Photo by Saffron Pape

Name: Sandra
Occupation: Volunteer at International Almere and Floriade
Nationality: Portuguese
Moved to the Amsterdam Area in: November 2007
Living in: Almere

What does your job involve?

As a secretary on the board of International Almere, I take care of the minutes, write or review website texts, contact cultural organisations and attend meetings, amongst other things. I especially love their Dutch Language Café, where internationals meet twice a month to speak Dutch among themselves and with native speakers in an informal environment.

For Floriade, I take part in several activities to promote the world horticultural exhibition that will be held in Almere in 2022. Growing Green Cities is the theme of the exhibition, and I feel part of a very special project concerning the healthy cities of the future.

Why did you decide to move to the Netherlands?

My husband received a job offer for a position in the Netherlands.

Why did you decide to live in Almere over other parts of the region?

I was researching online and discovered Almere, a city I had never heard of before. I saw Almere as a city of the future: green, family friendly, very well located, and with spacious houses at affordable prices.

What has working and/or living in Almere taught you?

I love the contact with other cultures as it broadens my horizons very much. My major learning has been to say “no” without feeling guilty or embarrassed. In Portuguese culture, we try please everybody while forgetting ourselves. Now, I treasure my time and health and have more respect for myself.

How has the area changed since you’ve lived here?

Almere has changed a lot over the past 10 years. New buildings were constructed, such as the amazing library building. Also, new neighbourhoods like Almere Poort and Nobelhorst appeared where it was previously just sand.

Undiscovered gems in Amsterdam and Almere (food, drinks, bars, clubs, places to visit)?

In Amsterdam, I very much enjoy the peaceful terrace of the Amsterdam Museum. If you like churches, I recommend Saint Francis Church on Singelgracht or the hidden Ons’ Lieve Heer op Solder in the Red Light District.

In Almere, I love the city centre and its outstanding architecture as well as the Oostvaardersplassen nature reserve. Don’t leave the city before visiting Mariola IJssalon in Almere Haven for delicious ice creams. I like to listen to jazz at Café op 2, and they hold regular art exhibitions, too. I highly recommend the Kunstlinie cultural centre and the theatre group Vis à Vis, while Corrosia at Almere Haven offers a wide variety of shows and art. The unique Green Cathedral is also worth a visit – it’s located in a forest and made entirely from trees.

How is Amsterdam unique to your country/other different cities you have lived in?

Amsterdam is charming due to the canals, cobbled houses and bikes, while Almere has endless space and greenery. The city is very safe, and I feel very at ease and free there.

What’s your ideal day in and around Amsterdam?

I like to read a book or meet friends at the Amsterdam Museum terrace. Or, when returning from our favourite beach, Katwijk aan Zee, we stop for dinner at Bazar, a converted synagogue that serves African and Middle Eastern dishes. We sometimes go to MOMO near Vondelpark – I recommend their lychee martinis!

Was there anything unexpected about living/moving here, including any challenges?

Opening a bank account was the biggest challenge of all! I had never seen houses to rent or buy with no floors or stucco walls – the houses looked like bunkers to me. One difference that I like very much is that there aren’t as many shopping centres here as in Portugal. Instead, people enjoy the parks, which is fantastic.

Any advice for people thinking about moving here/just moved here, including settling in and making friends?

Learn the language, go to a gym, enroll in a local reading club, join International Almere and try find volunteer work. Also, meet your neighbours. Sometimes they become your second family.

What’s your favourite neighbourhood/area and why?

Tussen de Vaarten where we live. It’s very spacious, has plenty of greenery, beautiful lakes and canals and is close to the city centre and the highway to Amsterdam.

How do you like to spend your weekends?

In the spring and summer, I like to cycle, take long walks near the canals and lakes or have a barbecue with friends in the backyard. We often go to Almere Pampus to watch the sunset, too. In winter, we visit museums and go to the cinema at the Nieuwe Bibliotheek. Throughout the year, we enjoy discovering the country and visiting other towns and cities.

What do you like and dislike most about living in the Amsterdam Area?

Amsterdam is a very lovely city, but too crowded for me – I prefer the quietness of Almere. I’m always amazed at the children playing in the streets with no parental surveillance – it reminds me of my childhood.

How do you stay connected to your home country?

We go to Portugal every year and I contact my loved ones via email, chat and phone calls. I have also a blog where I share my experiences about living in the Netherlands.

Photos by Saffron Pape