My husband and I always said we would love to go abroad and live and work in a different country for a while. At first it was more just a one day when we are all grown up idea, because I am quite a homebody and didn’t take that well to the idea of leaving my family behind and moving so far away.
Fast forward a few years, and in our third year at BDO some friends of us moved to the Netherlands. It didn’t take much to convince my husband that he wanted to go as well. We applied at both BDO UK and BDO Netherlands and the Netherlands ended up being the clear choice for us.
Living in the Netherlands
I love living in the Netherlands. The work-life balance is something that I really appreciate, and also the sense of freedom and security that we experience here. It has not always been easy though, and there were times where I hated being away from home. But that also passes and gets better with time.
Since moving to the Netherlands, I have had some health issues. Something that really surprised me is how supportive BDO was, how well they looked after me and the efforts they were willing to go to, to ensure that I was taken care of. Where I am from the focus is on getting better as soon as possible (regardless of the measures that needs to be taken) to ensure that you can start work again as soon as possible. In the Netherlands the focus is way more on your wellbeing and ensuring that you recover in a healthy manner. For now our stay in the Netherlands is indefinite. We have settled in quite well now and just wait to see what life has in store for us.
Working in the Netherlands
For me it was quite an adjustment to start working in the Netherlands. Things are done a bit differently here than what I am used to in South Africa. I had to learn new standards, new rules and a different way of documenting. The audit tasks themselves are quite similar though.
Working with Dutch colleagues has been a bit of a challenge. As we did not begin as starters with the rest of our peers, it’s sometimes a bit difficult to form part of the group. However, everyone is very friendly and helpful. When you get to know the Dutch and their mannerisms, it tends to also get easier to adjust at work.
I really enjoy working at BDO, mainly because it is a smaller more intimate setting. Because my client portfolio isn’t very industry specific, I get exposure on a wide range of clients from construction to retailers to pharmaceuticals. Furthermore, I have been involved in the expat group, helping new colleagues from South Africa and other countries, like the USA and Malaysia, to onboard and settle in. I also like coaching other assistants in audit work and giving them guidance. Personally I am focusing on promoting to a Junior Manager next year, and also starting the process of obtaining my RA designation.
I think the main advantage of working at BDO Netherlands with a different cultural background is that you can relate to people with different backgrounds a lot better, so it is easy to see when someone is struggling to fit in and you can help that person. It also has its advantages when you work on international clients, due to your international ties.
Acclimating in the Netherlands
At first when arriving in the Netherlands, Dutch people appear to be somewhat reserved but also very direct and to the point. I think this was the biggest ‘culture shock’ for me. It is something that South Africans can perceive as being blunt or rude, but I’m used to it now.
With a lot of Dutch influence in the Afrikaans culture, it wasn’t that difficult for me to adapt to the mannerisms of Dutch people or the Dutch language. There are many differences, for example vies – in Dutch it means something is dirty, in Afrikaans it means you are mad.
Do I feel at home in the Netherlands? I don’t think I will ever really feel at home in a different country. South Africa will always be my home, but for now the Netherlands is my home away from home.
Enjoy the ride
I think, just when starting anything new in life, one should always be open to new experiences and to learning new things. If you are from abroad and would like to work in the Netherlands, my top tip would be to start learning Dutch as soon as possible and to start speaking it at the office. People really appreciate it if you show that you are making an effort. Most importantly, I think you should just enjoy the ride. Don’t be too hard on yourself and try to fit in too quickly. That just puts unnecessary pressure on yourself and takes away the fun!
Interested in a career at BDO Netherlands? Feel free to contact one of our recruiters for job opportunities.