Sophie

Locals I Love – Sophie Kruijsdijk

Sophie

Locals I Love is back with a Friday edition to shake things up a bit ;-). This week I am chatting with a Dutch friend of mine who has decided to make Florence,Italy her home. We met a couple of years ago in a park with some erasmus [international study abroad] students and had the awesome chance to reconnect at a recent blog tour with PlayyourTuscany where out blog team became {and still feels like} a sort of family. Sophie is refreshingly honest, motivated, funny and fun to be around and loves to take photos. She’s the kind of person who challenges the ‘status quo’ in Italy which I can really appreciate and is herself a writer/blogger/bit of everything-er like so many of us are!

Let’s get to know this bella olandese and experience her story of why and how she found herself in Florence, Italy! 

Vital Deets!

Name: Sophie Kruijsdijk (I know, it’s impossible – never mind)

Nationality: Dutch – Profession: Dutch English teacher gone writer in Italy (you might want to read that again) –

Favorite drink: I’ve recently started appreciating Aperol Spritz – maybe because of its colour ;)


How long have you lived in Florence and where are you from originally.

 

In August 2014 I will have lived here for four years already. Amazing how time flies! But as the saying goes: time flies when you’re having fun, so I’m having a ball apparently! No, it’s great (but not all the time, like you – fellow expat – know). I’m originally from Arnhem, The Netherlands and I must say I feel incredibly lucky to be able to fly home whenever I want really, for a ridiculously low price because of Ryanair. I don’t know how you guys from other continents do it… Respect!

 

What did people do before Ryanair ;-) honestly! What brought you to bella Firenze and why did you decide to stay

 

Long story short: I feel good here. I’ve had moments in which I was zooming around on my bike and I felt so happy I could die. Literally. I don’t think any other place would easily make me feel like this.
Short story long: We always used to go on holiday in Italy and every time I came here I felt superb. This had a lot to do with the male inhabitants appreciating my blond looks and me feeling noticed for the first time in – let’s say – ever. Know the photo American Girl in Italy by Ruth Orkin?

Well, that. I have the picture on my wall and now I laugh about it because I find the looks just as annoying as the girl in the photo, but it reminds me of how it has transformed me, how it has made me feel good about myself.
Then the food, the good weather, the atmosphere, the nature, the actual beauty of this place, which I started seeing at a later age, have all literally made me fall in love with this city. I always see Florence as some sort of female divine so I guess I’m a lesbian in a way.
Then my boyfriend being the most beautiful person I know might also highly influence me staying here.

American Girl in Italy

 

I absolutely know the feeling, and I have that same photo! What are you up to in Florence? Work, daily life, passions?
What I love about this place is that anything seems possible. Do you want to teach? Teach! Do you want to show people around your favourite city? Go ahead! Do you want to write about it? Write! Well, at least that’s what happened to me. Here I feel free to pursue my newly discovered passions and that is so liberating. I now do things which I would never ever have done had I stayed in Holland. Florence inspires. Punto e basta.

 

Bravissima! I think people have to talk less sometimes and do more ;-), Especially for themselves! What annoys you about Florence? Tell me the truth!
Haha, good question! I really support showing what it’s really like to live here, including the dirty details, so thanks for asking.

To be honest, a lot. To deal with this frustration I started writing columns in Dutch about the interesting, and sometimes highly annoying, differences there are between Italian and Dutch culture. It fascinates me how some things work – or better – don’t work, at all. Take paperwork for instance. In a great part of the civilized world computer systems have been invented to take care of loads of stuff that humans used to waste a lot of time and energy on.

In Italy they continue to use the old system in many places. Completely pointless. But then there’s the discussion of work procurement vs unemployment and I don’t want to go in to that. Anyway, for me as a client at the post office it’s pure torture. Especially coming from a country where development and efficiency is the highest priority in everything. Even in social life, which the Italians are much better at. (I also wanted to put in something positive here ;) ).

2014-02-22 11.03.31

 

I think you were really fair, the red-tape is one of the punti that gets to me here, so many things are blocked by the system and I really hope they work on changing that. Do you think life in Italy is for everyone? Why does it work for you?
Hell no. (Sorry, speaking to you makes me bring out my hidden American side ;) ) You have to want to live here with all your heart. Be willing to go through hardships you can’t even imagine now comfortably sitting at home reading this blog considering moving to Italy one day. And I say this while I don’t even have to deal with visa stuff being from the European Union. Your battle as a non-EU member is even harder. I guess it’s the good things that make up for the bad things. This balance keeps us going. Let’s just say it’s easy to enjoy life here but super hard to live here. I hope that makes sense.
I think what you said makes perfect sense, life is awesome here but easy or straightforward it is NOT. What advice would you give a newbie?
Take every chance you get to meet new people, see new things, learn the language and try to assimilate with Italian culture as much as possible. Talk to Italians even if your language skills aren’t a 100%, they’ll love it.

One thing for the young girls out there: when you go out at night, if you dress scarcely and get incredibly drunk, don’t be surprised if some of the men (not necessarily Italian) take advantage of that. Use your head. Being abroad doesn’t mean you have to leave common sense at home. (This is the teacher in me speaking, can’t help it!)

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Good advice! Three finds/places everyone should know about in Florence? 

1. Piazza della Passera for its authentic atmosphere and non-touristy feel
2. Clet’s atelier in San Niccolò and his incredibly original art on the road signs all over the city
3. The beach on the Arno in summer. How cool is that? A beach in a city… Right under the also must-see Piazzale Michelangelo. (That was 4! I can’t control myself, I just want to share all the good stuff this city has to offer!)

 

I think I can forgive you for adding an extra one, especially since you mentioned Piazza della Passera which is like home for me! What’s the weirdest thing you have seen/experienced in Italy?
A man of ninety-something watching me up and down and going: ‘che bella fica!’ That I could respond with a fluent ‘grazie signore, molto gentile’ caused him a heart attack. No, that last bit isn’t true, but the abashed look on his face was priceless.

 

Not to mention the time you told the naked guy at Saturnia showing off to us that he shouldn’t really be impressed with his er offerings ;-) – that was amazing! What can you do here and nowhere else?
Get things for free. This sounds cheap, but it really isn’t. Let me explain. The mere fact that because you know people you find yourself eating out without paying, taking home wine bottles or being offered oil for free is as non-Dutch as you can get. We always expect that there’s a catch to getting something for free. Here it’s what people do to show each other their affection. It’s so generous, so rich, so beautiful!

 

I absolutely 100% agree, here life is all about relationships and the benefits of that, plus you can go out and have a great night for less than 10 euros if you want. How did you make friends and assimilate?
I basically said yes to every opportunity that came along. That’s how I ended up meeting a broad smiling Texan at a random Ferragosto picnic in Le Cascine park nearly four years ago .

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAPlay your Tuscany 2014 032

Awww it was fate, eh? I remember that day! Favorite food {or recipe}. 

It sounds corny, but basically everything Italian. (Except for trippa and lampredotto and other types of gut, how can you even eat that stuff?!)

 

Ok Last question! If you had to make up a tagline for the city – what would it be? ;-) be creative!

Warning! Serious flourishing hazard in Florence.

Iphone september 097

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Hahaha! Thanks so much Sophie, I really enjoyed your interview and I am sure we will meet again soon to laugh, cry, drink some wine or a combination of all! I highly recommend following this blond blogger, check her out at

 

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