
Haarlem is such a beautiful, old city. It has the Dutch charm without the craziness of the city. For families, it’s such a great place to live. We live in a very typical Dutch neighborhood, our kids go to a Dutch basis school, and I love that I feel comfortable letting my kids bike on their own occasionally, something I would never let them do so young in a bigger city like Amsterdam.
5. How do you cope with being away from home?
It’s difficult at times. Celebrating American holidays with other American friends is something we look forward to. Luckily, with technology, the kids are able to talk to their grandparents almost any time. That makes things easier. But also, we really try to integrate here, so that this feels more and more like home.
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 finding something you enjoyed doing in your home country, be it a sport, arts, writing, etc., and finding others who enjoy doing it. It’s something familiar to you and helps you make new friends. Also, just talking about it with people who have gone through the same thing. Being an expat, it’s like you already have a built-in family. Other expats have been through what you are going through, everyone can relate and it really helps to know you aren’t the only one who felt like grabbing your passport, heading to the airport for home and never looking back.
7. What do you do for a living?
I’m a stay at home mom but was a social worker before we moved abroad.
8. Do you have a hobby or any other activity you enjoy doing?
Right now my life is pretty much raising 3 small children. I do enjoy reading and writing, helping others, and traveling.
9. In your opinion what is the hardest thing being an expat?
Not having the family support around. Especially for me as a mom, not having someone I can call to come help with the kids or to give me a break. You get used to doing everything on your own.
10. In your opinion what is the best thing about being an expat?
New adventures! We obviously loved it so much we did it a second time, even though it is hard. It’s amazing to explore a new culture, expose your children to new ideas, countries, languages, etc. I also love having friends from all over the world. In an expat community, friendship knows no borders.
11. Do you have a good/funny/nice/heartwarming story about Haarlem and the locals? What is it?
Not yet but so far everyone has been super friendly
12. What are the things you love most about living in the Netherlands, Dutch people and the culture in general?
I love the laid back attitude towards things. It seems life is much simpler and everyone operates at a slower pace. It forces us to slow down and enjoy the little moments.
13. Do you have a favorite Dutch dish you would recommend?
14. What are the things you like most about Haarlem?
It’s such a beautiful city with a history. I love all the quaint side streets and like to walk around and see all the old houses. It’s very family friendly.
15. What is your favorite Haarlem moment? (If you have a very nice and personal experience that you would like to share.)
I love that there are so many festivals, music nights, activities, etc. always happening. When you come into the center, there is always something happening and it’s so great to experience.
16. What are the favorite places you like to go out to eat and/or drink in Haarlem?
Still discovering those.
17. What do you think are the must-see locations in Haarlem?
I think a hidden gem is the Corrie Ten Boom house. She was a Christian woman who helped hide Jewish people in her home during the war. You can actually see the hiding place where people hid from the Nazi’s. It is such an amazing, preserved part of history. People should also just walk around the center and explore because there are so many unique shops, alleys, and restaurants.
18. If you could give only one piece of advice to fellow expats who are new to Haarlem what would it be?
Get a bike and cycle around and get lost. It’s the best way to explore the city and see things you would never normally see if you are just following the map to your destination.