“The Dutch are like onions. After 12 years. I’m still peeling”

In the Western world, English is often considered as the language of business. Yet, in a similar way, the same can apply to C#, Java, Python and many other programming languages. In fact, they are applied worldwide. Due to the tight labour market in the Netherlands, this creates a substantial growth of IT people from abroad who come to build a new future here. Albeit, not always for the same reasons.

This effect is evident at LINKIT too, where the situation in the office has changed considerably in recent years. Of the 174 permanent staff, 50 are now foreign, spanning over 21 nationalities. So, what is it like to work as a foreign knowledge worker in the Netherlands? What difficulties are you running into? What makes you happy here? Let’s have a conversation at the LINKIT kitchen table. The participants are Gilvan from Brazil, Kiarash from Iran and Anna from Germany.

Proposition 1: The Dutch work culture feels unnatural to me

Kiarash doesn’t have to think long about that statement: “That’s certainly the case, but in a positive way! In Iran, the working culture is chaotic, here everything is very orderly. For me, that’s nice.”

Gilvan is happy to join in on this point; “I think the Dutch work culture is fantastic. The organizations here are flat and it’s easy to get in touch with each other. I clearly feel that technical positions are important and that my ideas and suggestions are taken seriously. People here see feedback as a good thing. That is not only positive for me, but ultimately also for the company.”

Anna also prefers the Dutch culture: “In Germany, hierarchies are much more important than in the Netherlands. Rules are rules. I enjoy the flat structures of companies and the relaxed working atmosphere here.”

Final verdict: we are happy with it!

Proposition 2: It’s easy to make new friends in the Netherlands

“Before I moved to the Netherlands, I lived in Portugal,” Gilvan says. “I had a Dutch friend there. He was very positive about the Dutch culture and how you can make friends here. In general, I find the Dutch are nice, interested and helpful. They help you to integrate and with a little effort you can maintain friendships well.”

Anna also has mainly positive experiences: “During my studies, there were groups of Dutch people and groups of expats. Exceptions of course confirm the rule, but once you speak Dutch, you quickly make new friends.” Kiarash, who has lived in the Netherlands for some time, runs into other points. “I’ve made quite a few friends over the years. Especially at work. But overall, it’s tricky. Dutch culture seems very open, but if you want a little deeper, that is a thin layer and people are quite closed. The Dutch are like an onion. The moment you think you understand them, there’s another layer and another layer. After 11 years, I’m still peeling.”

Final verdict: Dutch are friendly, but difficult to peel

Proposition 3: LINKIT is a good place to work for foreigners

“That’s right,” Gilvan says. “Even if you don’t speak Dutch, it’s easy to work here. The working environment is multicultural and everyone speaks excellent English. What makes it extra nice for me is that there are a good number of Portuguese-speaking colleagues besides me at LINKIT. This makes me almost literally feel at home. The support for expats is also good at LINKIT. And if you run into certain issues, because you are new in the Netherlands, there are always plenty of people around who can help you.”

Kiarash experienced the culture change at LINKIT first-hand. He was the first foreigner at LINKIT more than four years ago. “Now I dare say that we are a truly international company, and every year we change more. But when I came here, that was certainly not the case. I felt like an alien from outer space who came into the office. Fortunately, I can handle that. At the university where I used to work, I learned to work as an individual, rather than as a collective as in Iran. Here you have to be strong and be able to take care of your own business. I’ve learned to survive and adapt, which can be difficult for an emotional person like me.”

Anna: “Huh, foreigner?” She smiles. “I don’t feel like a foreigner anymore to be honest. It is really nice that LINKIT is so international. You can learn a lot from the different cultures and your English will not rust.”

Final verdict: for sure!