Name: Paola Biglioli
Occupation: Italian teacher
Moved to the Amsterdam Area in: 2014
Living in: Aalsmeer
What does your job involve?
I teach Italian to native speakers (in middle and upper school) at the International School of Amsterdam.
Why did you decide to move to the Netherlands?
Because my husband had a big career opportunity with his company.
Why did you decide to live in Aalsmeer over other parts of the country?
My husband works in Schiphol and my daughters go to the International School in Amstelveen, where I also work, so we were looking for a nice area that has affordable houses on the canals.
What has working and/or living in Aalsmeer taught you?
The first two years after moving to the Netherlands we were living in Amstelveen and that gave us the feeling of being 100% in the ‘expat bubble’. Since we moved to Aalsmeer, we are still by about 60% in that bubble but we’ve also got the opportunity to meet Dutch people and make more connections with our Dutch neighbours.
Undiscovered gems in the area (food, drinks, bars, clubs, places to visit)?
We love sailing on the lake. One of the reasons to move here was to have a boat parked at the end of the garden. That gives us the feeling to live like we’re on vacation – especially, of course, during the sunny season. We love biking around the lake as well, and we have our favourite restaurants on the water.
What sets Aalsmeer apart from your country or other cities you have lived in?
We are on our first expat move, and we moved from Milan, which is a big and chaotic city. Living in Aalsmeer makes everything easier in terms of mobility (there’s almost no traffic) and we also have the impression that we are having a healthier life, spending more time outside.
What’s your ideal day in and around Amsterdam?
I’m Italian, so for me the ideal day starts with a nice cappuccino with a friend. Then maybe a visit to the Amstelveen market for a bit of ‘boodschappen’ and then lunch at one of the nice places in the city. A bit of shopping in the Nine Streets and then home for a nice family dinner.
Was there anything unexpected about living/moving here, including any challenges?
When my husband asked me if I wanted to move here, I immediately said yes, since I was raised in an unconventional Italian family, which taught me how important is to learn languages (though with Nederlands I’m still struggling) and also how visiting new countries can open your mind. And I thought it would be a great opportunity for our daughters, who were three and six at the time, as well. So, no doubt at all. But then we moved, and it was January, cold and dark. The girls settled in at school, my husband started to travel, and I no longer had a job (I used to be communication director for an Italian pay TV service). I’m not exactly a housewife, so my life started to feel a bit empty. I felt really homesick, missing family (especially my nephews) and friends. Everything appeared much more difficult than what I’d planned. Going to the supermarket and finding the right products seemed impossible. I’m not a shy person but I could not just ring the bell at the neighbours to ask to be friends.
How were these challenges resolved?
To solve my loneliness, I decided to enrol in as many courses as possible. So… I started with a Dutch course, went on with a sushi one and Chinese cooking and then I started volunteering in the school library. After one year, I thought I was ready to go back to work, so I decided to study to get a diploma to teach Italian.
Any advice for people thinking about moving here/just moved here, including settling in and making friends?
I would suggest first not to be scared of the bad weather (as the Dutch say: “there is no bad weather, just bad clothes”). Then I would suggest to study the language (I’m still far from being fluent but I can read the appreciation on people’s faces when I try) and then, if they don’t work but they have kids I would suggest to rely a lot on what the school organises for parents.
How do you like to spend your weekends?
Usually my husband travels a lot over the week so we love to enjoy lazy weekends at home with friends. And we love to take day trips around this beautiful country.
How do you stay connected to your home country?
I talk to my family weekly and I chat with friends on What’sApp. And we usually go back at least two or three times per year.
What are the best things about Amsterdam or Aalsmeer in regard to...
Great opportunities in almost any sector. Super easy to find a job, also without speaking the language.
Very free and open-minded mentality. A safe, multicultural place.
I’m no expert in Dutch education, but international education here has many different options.
Amsterdam prices are completely out of the market. Rentals are crazy, so rent for as little as possible and then buy.
Easy, free, happy, relaxed, healthy.
I LOVE THIS COUNTRY. When people ask me, “how can you live there, coming from Italy?”, I always reply “I’m a lucky person: I live in a wonderful country but I can easily go to Italy for beautiful vacations.”