Tiptoe Through the Tulips with Chiara

Chiara authors the blog On the Dijk and comes to the Netherlands, like so many of us, due to Dutch love. She comes from Italy and has been residing in the Netherlands with her soon-to-be husband for a year-and-a-half. The fact that she was accompanied here by her cat, makes her a proud fellow exPet owner. Chiara loves teaching and is doing her best to reconcile with the many differences between the Netherlands and her home country.

How long have you been living in the Netherlands and what brought you here?
I have been living in the Netherlands for a year and a half, I came here in December 2008. My story is all but original: I came here to live with my partner (soon husband), who is Dutch. After one year of flying back and forth between Leiden and Turin, we thought it would be a little more practical to actually live in the same house, so I packed up my books and the cat and here I am.

Do you plan to stay in the Netherlands, move back to your home country, or try somewhere else?
We don’t really have a long-term plan. For the moment our life is here, and so it seems it will remain for a few years at least. In the long run (really long) we plan to move south and spend our retirement in Italy, but as we’re both in our thirties it might take a while. We don’t rule out moving somewhere else, but we’re not actually planning to leave at the moment.

What do you do during the day (job, stay at home mom, entrepreneur, student, etc)?
I work as a teacher of Italian in different schools and organizations. I left an office job to come here and went back to my first love, teaching – and did not regret it for a minute, so far.

What’s the most notable difference between your home country and the Netherlands?
Ah, differences – there are a lot. What struck me most is, I think, how organized and regulated NL is. Italy is a very chaotic country, and the simple fact of being able to get a document at the town hall in less than an hour still makes me feel as if I lived in Disneyland. This reflects on all aspects of life here. People tend to be less spontaneous and happy-go-lucky than what I’m used to, which can be quite complicated at times, but in general I find it really enjoyable and relaxing.

Where is your favorite place to visit in the Netherlands?
It’s difficult to say, there are a lot of beautiful places. Walking on the dunes in the Kennemerland park, or driving through the countryside are two of my favorite pastimes, but a day in a city like Haarlem is also quite high on my list. Or the Afsluitdijk. Or the Batavia Werf in Lelystad.

Give us one thing you love about the Netherlands and one thing you loathe…
I love the neatness, of places and people. As I said, I love the fact that everything seems to work the way it’s supposed to, at least as far as possible and despite all the complaints from locals.

The same neatness is, however, what I don’t like: coming from a country as unorganized as Italy, it’s easy to feel a bit claustrophobic and constricted in such a neat and regulated place. Also, the Dutch seem to seldom carry handkerchiefs, which makes my train ride decidedly unpleasant in flu season…

What’s one thing you’ve had to adjust to since coming to the Netherlands and how did you adjust (or are you still working on it)?
I am still trying to adjust to the fact that it’s abnormal for people to meet without scheduling it first. To meet a friend for coffee, you have to compare agendas and schedule the start and end time at least two weeks in advance if not more. I love unexpected visits and random calls, and they just don’t seem to happen here.

Do you have an embarrassing moment since you’ve moved that you would like to share with us (an unfortunate language blunder, or a funny getting-back-on-the-bike story)?
I haven’t really had any expat-embarrassing moment since I’m here – I’m quite a careful person and try to avoid potential disasters as much as I can. I’ve had my share of general mishaps though, like spilling coffee all over myself from a faulty paper cup while giving a lesson at University and only noticing when the coffee soaked all three layers I was wearing…

What’s the best piece of advice you received that you would like to pass along to anyone coming to the Netherlands?

Learn Dutch. No, really – most people speak English well, and they won’t mind talking to you in English. If you’re a tourist or just passing through. But if you plan to live here, and hopefully make friends, rule number one is to make an effort to learn the language, at least a bit.

Do you have any blogs or websites that you would like to to recommend?
Expat information for me starts with Expatica – most of what one needs is to be found there. For fun, I regularly read many blogs and sites – my favorites are Invading Holland and Clogs and [Hotdogs]. To know what’s going on, Trippist is worth keeping an eye out for.

Images courtesy of Chiara

Interested in doing an interview of your own? Send me an email at clogsandtulipsblog@gmail.com with ‘Tiptoe Through the Tulips’ in the subject line. I look forward to hearing from you!

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