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Expat life in The Netherlands

“Don't just dream, do something about it”

Little over two years ago, I met Taciano Dreckmann Perez, a senior software developer from Brazil, during his emigration to The Netherlands. Together with his wife, daughter, mother in law and four cats he moved to Eindhoven to start his new career with Dutch technology company ASML, a global market and technology leader in semiconductor lithographic equipment. Together with Taciano, two years later in Eindhoven, we look back on the impact of this life-changing decision.

When did you start dreaming of an international career?

In my case that happened very early. At the beginning of my career being 20 something years old, I considered an opportunity in the US that did not happen for many reasons. Already then I decided, I didn’t want to look back being 70 years old and say I lived in the same city, I've worked for the same company, I've done the same thing all my life.

What made you decide to go for it?

When I decided to move, I was already working for 17 years in the same company. I liked it there, but also I wanted to experience other things. Part of my drive was a desire for my wife and I to know other cultures, other ways of working, other parts of the world, have more life experiences. That was our original motivation. Then there was the environment in my home country Brazil, not being in a good economic situation with an increase in criminality, not that good for raising a family, that gave us the final push.

The third was finding a suitable job opportunity elsewhere, I did not want to just do a crazy thing like quit my job and go to another country and see what happens. I wanted to do this adventure with some basic assurance that I could live and take care of my family.

I moved to the Netherlands when I was turning 40, which was a self-imposed deadline because I thought: ‘if I don't make this movement around this age, then later it will become much more difficult.’ So it was a combination of a desire to experience new things and a desire not to have some of the problems that I faced living in Brazil.

Where have you lived and worked so far?

Before moving to the Netherlands two years ago, I lived and worked all my life in Brazil and always in the same city, Porto Alegre. My job in Brazil had an international side to it because I worked for a North American company, Hewlett Packard. I worked in an R&D department and had daily interactions with several other countries. So though my life and work experiences were only in Brazil, it had an international aspect to it.

What do you enjoy about your international work and life?

Brazil is a very nice place, but it's also a bit of a culturally closed country. It is an exception to have regular contact with people from other places. Most Brazilians go through life interacting basically with other Brazilians. Here I really enjoy the fact that I work with people from all across Europe and beyond. I have direct colleagues from India, Turkey, Greece, Russia, and Romania. This is quite a nice experience because my world becomes much larger.

Second, because the Netherlands is a small country and very central in Europe, we are surrounded by other cultures, other languages. You can just take the car or the train and in a couple of hours, you are in a completely different landscape, different language, different food, different weather. In these two years only, going out on holidays or day trips, we experienced more than in the previous ten years back in Brazil, where we always went to the same places. So I think there's so much more variety of experiences.

What do you miss?

I can speak both for myself and other expats I know, the number one complaint, and that's definitely my personal number one, is that you're far from your family and friends. You don’t see the people you love that often. My colleagues from Europe can take a plane for one or two hours to see their relatives or friends. For me, it's also possible, but it's more like a day trip to get there.

Second is food. It's the ingredients that you are used to from your childhood. Although we cook Brazilian food at home, I still miss original Brazilian food.

Another thing that is difficult to adjust to is the health system. Not because it's bad, because I think it is the fifth or sixth best in the world in terms of ensuring that people are healthy. But it's a very different treatment that you get from doctors and nurses here, so it takes some time to get used to. That is a complaint that I hear a lot. Personally, I have been through a major health issue and I'm very satisfied with the results. I'm here, I'm doing well, I'm healthy, so I think what matters is it works really well.

How has your international experience boosted your career so far?

When people think of a career boost, normally they think in terms of promotions or new challenges. In that sense, I don't think there was a big difference. Actually, it was even a little downgrade because at home I was a long time in the same company and I had grown to a very senior position. And now I'm sort of redoing part of this process again because I came to a position that was not on par with what I had in Brazil. But I expected to gain things that for me at this moment are more important than promotions, which have to do with quality of life. In Brazil, I had a very comfortable lifestyle. But on the other hand, I lived in a very crowded city, with lots of pollution, my commuting was a nightmare. I was always stressed out in traffic. Children in Brazil are not allowed to play on the street because it's dangerous. So my daughter was living fenced off inside a compound.

In The Netherlands, I often bike to work. I live really nearby the office and there are lots of green areas around. What people here complain as being a lot of traffic, it's actually small compared to what I'm used to. Pollution is not an issue at all. My daughter can play on the street with friends. She sometimes just goes out and says, ‘I'm going to play outside.’ Then she comes back hours later and we are not worried at all.

So I would say that my biggest career boost is the fact that my personal life has much more quality. That for me is more valuable than what traditionally people think as a career boost. I do know people who came here and they have grown a lot inside their job, and I'm pretty sure that my growth will come in time. I've been here for just two years and I'm not focused on short term quick growth.

What is the best advice you can give anybody with an international career dream?

My first advice is to act on your dream. I spent some time hesitating, and at some point I felt it was now or never, so I started to do something about it. I started actively looking until I found a good career match for me and it worked quite well. So, to begin with, if you dream, don't be just dreaming: do something about it. And if you take the first step, then it's easier to take the second and the third and get momentum and really make it happen.

The second piece of advice that I would give is to make sure that you and your partner or family are on the same page. Even if you are, which was my case, it is challenging. When moving with a partner or family, one has a job and has a quick and clear start, while the others have to start from scratch, which is very challenging.

And at last, it is very important to have a pleasant experience when you arrive, to get support from the company that hired you or someone that is helping you through this process of moving. To make your first days, first weeks not very stressful. This is really helpful. We felt that we had that when we moved here, that we were very well welcomed. And yes, that made all the difference because I've seen some cases where people had a very, very hard time when they arrived in a different country. They didn’t even know how to get transportation to where they need to be. And that's a nasty experience, having this support is so important.

Click here for engineering career opportunities in The Netherlands.

Manuel Teunissen | Co-founder of Mundialz.com | November 2019

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