To kick off Sunday’s Stories for 2010, I have for you an interview with a difference.
IamExpat is a website designed to provide information and insights to expats living in the Netherlands. They are a company of four and as such decided to interview together. The questions are necessarily slightly different, and the answers while not personal like previous interviews, are insightful. I enjoyed the read and I hope you do too.
What is IamExpat?
IamExpat is an information guide conceived and developed by expats that live in the Netherlands. It refers to the expat community in the Netherlands and covers the needs of any expat related topic; from official issues, careers and housing, to education, lifestyle and more. Apart from the website, the concept comes together with the popular online social networks LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter, and an interactive Expat Forum that provides the opportunity for interaction among the members.
Where did IamExpat originate?
IamExpat was born in the Netherlands and currently resides there. With the team welcoming new members, IamExpat will soon consist of multiple cultures, being established in more countries among the world.
How did you come up with the idea?
Being expats ourselves we identified a gap in the information and services that are provided. Therefore, driven by our own experiences and motive to cover the expat needs in the Netherlands in a better way, we decided to create IamExpat. In this way, we aim to facilitate the process of establishing in the country, and give the opportunity for expats to improve their social and professional life. Consider that the Netherlands is a country where English is widely spoken, internationals however still encounter difficulties, especially with official issues e.g. taxation. Also, the opportunities for a better expat lifestyle are always limitless!
Definitely, our entrepreneurial attitude and familiarity with the internet have given a great boost in coming up with the idea, designing, developing and growing IamExpat. For us, the pleasure of sharing common ideas and beliefs, and the ability to transform a vision into a concrete reality is comparable to few things
Who would you consider to be an expat?
You can find various definitions for the word expat and/or expatriate, with all of them focusing on the fact that an expat resides in a different country from the one he/she was brought up, as well as emphasizing on the “attribute of mobility”. In that direction, we consider as expats: the international professionals that work in a country different from the one of origin, either because they were relocated by their companies or they chose to follow a career abroad, the governmental agents / representatives like diplomats and ambassadors, the international students and those that follow their family in the new country of residence.
Also, the wanderers / adventurers / travelers that move in a new country and look forward to meeting people from other cultures, experiencing a different way of life and expanding their horizons; “attributes” of most expats, but in a more romantic way..
What do you think are the needs of an expat?
One of the key elements that characterize an expat is his/her ability to adjust rapidly to a new country/environment. Taking that into account, proper housing and dealing with local authorities play a really important role, especially at the beginning i.e. newcomer into a town/country. Work permit, taxation, registration with local authorities, pension planning, international education system are the core topics an expat needs to consider once decided to relocate to a foreign country. As any other local, expats want to have all the necessary information available in order to make relocation as smooth and fast as possible.
Among other reasons, a person chooses to live in a foreign country to take advantage of a business opportunity or explore a career move if he/she is working for a multinational company. Therefore, career and the ability to switch jobs surely qualify as a major need for an expat.
Last but not least, an expat moving into a new country has the need to socialize and establish a local network. Expat organizations, websites, blogs, forums are always the starting point for an expat to start building his/her network. It’s a fact that expat people are generally quite active and social, which makes it easier to adjust to a foreign environment.
What are the difficulties that an expat encounters in the Netherlands?
Generally speaking, the Netherlands is an expat friendly country and local people have a really open-minded mentality, which makes it quite easy for an expat to adjust quickly. Nevertheless, the Dutch language can be quite a challenge to learn and to understand, but with the proper support within a couple of years one can have a pretty satisfactory level of Dutch. Surely a pain for expat people in the Netherlands is to find the ideal accommodation, as prices can differ a lot. Especially in the largest cities the market is moving really fast, so you need to be quick and efficient. Next to that, Holland is a country with one of the highest taxation systems across Europe with the taxation rate being as much as 50%. Definitely, something to consider when you sign a local contract even though we have to admit that the quality of life is equivalent to the high taxation in the Netherlands. Having said that, quality comes with a price and the cost of living is considered to be on the high side depending on the person’s choices in terms of lifestyle.
It’s probably also worth mentioning the special attributes of the Dutch weather; you can start with a lovely sunny morning and by the end of your day with a strong wind storm, making it sometimes quite difficult to plan properly. If you end up cycling under heavy rain don’t panic, just look around you and you will realize that it’s quite normal!
What are the different backgrounds in your group?
Our team consists of 4 people with various educational and professional backgrounds. All of us experienced the Dutch upper education system, while studying either on a Msc or Mphill level. The areas of our studies in Holland were Marketing, Entrepreneurship and Finance. This multi dimension was one of the factors that triggered the development and evolution of the IamExpat concept.
We are all young enthusiastic professionals that for one reason or another decided to live in Holland and explore our academic and professional ambitions. We have all worked for different kinds of companies from small-medium size to multinational ones that are active not only in Holland but have a broader market perspective.
Since September 2009 we have been focusing on our first project IamExpat, at the same time looking forward to new challenges. An important contributor on this conquest is the fact that the entrepreneurial ground remains fertile in the Netherlands, even in the crisis period.
What do you enjoy most about the Netherlands?
The Netherlands is considered one of the most attractive countries for expatriates. The open-mindedness of the people, the multicultural identity of the population and the ability of the Dutchies to speak the English language fluently creates a friendly international environment. In addition, the strategic geographic location of the country makes traveling around the world more accessible and affordable. The pace of the daily life is very relaxing, people are easygoing and using your bike as the basic means of transport contributes to a smooth and easy integration for an expat. Furthermore, in the Netherlands you can find restaurants serving international cuisine for every taste, big outdoor markets and many international events and festivities, which are organized every year.
How has becoming an expat changed your lifestyle?
Being an expat can be very exciting for many reasons. Meeting other expats and sharing personal experiences, as well as explaining the different reasons why each of us left his/her country of origin, always results in interesting conversations. A person, who travels abroad and resides in different places , may gain valuable experiences, explore new horizons and mentalities as well as business opportunities around the world. From a recreational perspective, expats become familiar with leisure activities from other cultures and that makes their lifestyle more appealing. This international experience is nowadays something really highly regarded. Being an expat makes you more open minded and contributes to your self development. Last but not least, expats build a wide international social network, which enables them to travel more and adjust to multicultural environments easily.
Any last words…..?
Being expats has defined a new way of living and thinking for us. Residing and doing business in the Netherlands has positively influenced our personal development from a social and also business perspective.
Netherlands is an ideal location for expats, which can be explained by the fact that many Dutch people have been expats themselves, making them really open and tolerant towards expats from all over the world.
This positive expat experience in the Netherlands has given us an even greater boost to further grow our entrepreneurial endeavor and embrace even more cultures and mentalities by taking this idea outside the borders of the Netherlands.
We would like to thank Emma O’Connor for the opportunity she has given us to share our own expat story, hoping that we can inspire other expats and urge people who are skeptical about living abroad to take the step and live the expat experience.
With warm regards,
The IamExpat team
To learn more about IamExpat visit www.iamexpat.nl
Feel free to contact IamExpat at email@example.com We are always glad to interact
LinkedIn Group: IamExpat in the Netherlands
Facebook Page: IamExpat in the Netherlands