Welcome back to Going Expat.
Today I want to tell you the story of a brave family who decided to leave Sicily and go on an adventure to the Netherlands.
Thanks to Veronica, we will find out the reasons that led them to make this choice, how things are going so far, after 1 year and how they are managing their business.
Hereby I introduce you to the Iacono family
We moved from Sicily (Province of Ragusa) at the end of October 2021.
For years we have been deeply in love with the Netherlands and during our countless tourist trips we have developed the idea of moving.
The pandemic clearly slowed down our plan that eventually tool a turn when the situation in Europe has definitely improved. Then we left and opened another barbershop abroad (we have two other stores in Sicily)
Haarlem is the place they can call home now, let’s read how it is.
We chose Haarlem because it was a love at first sight: a Dutch city full of local culture, full of events and initiatives, close to the most famous Amsterdam, near Schiphol (where there is the airport) with excellent connections to major cities, close to the sea and, above all, a great place for a family like ours.
What brings a family, with activities in Sicily, to move to a land so distant and different as the Netherlands?
We have always been in love with the Netherlands for its landscapes and what seems to be the lifestyle of the Dutch people, or at least of those who live here, so slow and relaxed, their openness, their tolerance, their freedom still fascinates us.
I believe it is a nation that offers great opportunities for professional but also personal growth thanks to a multicultural and cosmopolitan society.
Differently than most expat families, we moved with our children already teenagers.
Daniel (14 years) and Nicole (11 years) immediately supported our idea of moving, perhaps thanks to the many holidays we had here that made them feel excited at the idea to move.
They currently attend a Dutch school and in just one year their progress with languages (Dutch and English) has been impressive.
In addition to their constant commitment, the Dutch school system is also is a big help: inclusive and not that stressful for children.
Of course we’ve only been here a year, we’re all still settling in, so fingers crossed and I hope they keep on be as happy as they are now.
I do not know if we will put down deep roots but certainly it is a country that still makes us believe in a serene future for us and for our children.
There will be something that is not so positive…
The only downside that comes to mind at the moment is the exaggerated cost of renting apartments and houses that makes the purchasing even more complicated. Moreover, the shortage of houses to rent made the rental price even higher in the last years.
And then the Dutch language so difficult and light years away from Italian.
Fortunately, English is spoken by everyone and allows you to live peacefully. I call it “life-saving language” because it has allowed us to stay afloat in complicated times.
However, we are committed to learning Dutch because I believe that the 100% integration process only happens after acquiring the local language.
If the real estate market is so difficult, how difficult is to start a business?
Paradoxically, the opening and identification of our store was easier than the procedure to rent a house. Bureaucratically it was simple and feasible for us with only the help of English. But in general all the bureaucracy in the Netherlands is lean, fast and not at all expensive.
Let´s go a bit more in detail
We made various appointments with real estate agencies to find a suitable store for us. The Funda in business website has been fundamental in this regard in giving us a clear idea of the prices, the best location, the contacts of the real estate agencies, the makelaars.
Once we identified the shop that was right for us, we checked with the gemeente, the Municipality, to know if the intended use was suitable for opening a barbershop.
It is necessary to present a business plan to the owners, who must be informed of what you want to do with their property.
The advice in this sense is to make the business plan as interesting as possible so that it is chosen. Once the choice is made, the contract is signed.
In the meantime we made an appointment with the Chamber of Commerce (KVK) to get our VAT number (VAT-ID) and register our business in the Dutch business register. With only about 50€ and in just over 30 minutes you get the VAT number and you are fit to work as a company in the Netherlands.
A little more complicated thing is the choice of business consultant.
But here I must make a premise.
The Dutch bureaucratic system is designed so that citizens can do everything themselves without the help of accountants. Everything is online and explained quite well.
However, being new to us and not speaking Dutch, we preferred, at least at the beginning, to rely on a professional who took care of our interests so as not to run into penalties given our inexperience.
We are confident that we will soon be able to handle this on our own.
After that, you are ready to start your own business venture as entrepreneurs.
What to say to those who want to undertake an experience like ours?
It is certainly a very strong emotional experience for which you need to be prepared. It is important to start with a humble attitude, because you find yourself starting from scratch, but also determined towards the goal you have set yourself.
The obstacles and difficulties to overcome are many, first of all, as I said before, the language and cultural difference but I have always been convinced that perseverance, professional seriousness, respect at the end are always rewarded and worth every single sacrifice made.
Nothing is easy but everything is possible.
It remains to know where exactly in Haarlem we can find the Barbershop
Our Barbershop It is called “Moustache barbershop Haarlem”
is located in the city centre: Gierstraat 63- Zw, Haarlem
I cannot add anything but wishing this family good luck who is living their life with courage and humility
Do you join me in wishing them the best?
See you soon