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Fabio: Famsterdam Life

In our InterNations Recommended Blog section we let you take the spotlight! Expat life in general is, of course, a perfect breeding ground for great, user-generated reads, and life in Amsterdam makes no exception. Take your time and browse the great blogs showcased in this article!

Please tell us a little bit about yourself. Who you are, where you come from, when you moved to Amsterdam, etc.

I am Italian—my family roots are in Tuscany but I grew up in Rome, the eternal city, and maybe living in such a big city is what gave me the travel & adventure bug. My first experience of living abroad was in France in 2004 for my university studies. Once back home at the end of the semester, my thirst for adventure was stronger than ever. I rushed through the rest of my University program and immediately started looking for a job in the Netherlands. I landed here in 2007 and the time to leave has yet to come!

When and why did you decide to start blogging about your experiences?

I have always written a lot of stories about my life abroad, and sent them by email to my loved ones. At some point I realized that it might interest other people as well, so I went public. I have lost some “writing intimacy” in the process, but this way I can reach a wider crowd and be part of a different angle of the net.

Do you have any favorite blog entries of yours?

My blog presents different sides of my life. The most prominent ones are the adventures on my bike, my passion for travelling, and my everyday fun in the Netherlands. They all blend surprisingly well.

Being quite an eclectic person, what I blog about varies according to the passion of the moment!

Tell us about the ways your new life in Amsterdam differs from that back home. Did you have trouble getting used to the new circumstances? Did you experience culture shock?

What I like the most about the life here is how nicely the system works. It really feels a place that is governed to meet people's needs and improve their lives rather than those of the key-positions holder. From the bicycle revolution to the welfare to the accessibility of publicly sponsored services, I feel cuddled by the state. Many Dutch people complain, about many things, but that's only because they haven't grown up in a different place. I am actually happy to pay one of Europe's highest tax rates, because you see the benefits back.

Getting used to living here was not difficult at all: practical things seem complicated at first glance, but in the end it can all go quite smoothly. In my experience, the cultural shock arrives later, when you start ingraining deeper in a society that is so culturally far from yours.

Do you think you were fully prepared for what awaited you in Amsterdam? If you could, would you change some decisions/preparations you made?

There are two sides to this answer. On one hand, I was definitely not prepared. I had no clue about practical things such as medical insurance or taxes. I didn’t know anything of Dutch customs, not a pale idea about accommodation rules. I wasn’t aware neither of average salaries nor of the 30% rule—a fiscal benefit for highly skilled migrants. Had I known about it, I would have definitely approached the job market differently.

On the other hand, one of the best things about life is the adventure feeling. The thrill that comes from dealing with the unknown. I might have lacked all the information mentioned above, but I was full of curiosity, enthusiasm and energy!

Every expat knows that expat life comes with some hilarious anecdotes and funny experiences. Care to share one with us?

One I remember with a smile happened at the very beginning: in need for a bike without much bicycle knowledge, I walked to the Waterlooplein market to buy a second-hand two-wheeler. “It’ll be cheaper!” was my driving force. The dealer was very accommodating and the bicycle was indeed cheaper… but alas it also turned out to be a size or two smaller than what I’d need! So for the first 5 months of my new life here, you could see me going on a small, flashy green bike that would have been perfect for a high-school girl!

Which three tips would you like to give future expats before they embark on their new life in Amsterdam?

  • I’ve seen too many people moving (or visiting) from another country and they very often underestimate how cold it is here. What might be “cold” in Italy or Brazil is NOT what cold means here. Always bring extra clothes—especially a warm hat, even if it isn’t cool to wear one in your current country!
  • Once you get the grasp of Dutch cold, the second thing is rain. Be prepared for tons of rain. The key point here is that you can’t let the weather overcome you. If you surrender to the bad weather, there’s no hope. The right mindset is, equip yourself well against it and pull your energies up to get out of you cozy house.
  • The third tip would be: make sure you can ride a bicycle! Here everything is about bikes. Your life will happen on a bike: going to work, grocery shopping, going out at night. Get one right away—it’s also the quickest and nicest way to familiarize with your new town!

How is the expat community in Amsterdam? Did you have a hard time finding like-minded people or fellow expats?

The expat community in Amsterdam is vaster than the ocean. I once heard ridiculous figures; like that apparently something like 60% of Amsterdam population is not Dutch. What’s most ridiculous about it is that it sounds almost realistic.

There are so many expat events that it might be even daunting! In the last year or so I became a frequent “meetupper”, from the Meetup website. It lets you get in touch with sets of people part of some special interest groups, be that IT, architecture or food.

How would you summarize your expat life in Amsterdam in a single, catchy sentence?

I AMsterdam!

Salil Padmanabh

"At the InterNations events here in Amsterdam, I've come to know so many friendly expats. Both Indians and expatriates from other countries. "

Isabella Martinez

"For my little daughter I've been looking for a good language teacher who also speaks Spanish. I've finally found him on InterNations."

Global Expat Guide