I am Alessio, 29 years old and I come from a small village of 850 inhabitants in the north of Sardinia called Ardara. It was 2008 when my expat life started, when I decided to try a new experience and think of my personal growth, enrich my culture and my habits in another country. I remember to be very scared and I can still clearly remember what my mother said back then “but where are you going? I’m sure that in two weeks you will be back home”… and well yes, this is what she said 11 years ago and I am still living abroad 🙂
I bought a one-way ticket to London… a suitcase of 20 kg, a pair of underwear’s, socks, two t-shirts (not that much actually), and a couple of photos, while my heart was beating so fast…full of fears and, at the same time, a lot of curiosity and desire to discover, develop and be myself to create something new.
The first difficulty when I arrived in London was the language, I did not speak a word of English… or actually only one and it was “Hello”. As for the rest, I couldn’t understand anything and it was then when the first panic situation started. I remember all those moments when I tried to calm me down, thinking “It’s going to be all fine!”.
At the beginning, I stayed in a hostel in the beautiful Piccadilly Circus croweded of many tourists visiting the city, as well as many other guys in my same situation, looking for new experiences and to start a new expat life.
The first thing I did was to contact the well known Anna Mundus agency, very efficient in helping just-arrived expats to look for jobs like waiter, kitchen hand, or cook in a very short time. Working conditions were not the best, but at least I could count on a starting job.
After 4 days my arrival, I found my very first accommodation with two of my dearest friends from Sardinia, in an apartment in Stanford area (zone 5) and it costed almost 1500 pounds, not counting all the bills and expenses on top of that. It wasn’t all that easy, or better it wasn’t at all… but having my own income and a roof gave me a lot of satisfaction and motivation to go on and achieve even more.
It took me some weeks to realize that the little bar that made me wash glasses – and paid me in black – would not be a future. So despite the fear and the few money left, I decided to leave and take a safer way. I started all the procedures to open a bank account, immediately after buying an English phone number and obtained the National Insurance Number – document that allows you to be a citizen and gives you the permission to work legally in UK, with all working conditions guaranteed.
I updated my CV in English and started to apply for jobs by using Gumtree – a very well known website in UK, where you can look for apartments, jobs, machines etc. Obviously the motivation was down because I was sure that with my level of English I was not going anywhere.
Eager to succeed, I continued for days with the job hunting until the moment I received a call from the Buddha bar – a very famous and luxurious place in London. When I walked in for my interview, I had the WOW effect, there was a statue of Buddha almost 5 meters high and the whole place was amazing…. I kept on thinking “I won’t never get this job”. But guess what? After 40 minutes of a mixed English and Italian interview I was offered the job.
This was a great opportunity for me, I earned good enough and had colleagues who spoke only English to me…so basically a new world opened up for me.
Finally I had the chance to live and explore the city, Oxford street, Soho, Mayfair, West end, South London and more. I tried to enjoy it as much as possible, I started to make new friends and my English took the wing. I spent almost 3 years at the Buddha bar and it was one of the best working experiences of my life.
London is a hectic and dynamic city, where everything runs at every minute or hour of the day and the night. Here you find all kind of cultures, people from all over the world, and it makes you open your mind, learn from every single day and person you come across with. One thing I am sure about is that London can offer so much on both professional and personal levels.
After spending these 5 years in UK, I released I wanted to discover more, so for personal motivation and the will of moving always forward, I have decided to head to Amsterdam in Holland.
The first impression of the city was fantastic, a beautiful memory of feeling at home. The people and the city itself made me feel good, and this pushed me to want to leave the chaotic and busy London to start a new life in Holland. So I had an interview with a fine dining company that owns several places in Amsterdam and worldwide, and I actually got the job. I went back to London and packed everything I had, within two days I moved to Amsterdam.
The local language is Dutch, but everyone speaks very good English, finding a job can be difficult but it’s not impossible, and if you want to rent a house it can also be expensive depending on the area you want to live in.
Dutch people have a strong personality and it seems difficult to get through them at the beginning, but once you become friends everything change. I like the way they are, their lifestyle and I think it can be an inspiring example for the rest of the world.
As for living in the Netherlands, there are so many positive points like bureaucracy, it is well organized and procedures are fast. One suggestion is the BSN number for your registration in the country and it gives you access to all kind of services, such as the heath insurance system, which is private. What are the differences between this country and Italy? Too many!!! I just gave you an example about how bureaucracy works well here, while it doesn’t happen the same in Italy.
I recommend The Netherlands as the best place to build your future, if you want to settle down and maybe (who knows) buy a house. I am 100% sure about this recommendation because I live in Barcelona at the moment, and I can see better from distance all the positive that The Netherlands has to offer. I have spent 5 years of my life in Holland, full of memories, ups and downs, good and bad, but I become very nostalgic when I think about this time and I miss it.
Spain is beautiful, Barcelona even more. The sea, the tapas, the sun, the good weather…all very similar to my beloved Sardinia. What I like is that I can enjoy the beach and the sun in summer right in the city or just in the surroundings; while I can enjoy the mountains and skiing in winter, for example Andorra La Vella is only about 3-hour drive from the city.
Another plus is that it’s much easier to go home and visit my family, I can go by boat or plane. But on the other side, if I think of the bureaucracy and the frustration that comes with it. So many things work with a continuous mañana mañana (tomorrow tomorrow), with the problem that mañana never comes… if you don’t follow it constantly and are not “pushy”, you will never have what you need. This happens also with the NIE for example – the security number you need for the registration in the country-, which you can get only with a document of your employer saying that you are here to work, and not just to enjoy the good weather. In general, you can spend from 2 up to 3 hours in a line in any office you have to go for papers or any other document (all very similar to Italy).
The culture in general is quite similar to the Italian one, lifestyle is not expensive and salaries are within the standard but nothing special. For example a flat rent can be around 800 euros per month excluding bills, quite simple to find but more difficult in terms of documentation (as I mentioned before).
So far I have spent one year here in Spain and I realized that you have to make choices in life, you learn to live and accept the routine, enjoying the good that life can give you, the sea, the good weather and good food…exactly like Barcelona requires and according to its way to handle things. At the moment I have decided to continue living this experience here in Spain for at least a couple of years more, but I do not hide the nostalgic feeling and a possible return to my beloved Holland in the future.