This is the very first month of the year 2019! Welcome everyone to this new, exciting year, and I am happily introducing Mihaela, an amazing cook (I was lucky enough to try her food), who followed not only her heart but her ambition to push herself and to get out of her comfort zone, by moving to the Netherlands. She is from Transylvania, Romania, she is self-employed and works with non-profit organizations, she enjoys playing and watching tennis, she likes jazz music and the fact that she can find almost anything she needs in the area where she lives in Haarlem.
- Where are you from?
I am from Cluj-Napoca, Transylvania, Romania.
- Why did you leave your home country?
I wanted to experience living somewhere else, with all the excitement and struggles that come with it, I wanted to feel uncomfortable and vulnerable.
- How did you end up in the Netherlands?
Now the previous answer doesn’t seem so courageous considering what I am about to say, but it was also partly an accidental thing as I have decided to pursue a romantic relationship with someone living here.
- Why did you choose to live in Haarlem?
Well it was not so much of a choice, but I do prefer it to the busier, touristy Amsterdam. It is quite a charming, quiet place, but with enough opportunities for leisure activities.
- How do you cope with being away from home?
I think it is still work in progress and it is a lot about forging one’s identity in relation to the place.
- If you found it hard to settle down in another place what were the things that helped you get over the hard times?
Making new memories and creating experiences that connect you to the place, also learning about the city, the culture and the history.
- What do you do for a living?
My work revolves around the nonprofit sector and currently I am self-employed and collaborating with different associations and foundations across Europe to foster learning among community philanthropy professionals and support organizations.
- Do you have a hobby or any other activity you enjoy doing?
I like table tennis, cooking, listening to live jazz and watching tennis tournaments on TV or live.
- In your opinion what is the hardest thing about being an expat?
I think it’s very relative depending on the person you are and in what stage of your life you become an expat, but I think it’s hard because you can feel lonely even surrounded by people and it takes time to create roots and common narratives with the people around.
- In your opinion what is the best thing about being an expat?
I think it gives you an opportunity to critically evaluate your social beliefs that might be very engrained in your culture, education, and social expectations so you get this chance to find out who you really are and identify some of the biases that you live with.
- What are the things you love most about living in the Netherlands, Dutch people and the culture in general?
I love how Dutch people appreciate arts and culture, and the many possibilities that exist to experience it. I am also absolutely thrilled to be able to ride the bike everywhere, from going to the beach to carrying small purchases from Ikea.
- Do you have a favorite Dutch dish you would recommend?
Poffertjes, I am not sure they are an actual a dish, but I could just eat that all the time.
- What are the things you like most about Haarlem?
I like that not everything happens in the center, in the neighborhood where I live, you can have your GP, your dentist, a local fish store, nice cafés, a close-by park, an ice-skating rink, a bowling place, a swimming pool and so on. While this might be usual for the locals it is quite unusual for me, but I enjoy it a great deal.
- What is your
The first time I came to Haarlem, I actually didn’t get to see any of it. So my favourite Haarlem moment was the second time I came to Haarlem. It was the end of August 2016, and one of the food festivals was taking place in Kenaupark and I had the first and the very best cheeseburger.
- What are the favorite places you like to go out to eat and/or drink in Haarlem?
I have yet to try them all and this is part of the fun, but I like Spaarne 66 and Restaurant Zuidam in the center and in the neighborhood Kweekcafe and Cleeff.
- What do you think are the must-see locations in Haarlem?
I think it is a must to see Haarlem from a boat. You can do a north to south route. Rent either an electric or a motorboat and enjoy riding through the canals with snacks and drinks.
- If you could give only one piece of advice to fellow expats who are new to Haarlem what would it be?
Try to learn and speak Dutch so you can get to know your neighbors.