The New Locals:
from Netherlands to Palafrugell

🕔 4 mins (total)

From Vlaardingen, near Rotterdam in the Netherlands to Palafrugell in Catalunya, Spain

Nienke Abma has made Palafrugell her home. Originally from the Netherlands, she came to live in Catalunya after many years in many places!

Where are you originally from?

I was born in Vlaardingen, near Rotterdam, but I grew up mostly in Friesland in the north of the country.

How long have you been living on the Costa Brava?

I’ve been here on La Costa Brava for just over seven years. I also spent 2 years studying for a MBA in Madrid so I’ve been in Spain for almost 10 years in total.

Why did you leave your country?

I was always very independent and wanted to travel, so after school and before university I wanted to experience new places and things and learn a new language. I had originally planned on going to France but as some other friends were going there I preferred to go somewhere different and ended up coming to Spain instead.

What made you move specifically to Palafrugell?

I originally found a job when I was still a teenager cooking for a family in Palafrugell and I became very close to them. I went back to the Netherlands for university and studied Spanish and European Studies, and over the next few years, I used to come back to this area to work on campsites during the summer seasons. Many years later, after having lived in a number of other places – Milan, Frankfurt, Amsterdam, London, and especially New York City – I wanted to live somewhere that I could call home and live less out of my suitcase and in hotels. I eventually found a job in Begur as a consultant for clients looking to buy or sell property on the Costa Brava. This allowed me to be close to “my family” in Palafrugell.

What do you work at?

I am currently working as an autónoma in sales for Engel & Völkers, a German real estate company. During my years of high-end consultancy work in the banking sector I also learnt a lot about fine wine and became a lover of gastronomy. I was keen to discover more and so did a number of courses, visited hundreds of wine cellars over the world and learnt about matching certain wines with certain types of food. I started writing reviews and eventually became a consultant for restaurants. Nowadays, as well as my work in real estate, I am also a consultant for bodegas here in Catalunya and organize catas (wine tastings) as well as excursions such as hikes and visits to wineries, for example.

What do you like most about living on the Costa Brava?

I love the nature and proximity of so many beautiful places in the area around where I live, and I especially like the simplicity of life here compared to my years of living out of a suitcase and in hotels and airports. I also appreciate the warmth of the people here.

Favourite way to spend a day off?

I love hiking, biking and swimming and sports in general – ideally followed by a beautiful meal in a nice restaurant, accompanied by a good bottle of wine or cava!

Some of Nienke’s highlights about life in the Empordà

Do you have one particular favourite place?

That depends on what for! For example, I love Sant Antoni de Calonge for swimming laps. For restaurants I love Bo.TiC in Corça and Pa i Raïm in Palafrugell. If I’m in Palamós I also enjoy going to Bitácora, Can Morera and Entre Dos Mons. But there are several more I really don´t mind going back to, haha!

What’s your favourite food here?

I like a nice fish dish with some tastily prepared veggies a la plancha, followed by ice-cream. I love ice-cream!

What do you like most about Catalan culture?

I find the history and the architecture of the area very interesting, and of course, I love the wine culture!

Are your friends here mostly Catalan or foreign?

Mostly foreign, although I have Catalan friends too. Sometimes it’s harder to make new local friends as people are already in their own cliques. I used to play cards with a group of Catalan friends, but Covid put an end to that. I have also met a number of wonderful people through U3A.

How often do you travel home, or is this your home now?

I normally travel to the Netherlands once a year. New York was probably the place where I really felt most “at home”, although I feel at home in Palafrugell now too.

Do you think you’ll ever return to live in your country?

I may end up returning to the Netherlands for professional reasons. In fact, I was beginning to make plans to return before Covid happened and may well end up moving back there in the not too distant future. It’s a tough choice though as my heart is here, really…so, we’ll see!

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