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People from many different countries live, study and work in Eindhoven. Every week, Innovation Origins has a talk with an international about what brought them here and what life is like in Eindhoven.

Name: Anna Maria Lioce
Country of origin: Italy

Exactly at the agreed time, Anna Maria walks into the coffee bar. “Not bad for an Italian, right?” she calls cheerfully. She sits down and immediately starts her story. Nowadays there are a lot of Italians in Eindhoven, but Anna Maria thinks that when she came to the Netherlands in 2000, it was very different: “In my opinion, I was about the only Italian here. There were definitely more, but I did not encounter them.” The waiter comes by and asks if she wants to have a drink and the cliché of Italians and their coffee is also discussed. “I am happy that there is more of a coffee culture in the Netherlands now. Even though I can still can’t understand people who order a cappuccino after dinner. Even drinking it at lunch is strange for me. I have also lived in other countries and here at least the coffee is nice, so I take the weird habits for granted.”

Anna Maria came to Eindhoven for love. “I am married to a Dutchman. We met in Italy in the year that I graduated. My husband had a nice job and after I graduated, I came to the Netherlands. I come from Rome, a great city, but also very busy, noisy and full of tourists. Prior to the move, I was afraid Eindhoven would be too big of a change for me. Luckily it was easy. I was welcomed here with open arms and the people were friendly and nice to me. I am glad that we live in the south of the country because most people here are a lot friendlier than in the Randstad or the north. Here they are sunnier, as they say in Italy.”

After moving to Eindhoven, Anna Maria and her husband moved several times. “We have lived in England, Germany, Italy and Switzerland and in 2014 we returned to the Netherlands. Our two sons were born in Germany and Italy. Moving and starting over again was sometimes quite heavy. Zurich was great, but you live in a kind of bubble. And how you experience a country is partly due to yourself. You need to be part of where you live, integrate. Italians are good at complaining and will often see the negative side of something. Because we have lived in so many places, we know that instead of complaining we have to make something beautiful of it. There is something to criticize at each location, but there are also plenty of good things.”

(Story continues after photo)

Originally, Anna Maria and her family wanted to settle in Rome for a longer period of time. “It is the most beautiful city in the world,” Anna Maria laughs, “But I had been away for many years already and it is difficult to return again. Much has changed in the city. The funny thing is that I now visit the city as somewhat like a tourist. When I lived there I might have visited the Coliseum once. I also did not visit St Peter every day. Here it is the same. I have many expat friends on Facebook who live in the Netherlands and every time they have guests, they go to all kinds of places I’ve never been like Kinderdijk or the Keukenhof. Just like in Rome: if you live there, you are less likely to go visit all kinds of sights.”

Both her sons go to the International School. “We have always spoken Italian with our sons and when we came to the Netherlands, they also learned Dutch. In the meantime, they speak the language very well. In the weekends they play hockey at HC Eindhoven. I am a volunteer at the school. I help in class and during excursions and if there is an event, I also take part in the organization. Next year our youngest goes to secondary school and that will be a big change for me, but also for the family because then my help at school is less necessary. I like to paint in my spare time. I like to make big canvases with Italy as a theme, although Eindhoven is also a great source of inspiration nowadays.”

Photography: Diewke van den Heuvel
Read more stories of internationals here.