Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Our first expat interview...

We were recently interviewed on our experiences and learnings gained, moving from sunny South Africa to the Netherlands.  We thought it appropriate to share our interview with our readers as being an expat in a new country is quite daunting at first.  We hope that our pointers are helpful to our readers and others who are about to embark on the new chapter of transitioning into expat life.  Enjoy reading...

Why did you move to Holland and What do you do?
We were offered a brilliant opportunity to experience Europe both from a lifestyle and work perspective so we grabbed it as we both love to travel and experience various cultures.  Currently we are both working for one of the big 4’s in the Technology sector so having the opportunity to gain multinational experience across continents is a great addition to our career portfolios.

How did you find the transition to living in a foreign country?
We would say that we are definitely still in transition as expats. At first, everything was very exciting and new, then after a few weeks, it began to sink in how far away we were from friends and family however with modern technology these days, we still keep in touch with all those dear to us.

What are the best things to do in the area; anything to recommend to future expats?
Holland is a fantastic country, it’s not big but it’s really dynamic with plenty to do… food, music, the country side and so much more than just Amsterdam.  Country hopping is a breeze, we often pop over to Germany via the Autobahn for a weekend of racing at the Nürburgring or shopping in Paris.  We’re always on the move exploring so our advice would be to pack light and bring comfortable shoes when touring Europe.

What do you enjoy most about living in Holland?
We love how easy everything seems to be and how helpful people are, with a mix of efficiency and friendliness. Everything works and there are strict rules which ensures a very safe almost crime free environment.  Holland is a very family orientated country with flexible work options which has allowed us to co-parent our daughter whilst still fulfilling our career aspirations. 

What has been the hardest aspect to your expat experience so far?
We think we’re lucky as we have never found living abroad difficult. Speaking Dutch was a bit difficult initially as we’d switch to Afrikaans but we’ve learned the language now and although we still speak English, we are able to speak Dutch where necessary.

When you finally return home, how do you think you'll cope with repatriation?
We don’t know if we will necessarily move back home just yet but one thing we can comment on in regards to this topic is reverse culture shock. One reads everywhere that when you move to a foreign country that you will experience culture shock in one way or another – the language, culture, time change, etc. but what isn’t really considered is that when one moves abroad they absorb the new culture, values and ways of life of their host country. This means that when they go back to their home country, even for just a visit, sometimes a “reverse culture shock” ensues. However, coming home to South Africa is always easier than going away.

What are your top 5 expat tips for anyone following in your footsteps?
1.     Don’t be afraid and try to relax about the fact that things are different than at home.  Embrace the new adventure of being an expat.
2.     Preparation. Educate yourself about the country and get involved in some local activity  to experience what other cultures have to offer.
3.     Be prepared that it may take some time to find your feet.  Be patient and remember the   new opportunity you have at your disposal.
4.      Research online and join expat groups in the country you will be moving to.  You will find  that they are an amazing source of knowledge.
5.     Lastly, have fun!  Find things that you enjoy and make you happy in your new country.  You have made the move, took the time to educate yourself  so be open minded and make the most of your new life.

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