From Portugal to the Netherlands: Amsterdive
I’m Ana V. Martins, a Portuguese actress (and all-around creative) who moved from Lisbon to Amsterdam, almost 5 years ago.
1. Why did you move abroad?
I guess the migrant gene was always in my blood, really. Since I know myself I felt Portugal was not my place, I felt an urge to explore other geographies, so my initial plan was to work here and there, experience life in different countries, before I settled.
My next stop would be Berlin. But I fell in love with Amsterdam so I thought ‘why look further?’. I had found my home. Unlike most people I didn’t choose my current home for work reasons. I prioritized other sorts of affinities. Personally, feeling identified and comfortable with the place I live in, is the most important of all.
2. How do you make a living?
In Amsterdam, finding a job which pays the bills and enables you to travel is easy. When I arrived I had no job whatsoever so I basically went from door-to-door with a bunch of cvs in hand. From the 10 cvs I distributed that day I received 2 phone calls, and I started working at a hotel in the center of Amsterdam. I worked there for one year and two months and then I went backpacking alone for 2,5 months.
Once I came back to Amsterdam I was so fortunate to find, via an ex-colleague, a job at the place I currently work at. I work as a hostess at a 17th century dutch ‘proeflokaal’. We are specialized in dutch traditional spirits (genevers and liqueurs), and we are located at a monument, literally; a listed building which dates back to 1618. I advise people what to drink & guide tasting events, I do a little bit of storytelling, and I even sing there, at our music
evenings. I studied Theater, so being able to combine my performing skills with what I do, is great.
Next to it, I usually have other artistic projects going on, theater of film related. And lately I have been spending a lot of time writing for my blog, which is my personal creative outlet. Since around two and a half years, I speak fluent Dutch, which enables me to work with the locals as well. Although Amsterdam is such an international city, I think learning the local language is key for integration and for better job opportunities.
3. How often do you communicae with home and how?
I speak to my mom and my best friend either every week or every two weeks, usually via Skype and/or via some sort of chat. Contact with other close friends and family is more irregular, but I try not to miss birthdays, and sometimes I’ll write a longer e-mail to a friend, on the latest news.
I actually try to avoid Skype as much as I can, and I think there’s some misalignment with your current life if you spend most of your time using skype instead of hanging out with your local friends. I consider I’m home now so that perspective is a ‘game-changer’. I was also lucky enough to find a bunch of good friends over here who are a sort of family to me. Other than that I always try to get my friends and family from Portugal to visit me. A visit of my loved ones is the best gift I can ever get.
4. What's your favorite thing about being an expat in Amsterdam?
My avorite thing about being an expat in Amsterdam is how easy it is to meet people over here. More than 50% of Amsterdam inhabitants are foreigners, so a lot of people are in a similar situation, far from family and original
environments. That makes people become more open - we need each other. There are a lot of dutchies far from home as well (whether for studies or work), with whom it is easier to connect. I can go out and meet people literally every day, if I feel like.
5. What’s the worst thing about being an expat in Amsterdam?
There are so many expats living here that sometimes we are just ‘one more’. For that reason it might be difficult to make Dutch friends, who don’t feel like investing their time in someone who is most probably living here temporarily. I see that, for most expats, it is a big challenge to get out of the ‘expat bubble’ and really experience the culture with locals. That makes it more difficult for them to set roots over here. I am lucky enough to have a very particular experience of Amsterdam (I owe it in part to the place I work at), and I don’t intend to leave the Netherlands. Most expats though, tend to view Amsterdam as a sort of ‘adult Erasmus experience’, more than a place they want to spend the rest of their lives in.
6. What do you miss most?
What I miss the most is, obviously, the sun. Back in Portugal I was the beach-girl type. The weather here is not as dramatic as we sometimes make it, though. We have both temperate winters and temperate summers,
which is great when you want to focus on work.
7. What did you do to meet people and integrate in your new home?
I got in touch with a few bloggers who were living here! Through one of them I went to my first Amsterdam Fashion Week, right on my second week of Amsterdam! I basically wrote to as much people as I could (mostly friends of friends), and through some of them I got to know more people, and so it went. I also organized some house parties with my first flatmate over here - we’d invite everyone we knew, and tell them to bring whoever they wanted. It proved to be a great way of making friends.
8. What custom/ habits do you find most strange about your adopted culture?
Eating bread the entire day and just one warm nutritious meal a day (for dinner).
9. What is a myth about your adopted country?
Biggest myth about The Netherlands: Dutch people being cold or unfriendly. Dutchies tend to be reserved in the beginning, it takes time until you get someone’s trust, but once you do, you generally have a trustworthy friend
for life. Dutchies are usually less expressive than southern europeans and we interpret it as lack of enthusiasm or friendliness. That’s not necessarily the case. On top of that, I do think sometimes you only realize the real depth of locals when you are able to speak their language. (Just out of curiosity, believe it or not, I never met one single Dutch person who smoked weed on a regular basis, in their adult years.)
10. Is the cost of living higher or lower than the last country you lived in and how has that made a difference in your life?
The cost of living here is higher when compared to Portugal but we generally earn three times as much. The Netherlands has allowed me to work part-time so that I can dedicate myself to other passions such as theater and writing. It has also allowed me to travel much more.
11. What advice would you give other expats?
Learn the language. I can never stress this enough. No matter how hard it seems, and what your ‘status’ in the hosting country is. You don’t need superpowers to do that. Just keep on practising, every day a bit. Doing this will improve your life in all fronts and do wonders for your integration. Think of how you appreciate foreigners
who ‘make an effort’, back in your country of origin.
Other than that, really enjoy what the country has to offer, what makes it unique. Immerse yourself in the local culture, show some appreciation for it. You are a guest, after all. And if you find yourself constantly unsatisfied, consider moving back, or to a different country. There’s no bigger punishment in life than living in an environment you don’t feel identified with.
12. When and why did you start your blog?
The story of my blog is a funny one. It started
a bit out of the impulse of documenting my life over here. Furthermore, I felt I could give good advice to people visiting the city, as it is so easy to get stuck in tourist traps and not see the actual
Amsterdam.The fact this city is so crowded doesn’t help either.
I wanted to show “my Amsterdam” to the public.
The city is so much more interesting than the stupid hypes and myths people hear (weed, prostitution and french fries). I wanted to write about my fascination with the city, about what I find interesting and authentic over here. With time
I realized that I was even showing some hidden gems to some Dutch friends already. That gave me even more motivation for blogging. I find it great to write to a diverse crowd.
I started Amsterdive back in 2013 but I went for
it ‘full on’ justa few months ago. I spent the longest time completely indecisive as to the language I should be writing in. I had been blogging in Portuguese for years, but as much as I love my
native language, it just didn’t match the life I’m living now. I finally chose English for being the most inclusive one. That way, both my friends from here and my family and friends back in Portugal, could follow me. There was also a lot of drama surround ing the design of the blog: the logo, the header, the quality of the photography... I was
not an expert in any of these fields and I found it all overwhelming at first.
I’m pretty much of a perfectionist so that characteristic was sabotaging
me, and keeping me back from doing what I love.
When I realized that, I decided to reach out for help. A friend helped me shaping my blog a bit and from there I got more confident with the blog hosting platform and started experimenting myself.
I also bought a better camera and started waking up early to write. And most of all, I just accepted the fact that we get better with time: nothing we do will ever feel perfect, so I started giving myself the space to make mistakes, and learn from them as I go. I really love the creative freedom you have when blogging, and how you can build a whole community of likeminded people through it. This said, I hope to seeing you all at amsterdive.com!
Ana's Blog, Amsterdive
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