I am pleased to add this interview to my Taking the Plunge series
Here is Sophie Charlotte who has flourished in ways she never dreamed of after moving to Florence:
When did you move to Florence, and what motivated you to make the move?
I turned my long distance relationship with Italy into a long-term commitment in 2010, and I chose Florence. Florence has always represented everything I love about Italy because of her feminine grace and abundant beauty. I moved into her wide open arms and felt right at home.
I was teaching English at a secondary school in Holland and even though it was what I had always wanted to do, I knew that there was so much more out there for me! I couldn’t imagine myself staying stuck in the same town, at the same school, doing more or less the same thing every year.
I tend to get bored pretty easily and I need to be challenged. (I’m an excitable highly-sensitive thrill-seeker.) I strongly felt I needed to fuel my soul, otherwise its flame would die. And so, after breaking up with my six-year relationship, I answered my soul’s calling: move to Italy!
Where do you come from and when did you first have a connection with Italy in your life?
I’m from The Netherlands and the first time I went to Italy was when I was twelve or thirteen years old. My mum’s partner loved opera singing and Italian wine, so he decided to take us on holiday to Italy, and it was love at first sight. I can’t be more grateful to the man!
Since you are an EU citizen you can work in Italy without jumping through crazy hoops. (I’m envious!). The Italian economy isn’t great and many young Italians have to go abroad to get good jobs. What would you say the prospects are for work, for someone moving to Italy who has the type of visa or type of citizenship that allows them to work in Italy? What jobs have you had since moving to Florence?
I know! I sometimes feel so bad for you ladies that you can’t just move here and start looking for a job because of visa reasons. That’s also one of the biggest challenges for my clients who are non-EU citizens. Luckily, through some great connections I can help them get a study visa, but otherwise it’s damn hard!
You know what, yes, the economic situation is pretty bad, but being a “yes woman” to the core I always choose to focus on the possibilities instead of on the impossibilities. I believe that where there’s a will, there’s a way, and that you should be willing to do whatever it takes to make it happen. That’s at least how I did it!
I did interpreting at a cooking school, I taught kids Dutch, I did tour guiding, babysitting, and I had English teaching jobs at different schools and loads of private students. I also created a group English Teachers in Florence to help colleagues find new students. I believe that when we help others we can all grow; I’ve never believed in competition very much.
After all these odd jobs so to speak, I discovered another passion of mine and turned it to my profession: writing. I worked for the biggest Dutch blog on Italy and I also wrote a column about Italy for a Dutch magazine, in which I shared what it’s like to live in Italy as a Dutchie.
It was pretty cool to get paid for a hobby and to get to travel around Tuscany and write blog posts about my adventures! Nevertheless, I felt I spent way too much time at the computer, and I craved for meaningful contact with other people. I decided to make another career switch and I studied to become a life coach in Rome. The course was in Italian, which was a massive challenge, but one of the greatest satisfactions ever! I’ve had my own life-coaching business since 2015 and I feel extremely fulfilled by it. It’s so beautiful to help other women cultivate the courage to follow their dream of moving to Italy.
What’s been the most challenging aspect of living in Italy?
The first thing that comes to mind is the negativity. Italians tend to see the world and especially their own country in a very negative light. They probably have their reasons, but you can still decide to focus on the positive and work with what you’ve got.
Take the general degradation for example. I find it heart breaking to see how precious art, ancient buildings or other beautiful traditions are neglected and left to die a lonely death. There is so much beauty here. Why don’t people value it more and also make sure it’s more accessible? A little organization would make this country go a long way and also get it way more money!
What is something you have in Italy that you did not have in your home country?
“Love” is the first thing that comes to mind. I feel that people express their love, affection and appreciation for each other way more freely. In Holland we tend to be a bit cold and distant, and saying that you love someone or touching them affectionately can be seen as weird. I love how people are very warm and generous here; it’s way closer to how I am as well so I feel I can be myself here.
What were the main things you were hoping the move to Italy would give you, and did those things come to fruition?
I wanted to feel happy; as extremely happy I did when I came on holiday here. And that has definitely come to fruition, more than I could ever have dreamt of.
When I moved to Florence I was still taking antidepressants for my anxiety disorder. I was diagnosed with it at the age of 17 and it was really hard to fight this demon for so long. I was stuck in my head all the time and the gut-wrenching anxiety made life really challenging.
Getting into alignment with my true self and daring to follow my dream came with a surprising side effect: fulfillment. This fulfillment made me feel so rooted within myself that I felt stable enough to quit taking the antidepressants a year into my Florentine adventure. I recommend everyone who strongly desires to move here to do so; it will sooth your soul on such a deep level it’s mind blowing.
I feel have totally flourished in Florence, have become the best version of myself here and so often feel I could die a truly happy woman because I followed my dream!
What’s your favorite quote about life, as related to your move to Italy?
“What if I fall?” Oh but my darling, “what if you fly?”
Sophie Charlotte is a Confidence Coach for Women who is committed to living her life to the fullest and to helping women find the courage to live life their way and make their long-nurtured dreams come true.