Blog: 'Introduction to being an expat in the Netherlands'
Transformation from student life to work environment is usually cumbersome and being an expat can make it more difficult if you don’t take the necessary measures. Don’t be scared immediately! At the end of this article, you will know your way out.. (It sounds pretentious, right?)
Language barrier, huh?
Well this can apply to a lot of countries, but come on.. Dutch people are very kind to stick to English when a foreigner is around. Well, as long as you do not live in a native English speaking country, the Netherlands is one of the best places regarding the language barrier to be an expat. Although, you may recognize in short term that sometimes on a lunch table you may be forgotten. The solution is easy! Do not sit there and get bored, just remind yourself to your colleagues. They will immediately switch to English. Or there is a better solution: Try to learn the language! I know it is hard but at least if you can understand what is being discussed around you, your life will be a lot easier (easier said than done, I know).
Be direct, dutchies love that
As a student we are asked to do a lot of tasks, homework, projects and so on. Let’s be honest, we do not have much chance to say no to our professor. Guess what! The Netherlands is a country where the hierarchy in workplace is really not visible. I am not suggesting that you should say no to everything (please don’t come back to me if you get fired) but feel free to reject some actions or propose different planning. Being direct to a Dutch person is the best thing you can do for them, including your senior/ boss.
Last but not least, be proactive
There are several traps all expats fall into every now and then (yes, including me as well). Be proactive at work. Do not wait for colleagues to approach you, just go socialize with them. Believe me, they are interested to listen why you choose to live in the Netherlands or why you find certain Dutch habits awesome/ dull. And outside of work: Force yourself to get out of the house every day in those early months. If you don't have friends or a job yet, it can be really easy to hide out in the house and wallow in fear, anxiety and loneliness. Make yourself go somewhere - the grocery store, a cafe, your local library. Just get out of the house and interact with someone - even if it's just to pay for something.
MSc Artunc Ulucan, 28 years old, born in Izmir, Turkey. Moved to Netherlands in 2010 and graduated on Mechanical Engineering in the Energy Technology group at TU/e in 2012. I love playing soccer, travelling and cooking. Working for TMC Mechanical since December 2012 and since then worked for TNO Equipment on Additive Manufacturing.