The YES Woman

Sophie New home: Florence, Italy            Home city & country: Arnhem, The Netherlands Move date: August 2010

Sophie

New home: Florence, Italy           

Home city & country: Arnhem, The Netherlands

Move date: August 2010

Why did you decide to move abroad?

Ever since I first set foot on Italian soil, it started pulling at me. It was a sense of belonging, a sense of home, a deep, profound feeling of happiness that kept on craving for my attention. We used to go on family holidays to Tuscany and Umbria and I remember feeling really ecstatically happy during those three weeks in paradise. I was thirteen when I fell in love with Italy. It was the vibe, the liveliness, the weather, the expressive people, the feeling of being seen for the first time. I needed my "Italy shot" every year and after having spent many holidays there, a three-month language internship at an Italian secondary school and a two-week language course in Florence, I knew it: I wanted to live there. 

My soul had found a place where it felt nurtured, my heart a place where it could sparkle and my body a place where it could express itself freely. Florence was my newfound sanctuary; it provided me with the perfect conditions for me to flourish and to become the best version of myself. I could not not move there. Holland had the opposite effect on me: it made me feel numb, out of place and as if I had to to "tone it down." By being able to be myself in Florence I have actually cured myself from anxiety disorder and stopped taking antidepressants a year after I moved there.

How did you spend your First Month Abroad?

I continued studying Italian at my language school and I even worked as a secretary at that school. We'd made a deal in which I would work for them and in exchange I could attend the classes. A wonderful way to dive into local Florentine life, immerse myself in the language and have a lot of structure to my days. I enjoyed going out, exploring the city with my classmates and at the weekends we'd take trips to the seaside or cute Italian towns. It was really so much fun and I enjoyed every second of it! I also did my best to interact with locals so that when my language school friends left, I'd still have people to hang out with. Thanks to my language skills and open personality I made some local friends pretty quickly. It was easier to connect with men than with women though.

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What has surprised you most about living in a foreign country?

I have discovered that Italy isn't really one country; it's made up of many different countries, provinces, towns, areas, regions, which are geograhically officially known as Italy, but Italians don't feel united at all. Very odd, but very understandable looking at the country's history. It was unified only a little over 160 years ago, so go figure... Of course you feel more strongly attached to your immediate surroundings than to the country as a whole. 

Any cultural/language barrier funny moments?

The Dutch are very direct. Italians aren't. They like to beat around the bush and never really call things as they are. Especially my (now ex-) boyfriend had to get used to this quirky aspect of mine. Now I've learned to adapt and say things in a bit more diplomatic way and have people read between the lines. That comes with time though, when you know how to use silence, intonation and what expression in what context. Before I just translated my "blunt" Dutch thoughts into Italian and that wasn't always appreciated!

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What are your favorite activities in your new town?

I love hanging out at my favourite coffee bar Ditta Artigianale in Via dello Sprone. They produce their own coffee and have a real passion for the business. The place is super well designed and allows you to work on your computer, meet friends or even clients. I sometimes do my life-coaching sessions there. I even coached the main barista there, Francesco Masciullo, towards the Italian Barista Championship and he won the competition! So proud!

I also love going to the square Piazza di Santo Spirito and hang out at one of the bars there. The atmosphere in the square is always very warm and welcoming and is quintessentially Florentine for me. Try Volume; an old wood carving workshop turned into cool bar for breakfast, lunch, drinks and live music. Never a dull moment! 

I love going for walks in the hills around Florence and just look at the city from a great viewpoint like from the Via di Bellosguardo, for example. The quiet, the nature and the stunning landscape allows me to collect my thoughts and makes me fall in love with Florence every time again!

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What advice would you give to tourists visiting your new home town?

Go "Oltrarno." Once you've seen the main sights, head over to "the other side of the river" and experience real Florentine life. Neighbourhoods like San Niccolò, Santo Spirito and San Frediano still have the authentic, non-touristy Florence feel and they're filled with artisans, cute shops and good places for food and drinks. It's also much more quiet and just gives you a sense of what life in Florence is really like.

What is the one MUST SEE?

I'd say my favoruite square Piazza di Santo Spirito to get a feel of the real deal in Florence!

What do you miss most about home?

My family, especially my little niece, and good Gouda cheese (that rhymes!).

What's next?

Continue to flourish here and to help other women do the same. As a life coach I help women with big, bold dreams to say YES to themselves and their dreams and to really go for it so they'll live a life without any regrets. I've helped many of my clients take the leap to Florence and to successfully set up their lives here. Moving out of your comfort zone is scary and I'm here to make that exciting adventure a little less scary and more doable!

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Space of infinite possibilities

I am passionate about providing a platform for women where they can meet, share their unique story in a safe space and inspire others through it as well. I provide this platform in my fab Facebook group The YES Woman, for which I also organise monthly in-person meet ups in Florence. Feel free to join the fun if it resonates and if you dream of taking your personal leap as well - whatever that may mean for you. Maybe it's Florence, or a different direction in your career or setting up your own creative business. I'm here to support you towards your personal dream and to help you say: YES, I DID IT!

To read more about Sophie's life, visit her blog Life Coach Sophie

First month abroad, expat, expats, moving abroad, italy, florence