In the second episode of ‘It Works on My Machine’ we are joined by our colleagues Julia, Vamsi, Feyza, Kerem, and Umut to discuss why they decided to move to the Netherlands to work at spriteCloud.
We will explore their experiences of moving, living, and working in the Netherlands and which challenges they faced. We’ve selected a group of people that are new to the Netherlands and fresh off the boat (so to speak) to give you our listeners a variety of perspectives. They will also tell us about the differences they noticed compared to their previous countries of residence and what maternity and paternity leaves look like in the Netherlands.
The Netherlands is facing a shortage of IT talent, so you might find yourself considering a move to the Netherlands in the future. We hope this three-part episode of our podcast will help you learn about your potential new home.
- Work-life balance in comparison to other countries https://oecdbetterlifeindex.org/countries/netherlands/
- Maternity leave in the Netherlands
- Parental leave in the Netherlands
Walk into Paradise by Carmen María and Edu Espinal
Kerem: After experiencing Istanbul for eight years I got a little bit sick of the crowd.
I was always fascinated with the Netherlands. we have a canal here beside our building and the ducks are walking around. Many species of birds are flying around. That’s really peaceful, it’s like giving you the vibe of a village at the same time you are living in one of the best capitals in the world.
Marion: The voice you just heard was Kerem he’s our colleague and one of our guests for episode two.
And as you might’ve guessed already, we’ll be talking about moving to the Netherlands, specifically for work.
Welcome to ‘It Works on My Machine.’ I’m your host Marion. And I’m joined by my co-host, Travis, and five of our colleagues to discuss why they decided to move to the Netherlands and how working in this new country turned out to be.
That’s what we have planned for part one, but that’s not all. In part two, we will dive into the less glamorous side of moving, dealing with the administrative side of the move. May it be finding an apartment or arranging health insurance, for example. Once that’s behind us, it will be time to get to know your new home a bit better. In part three, we will discuss Dutch culture, food, and dealing with the infamous Dutch rain.
You can find all the resources we mentioned in the podcast, as well as the transcripts on our website at www.spritecloud.com/podcast. That is www.spritecloud.com/podcast. And if you don’t want to miss any future episodes, follow us wherever you listen to podcasts.
Marion: In the introduction to this episode, you already heard Kerem, one of our guests introducing himself.
He’ll be sharing his experiences as someone who’s been in Amsterdam for a couple of months only. He’s been working for more than six years in the software industry. Mostly in testing and testing automation. He visited Amsterdam during his holidays and fell in love with the city.
When he decided to leave Istanbul for a quieter alternative, Amsterdam quickly became his first choice.
Travis: Julia is one of our colleagues whose been living in the Netherlands for the longest. More than 10+ years. She moved here with her husband only a few months after they got married and now she lives in Leiden with her family and has made the Netherlands her home
Marion: Before moving to the Netherlands in December 2021, Umut had never left Turkey, his home country. He did not decide to start his journey alone though. Feyza his partner was also part of the adventure.
She had been abroad before, but only for shorter periods. They both work in QA and have already worked and the same company in Istanbul. They decided to do it again but in a different country this time.
Travis: Our guest Vamsi moved to the Netherlands right after he completed his studies in 2012. This was a big move, considering it’s the first time he traveled outside of India. Fortunately, he was able to rely on his cousin who was already living in the country for help. Vamsi’s cousin was able to help him find a place to stay. And help him find his first job.
Marion: Thanks for joining us for the second episode of ‘It Works on My Machine’, everyone.
Julia and Vamsi you’ve been living in the Netherlands the longest, can we start by hearing why you decided to move here?
Julia: Hi, it is a funny story. I’m from Ukraine and I was planning to stay in Ukraine or move to the UK, but my husband, when we were married for about three months, got an invitation to move to the Netherlands. He was basically the moving force that landed me here.
We thought that if we were going to move, then we were going to move to the UK because we both spoke pretty decent English by the time. And we were hoping to participate in the ‘young professionals scheme.’ And we decided, okay, it’s a step closer to the UK and we were going to make our first move towards. We moved here and we’re not going anywhere. We really love it here.
Vamsi: I moved to the Netherlands in November 2012. Yeah, the reason for moving is at that time, I came fresh out of my post-graduation and was looking for a job. So then I got an offer from Netherlands, from for Amdocs working for ABN AMRO client. At the time, I was doing some courses around mainframe. and then I got the opportunity to work in the Netherlans. Basically, I take an intake, which was referred by my cousin, and then I came to the Netherlands.
When I eventually came, I was really excited mostly because of coming out of India for the first time, on top of it, it was really, snowing. Because the year 2012, by December, there was a lot of snow during that year and I never saw snow. So I was really excited to see the whole thing.
Marion: While Julia and Vamsi have been here for many years. Feyza, Umut, and Kerem, you just arrived. You’ve been here for a couple of months only. What has convinced you to make the move to the Netherlands?
Umut: It’s a funny story. Actually, we’ve been living in Istanbul for a few years, back then, and we decided to move to my hometown Kaş and, just a couple of weeks after we actually, moved to Kaş. Someone from spriteCloud contacted me for a job opportunity. And at first, because always as a hobby I accept job opportunities, to see the challenge, to see the case study.
So I accepted the challenge and we wanted to see what it was all about. And then, I thought if we were to go actually, maybe Feyza would like to work and we had this discussion and she was like, “I’d love to work there.” And because we actually previously worked in the same company before, that got us a little excited and I came up with the idea and presented it to spriteCloud and, really, they liked the idea and they thought why not? And I was accepted. And after she was also accepted. we seriously considered whether we want to move and we were like, why not? Let’s give it a shot. It’s an adventure. And so far, we really, I think happy about the decisions that we made.
Marion: Thanks Umut. How was it for you Kerem?
Kerem: What brought me here to the Netherlands is, first of all, I was always fascinated with the Netherlands, its culture and everything, and mostly it’s people and the freedom. And, two years ago I have visited Netherlands to Amsterdam and I stayed with one of my colleagues here from Turkey and I liked it even more than I imagined.
At that time I haven’t decided to move here because all Europe was in my objective. But then after all, in seeking a job in Europe, my same colleague told me that nevermind other countries, if you have the chance to come to the Netherlands. So then I mostly, I totally focused on the Netherlands.
And just about one month later, I believe, I have been offered by spriteCloud then I’m here.
Marion: And how was Amsterdam compared to the cities you lived in before?
Kerem: I came to Amsterdam and I visited London at the same time, I was working in Kuwait at the time when I first visited Amsterdam. So I think, after experiencing Istanbul for eight years and all of that crowd, I think I got a little bit sick of the crowd.
Marion: I can imagine that Amsterdam felt small and quiet with its roughly 800,000 inhabitants compared to 15 million for Istanbul and 9 million for London.
Kerem: Yeah, London was also very crowded. Life was going so fast.
You can’t even understand that you’re living. I believe it was four days, but yeah, it was a hectic experience for me going around London.
And the environment here is way better than in other cities in Europe. I believe. We have a canal here beside our building and the ducks are walking around. Many species of birds are flying around. That’s really peaceful, it’s like giving you the vibe of a village at the same time you are living in one of the best capitals in the world.
Marion: That’s a glowing endorsement for Amsterdam. Let’s move on to our next topic, working in the Netherlands and more specifically in QA. Vamsi, Kerem, Feyza, and Umut you were sponsored by an employer and moved with a job waiting for you in your new home country. Julia, when you moved to the Netherlands, your husband had a job offer, but what about you?
How was it finding a job as a non-EU citizen?
Julia: He was already settled with that job, he was invited actually as a ‘kennismigrant’ (Knowledge Migrant).
I had a chance to find work because normally if you just move without a contract, you are not allowed to work. And then it brings some difficulties, but I had the chance. So I started looking for work.
And at the time, 13 years ago, it was quite difficult because although everyone spoke English, everyone was quite keen on having an employee who actually spoke Dutch and having just arrived without any knowledge of Dutch, it was really difficult. So I had a very long way of learning Dutch and finding a job for three years.
And in order to learn Dutch, I actually subscribed and followed the course in graphic design in the Konings Academische School for graphic design. So a little bit different than programming which I studied in the university, but, that helped me to at least, be immersed into the language, environment and forced me to learn as many words as possible.
And, somewhat surprisingly, I found this testing opportunity, which did not require Dutch language, which I still did not speak properly by that time. It was an English-speaking company, fully. Everything is in English and their headquarters is in New Jersey. So that was a perfect combination of testing and regulatory testing.
Marion: Well done. You proved to be very patient and perseverant.
You mentioned that your husband moved to the Netherlands as a ‘kennismigrant.’ For all the listeners who might not be familiar with the term in Dutch, that means a highly skilled migrant. Let’s get into what work you do for spriteCloud. If you don’t mind. Could you tell us if there are things that you particularly like or find challenging working in QA in the Netherlands?
Julia: Okay. Sure. I’m a technical tester at spriteCloud. I combine both manual and automation work. And I really like working at spriteCloud, because I can stay in one place. I’m a rooted person normally. And if I start working at one place, it’s not easy that I’m going to jump from one work to another. And yet I like diversity. So working at spriteCloud actually gives the diversity while staying at one place. And, it is flexible with working hours.
I was working from home and I was working from the office, which at this point has all become hours working from home. But I don’t really mind that. So at the moment, what is challenging is actually that I am alone on the project and, it would be nice to have someone to discuss things, but luckily the line managers are always there to help hear out out the concerns or to chat a little bit about, how things go. And, in general, sometimes the projects can become overwhelming and the clients can seem to push for less people on the project and then to add more people. And then every testing activity that is going to happen, it’s going to land on my plate, and do we need to deal with that. Giving them rather long timelines.
Travis: Okay. Well, obviously it’s always going to be a challenge, given clients and whatnot, they’re trying to maximize your cost with their benefits.
Marion: Maybe we can hear from Vamsi as well since you’ve been working at spriteCloud for seven years and in the Netherlands for almost 10 years. Are there things that you found challenging working in QA here?
Vamsi: Everything I worked on was like really smooth, unless say, if you are new to your project, because we work on different clients and different projects. So which means like whenever you switch a client, you need to, sometimes you need to set up the whole QA process or set up automation, for the client. There are some challenging situations like this.
But, one of the projects that I worked on till now, most of the clients are only cooperators. So they’ll give you information that is needed, they will give you the help that is needed from other colleagues. From that perspective, I didn’t see any challenges. So of course there’ll be challenges, but then there is always a solution for that challenge because everyone is willing to help you.
Marion: That’s very nice to hear
Travis: So we talked about what it’s like to work at spriteCloud, but let’s take a step back and look at the work culture in the Netherlands, in general. Julia, you’ve worked both here in the Netherlands and in Ukraine. What would you say about your experiences of work culture in the Netherlands so far?
Julia: It is very structured and it doesn’t really require you to stay overwork, while in Ukraine you would constantly be working more hours than you’re supposed to, because this is what is expected of you and you don’t get paid for that. So it wasn’t really a very healthy balance between work and home.
Marion: That’s also something I can say. If I compare Swiss versus Dutch work culture. It’s definitely a better work-life balance in the Netherlands.
Julia: Yeah. I can agree. It’s very nice and structured, and you work for what you get paid for. Of course with some exceptions but the exception does usually confirm the rule.
Travis: Yeah. I think if you look around at some statistics around work in the Netherlands, they typically have one of the highest, if not the highest, work-life balances. So I think I remember reading not too long ago that typically people work about 36 hours in the Netherlands, on average. So that’s obviously less than 40 and not 50, which is great.
Marion: I actually have some interesting statistics on that, and they come from the OECD and their better life index: in the Netherlands. 0.3% of employees work 50 hours or more per week. That is considered very long hours. This is the lowest rate in the OECD where the average is 10%. And one interesting thing to note is that with nearly 25%, Turkey is one of the countries with the highest proportion of people working very long hours.
So with its 0.3% and also the lowest average in the OECD. The Netherlands has a very good performance in regards to not working long hours.
Vamsi: And also apart from that, I would say, in Netherlands we have flexibility and at the same time the employers trust you. It doesn’t mean that when you have issues, you can just relax, but it’s more that you have your own space to complete your work, no one will be pressuring you. So you just need to manage your work, to make sure that it’s completed.
Travis: Yeah, I think, to some extent it has to do with the individual companies and the managers that are your direct managers, but also I think also in terms of the culture of working in that country, anyways. So I’ve worked in companies here in the Netherlands where they were more micro-managing and more “you gotta make sure you’re there for nine hours regardless”, and stuff like that. But those were more American companies operating in NL.
On the other side spriteCloud, where it’s more like, “Hey, you get your work done, then do it. And if you need to take a break for 30 minutes or whatever, it’s up to you, but as long as you get your work done, we trust you.” So I think that’s nice, but I think, there is also a bit, to an extent, just the culture of the Netherlands around work as well there.
Umut: I would also say people here are much more straightforward. And, I think there are these, how do you say it’s discreet, hidden cultural differences, maybe in how people talk. And that’s something actually, we’re still getting used to. Because although I’ve been utilizing the English language for over 14 years now. Because I’ve never left Turkey, I didn’t get the chance to use it professionally with people who are completely different than Turkish people. I did use it, of course, in professional life, but moving to a new country and using it as your main language is a whole, all-new experience.
And, this actually, causes this interesting situation where sometimes people say stuff and your perception of the sentence is different than theirs and this, these communicational issues if you didn’t know about it. So that’s something to take note of and I find it helpful to communicate with people, to prevent miscommunication as much as possible. Well by maybe bringing in some more context on what we’re talking about, and conversations and yeah, that’s, something I find interesting.
Marion: A very good point. You also have a lot of non-native English speakers in the Netherlands and at our office. I imagine the potential for miscommunication being quite high in some cases.
Umut: Yeah. Especially where, while we’re working remotely, we can’t really see each other’s expressions, facial expressions, and, that’s context-related, details. And when that context is missing, sometimes, some sentences comes through as something other than what they were intended to be.
So that’s something I find good to consider for us, people who come to work in the Netherlands, for instance, but also for people who already are in the Netherlands. And, well, communicating with the newcomers like us, because I think it’s a really important detail, the communication and how it then to goes through.
Marion: Absolutely. If we zoom in a bit, is there something that you find particularly striking working in QA in the Netherlands compared to Turkey?
Marion: Were you only working with Java before that?
So it’s a very old language, for some reason, universities still teach it. And, so for that reason, I believe, I picked them up, pretty quickly also because I really enjoy doing that learning new stuff.
Feyza: Yeah. It was a great opportunity for us to improve ourselves, actually. Yeah. I think it’s a very positive thing for us.
Marion: That’s great to hear. So it was also one of the things that you were looking forward to when you decided to move or was it more a surprise upon arrival
Feyza: It wasa surprise for me.
Marion: Did you notice anything else working in QA in the Netherlands, Feyza?
Feyza: I think, here at spriteCloud, people are very communicative. So I found that, for example, there is a task, and we always discuss that task with the related people. In Turkey, we didn’t do that much, you know? And I found that it increases your quality of work and it improves your work and the product actually. Yeah. This is my observation, about the people at spriteCloud actually.
Marion: Very fine observations. It’s very interesting. Let’s round this part of the episode off with one last topic, maternity and paternity leave. When you decide to move to a new country, that might be your new home for many years. If you’re considering having kids, this could be interesting for you.
Julia and Travis, you both have had children in the Netherlands. Let’s maybe start with Julia. How was your maternity leave here?
Julia: It is very disappointingly short. But I know it’s the same in America. It’s very short and rather disappointing. It’s yeah, but you’ve got still 10 weeks or something like that.
The pregnancy leave is four to six weeks, depending on the desire of a mother or medical advice. And then the maternity leave is 10 to 12 weeks again, based on the previous numbers. Those are luckily paid. So you’ve got 16 weeks in total for, paid leave after giving birth.
Julia: And before and after that, it’s unpaid and it is calculated based on the numbers of hours you work per week. And until the child is eight years old. Now it doesn’t have any benefits in terms of the taxes, but it used to have. And the only benefit it has now is that the employer cannot, deny the parental leave, but he may argue the hours or the schedule taken.
That’s the only benefit. Now from August 22, 2022, this parental leave will become partially paid, precisely 50% paid for the first nine weeks, of the parental leave until the baby’s one year old, which is also something you had spent more time with the kids and get back on track, not in three months or less, but a little bit longer.
So that’s a also nice addition from the government. What is also interesting, with the leave until the baby’s nine months old, the mother can take up to two hours per day or 20% of the time for, feeding the baby or providing some care to the baby. So it also is beneficial and sometimes it can be arranged that you can just leave the work earlier and then just go directly to the baby and to take care of it.
So it’s also quite nice. But nine months is also not a very big, child age. I wish it was a little bit longer.
Marion: How is it in your Ukraine?
Julia: We’ve got three years of paid leave, but this is also one of the things that make women in Ukraine, very vulnerable, because, no one wants to pay for three years and it’s not a governmentally covered, the company itself base. Women in Ukraine just don’t get a chance to work sometimes because they get directly fired or something like that. Here at least you’ve got some guarantees. Okay. It is small. It is short, but at least you get to hold your working position and you get paid for bringing the new person to this world.
Marion: Yes indeed. Travis you also recently had a child how did it go with your paternity leave?
Travis: Yeah, pretty good. We had a baby girl who is now about six months old at the time of recording this episode.
So in the Netherlands, partners are entitled to six weeks of leave. This consists of the normal partner leave. And also what’s called an ‘extended partner leave.’ So the normal partner to leave is one week of paid leave and it’s paid at 100% of the employee’s salary. And the second part is called the ‘extended partner leave’ and that is five weeks. So technically this is considered unpaid, but it is paid by the government at 70% of the employee’s salary.
In our particular situation, we knew that we were going to be getting a lot of extra costs with having a child. Much of that was around feeding and clothing the child but also daycare is a pretty big expense, which we’ll talk about a little bit later. I basically chose to take that one week of 100% paid leave off and combine it with some of my vacation time. Obviously, 70% of paid salary is pretty nice. But losing 30% of your income for an extended period of time is not so handy for a lot of people. So in this case, in the Netherlands, there is a fair amount of holiday time you get. So I was able to take four weeks, still get paid 100%, and still have that quality time with the newborn baby and my girlfriend.
So, as I mentioned, daycare in the Netherlands can be quite expensive, but the Dutch government does actually subsidize a portion of it. And that subsidy depends on the amount of your income. So the less you earn, the more subsidy you get and vice versa.
My girlfriend and I wanted to find a balance between managing our income and the extra costs that we now had. So we actually only send our kid to daycare two days a week. One day our child is at her grandparents and the other two days, she’s at daycare. And another two days, my girlfriend and I take turns watching her. So basically on Thursday and Friday, respectively
My girlfriend actually reduced her hours from 40 hours a week to 32 hours a week. And I continued to work 40 hours a week, but I do that in four days so that I can have Friday free to look after the baby. So, thanks, fortunately, to spriteCloud for being very flexible and offered me the ability to do this.
But the reason for that is, we pay 890 euros a month for two days of daycare per week. We get 530 euros per month from the Dutch government. In the end, we actually ended up paying 360 euros per month out of pocket for daycare. Obviously extra costs of having a child, my girlfriend working less, and obviously the extra cost of daycare. You know, you have to bring that into your calculations when you’re figuring out how best to handle, not only maternity leave and paternity leave, but also the caring of your child for the rest of their life basically
Marion: Thank you for sharing your experiences, Julia and Travis. And thank you to all our other guests who have joined us today. Umut, Feyza, Vamsi, and Kerem, it was nice having you on the show.
We have reached the end of part one. And the next part, we will be talking about the less glamorous side of moving to the Netherlands, finding an apartment, arranging healthcare, and other administrative challenges.
If you don’t want to miss part two or any of our episodes, follow ‘It Works on My Machine,’ wherever you listen to podcasts. Thank you, until next time!