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Anya Sokha, Amsterdam

Who are you?

I was born and raised in Southern Russia (where tomatoes get special treatment from that natural sunlight that makes them taste like juicy candy; something like Italy, only Russian.) I bake good French bread plus cakes and cookies for a living and hold a degree in English Metaphor. I view myself as a writer. My beginnings are still modest. I started with a blog, it happens to circle around food, but not just that.I think nailed it once to have described my blog as a collection of stories with a taste. I’ve been going at it for over eight years already, can’t see myself stopping.

Where, when and why did you move abroad?

I moved to Amsterdam at the age of twenty-four (and I just turned thirty-two). I was going to do a two-year Master’s in English Language and Culture (Metaphor). English studies in Amsterdam – I did that.

What challenges did you face during the move?

Frankly, I can’t recall any – I only had a single suitcase to schlep with me at the time – except for one very big obstacle in the form of all the visas and residence permits required of a Russian abroad.

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Are there many other expats in your area?

More than many, Amsterdam is home to the whole globe. I love this about the city, it’s small but worldly.

What do you like about life where you are?

In Amsterdam, everything is within reach. You got a bike, you’re halfway where you need to be. Then, English is unofficially a second language here which in my mind is very expat-friendly. It’s a beautiful place, elegant, cosmopolitan. The best season on earth is Amsterdam summer nights (when it doesn’t rain): evenings are long and air floral and cool like silk; narrow sideways and canals fill up on window- and streetlights and deep sunset; people are out and about, cutlery clanks against plates, wine glasses go chin chin around cafes, you get hungrier for life.

What do you dislike about your expat life?

I’m often impatient and it takes time to architect a life in a new place.

What is the biggest cultural difference you have experienced between your new country and life back home?

Dutch directness, hands down. I come from a keep-your-thoughts-to-yourself country, so to hear on occasion that I ate too much ketchup, for instance, was somewhat discomforting. But on the upside, it’s good to know – with time, even count on it – that somebody will tell you there is something stuck between your teeth. For the Dutch, to be direct is the ultimate form of politeness.

What advice would you give to anyone following in your footsteps?

I’d advise to hire an immigration lawyer, it pays off to have a qualified professional assist you in navigating the residency maze. That, and don’t skimp on a raincoat!

What are your plans for the future?

Set forth to a new country. Write a book (with recipes), and then another (without)…

You can keep up to date with Anya's adventures on her blog, Godful Food.

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