Destination… the Netherlands!

content netherlands rotterdam train

All countries have their stereotypes — England and tea drinking, Argentinians love steak, Japan is super futuristic and all Indian food is spicy.

And while some stereotypes are closer to reality than others, some are either completely wrong or very outdated. Take the Netherlands, for example — everyone is blond-haired, blue eyed, tall and walks through a landscape of windmills and daffodils wearing clogs on their feet.

Yes there are windmills and the fields of daffodils are stunning, but you probably won’t see anyone wearing clogs, the traditional wooden shoes, but you will see another, absolutely true, stereotype — the Dutch love bicycles, in fact there are three times as many cars.

Everyone is blond-haired and blue-eyed is simply not the case (though the Dutch are officially the tallest people in the world). The Netherlands is a very mixed culture, with people arriving from all over the world.

Diverse and welcoming

This diversity is something that long-time resident Calvin Qiu FCCA, originally from China, really enjoys about living and working in the Netherlands. ‘It's an easy going nation. It's a melting pot. The social fabric is very inclusive. They embrace it and are proud of it. When I arrived at the turn of the century, when inclusiveness and diversity weren't on the radar as they are today, I'd never experienced such easiness blending in.’

Another factor that makes the Netherlands an easy place in which to settle is the fact that many people speak English, as well as the official language Dutch, and often French and German too.‘Everybody speaks English, especially in the corporate world, so you don't need to learn dutch,’ says Qiu. 

However, Qiu, who is CFO/COO for Netherlands’ headquartered global textile company Tanatex Chemicals, notes that learn Dutch will help integration if you decide to make the country your long-term residence and/or work for companies outside the major urban hubs. 

‘It's not a difficult language to learn. If you know English you're 40% there. Taking the kids to sports club, or something in the community like this, is when you might feel out of place not speaking the language. The people are considerate, but I feel embarrassed if I make everybody speak in English.’

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International feel

Originally from the West Indies but based in the Hague since 2018, Jenell Vassell ACCA, an operational risk manager at Aegon, has also enjoyed the country’s overall ease and international feel. 

‘I work with an international company and live in an international city, so I’m able to interact with and learn from people from different backgrounds, experiences and cultures. If you want to broaden your international network, this is a good place to achieve this, due to a large expat community as well as the Netherlands being strategically located near other EU countries,’ she says.

She also values the sense of openness that comes in such an environment, especially notable at Aegon, which encourages collaboration by operating a flat organisational structure. ‘There is no rivalry, but rather an emphasis on team effort, with colleagues ready to help you solve problems, so that as team members we all achieve the overall team goals together.’

Good balance

Another attraction to living in the Netherlands is the work-life balance and the kind of life you can lead in your free time. For Vassell, who arrived in the country from a very busy background working in audit, it took a little time to realise that she could engage in extra-curricular activities. 

‘For a few months in the job, I felt unproductive because I wasn't working 9 to 12 hours. However, I now look forward to my after-work hours, as I can spend time with friends or engage in an enjoyable sporting activities,’ she says.

Vassell has taken up tennis, while her latest adventure is cycling. ‘It is forbidden to live in NL and not cycle. There is a lot of emphasis on the environment and our personal foot print, which is evident through the cycling culture.’

If this all sounds appealing, then you should know that the Netherlands needs finance professionals. ‘Many international companies have HQs or fiscal HQs in NL thanks to a friendly corporate tax regime. The job market is red hot, at all levels. international companies are screaming for people,’ says Qiu.

Qiu and Vassell’s top NL skills

‘The Netherlands is a great place to build skillsets and gain experience in a fairly short space of time. The diversity allows you to break down barriers, whereas new starts might be frustrated elsewhere,’ says Qiu.

This diversity also means you learn how to tactfully communicate with people from different backgrounds, sensitivities and experiences, says Vassell. 

Meanwhile, the international environment means you can be exposed to new subject matter by being involved in multi-disciplinary and globally spread working groups.

Quick NL facts

Located in Western Europe on the North Sea coast, the country is well connected by train, road, ferry and air (Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport is one of Europe’s busiest), and is just a short trip from the political heart of the European Union in Brussels, Belgium.

And despite its small size , it’s home to important institutions, such as the International Court of Justice in capital city the Hague. It’s also home to a rapidly developing corporate scene and financial hub, especially in Amsterdam’s Zuidas business district.

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