Paola Montino, 39, gave up everything in Italy three years ago and moved to Amsterdam on the off-chance to make a new start. She bought a house, found a job as a customer service rep for a pharmaceuticals company and loves her new life.
How did you end up in the Netherlands?
I moved to the Netherlands in April 2012 together with my boyfriend. We were both working in Italy, but we were not really satisfied with our lives. We had low salaries, a static environment and we did not see how things would ever get better… at least, this was what we felt!
So, within two months, we quit our jobs, we left our place and, after choosing the destination on a map, we came to Amsterdam. We bought an apartment without even knowing if we would find a job… really exciting indeed! We saw more than 50 places in two weeks and at the end we found ‘home’! Of course, we were able to do it financially, but it was a risk anyway.
How do you describe yourself – an expat, lovepat, immigrant, international?
I would call myself an expat. I feel more Dutch and integrated now than I did three years ago but I will be Italian for the rest of my life!
How long do you plan to stay?
I have no plans at the moment, but I really like Amsterdam (except the weather) and I think I will live here for long time. I’ve met a lot of nice people, I have a job that I like and I am completely independent… it is not easy to give everything up!
Do you speak Dutch and how did you learn?
I speak Dutch, not fluently, but I can understand almost everything… I should just practice a bit more! I attended Dutch classes for more than a year thanks to the free courses offered by the city council and I have also passed the NT2 Staatexamen.
What’s your favourite Dutch food?
Mhmm…I think potatoes, because they are the best I have ever eaten!
What do you miss about back home?
To be honest, the only thing I really miss, besides my family of course, is the sun!
How Dutch have you become?
I use my bike in winter and I cycle even if it is raining. I have learned to be more direct when I do not like something… but I will never put salad and pasta on the same plate!
What’s your top tourist tip?
Go to a park on a sunny morning… you will feel like you are in paradise!
Tell us something surprising you’ve found out about the Netherlands?
People do not stare at you in the street… no matter what you are wearing or what you look like! Everything seems to be normal here!
If you had just 24 hours left in the Netherlands, what would you do?
A long evening walk in Weesperzijde, which is one of my favourite streets in Amsterdam.