My Life in NL (2011)

This year was the year of joy, because me and my husband welcomed our bundle of joy. Our daughter. She was born in May but lots of things happened within the strecth of this year. This is the year which I first spend the whole year in The Netherlands. If 2010 was the root, then 2011 definitely the wood of the tree, on top of which, tree branches and leaves, and even flowers and fruits, grow and multiply.

January 2011

First day at work, with so many faces and names to remember. I was still in a haze, still could not believe I get a job and starting it. I went to the IT dept and received my laptop, laptop bag and case, and mobilephone and all its paraphernalia. It was all paid for and all for me. It wasn’t taking me long before I realize that I could have hit communication barrier. I did not have the courage and knowledge to talk in Dutch. The working arrangement also different. Most visible was the seating arrangement. There are none. Rooms and designated desks are only for Manager level and up. Below them, go and scramble yourself in any available rooms. I was never work in an auditor or accountant office before, and I believe this arrangement was a typical only for The Netherlands office. I was living 12 km away from the office and had to take public transport and had to be in the bus at 7 or at maximum 8 o’clock. Not forget to mention that I was also pregnant.

My first assignment was an internal project which manager was a bit reluctant to speak english. She said it right away that she was not comfortable speaking in english, but since I had very little knowledge of Dutch, she gave up and communicated in english. Thankfully, the assignment was something I was familiar with. I finished it right away and I had to do it, I needed to gain her trust, especially since I did not know many people at that time. Here are what I found about Dutch work ethics

  1. It is an open communication level of relationship. You don’t call someone with Sir or Madam, it was all in first name basis. You can go directly to a partner or senior manager’s office, and said “Hi Henk, how are you?” It took me a while to get use to it. Because in Indonesia, even to colleagues, if they are older, you put honorific titles (Mas, Mbak, etc) before their name. I never had that chance while I live in Indonesia, but I believe the phrase ‘when in Rome do what the Romans do’ which means, follow the customs and traditions of the land you’re in. So, I still put honorifics when I am in Indonesia or communicating with friends or family in Indonesia (in Skype, chats, bbm, etc)
  2. You’re the director of yourself, you decide what you want to do, and then go to people who will give you the type of work you wanted to do. Before, I was already assigned to a certain department, and also assigned with a certain job description. Here is totally opposite. You get to choose and it applies also for self development, as in trainings or courses you would like to follow, or skill to obtain. You set the target for yourself, find someone you can discuss it with (here we have a Coaching system) and then they will help you.
  3. It is only a on-the surface relationship. At work, Dutch people put a sheer veil of themselves. They protect their privacy fiercely. They believed people at the office are only colleagues and not friends. Friends are someone outside from work, whom you can share intimate and personal stories with. They will treat colleagues nice and friendly, but they will keep you at a distance. I struggled so hard with this custom, and I have to say, although not completely, but some have open their hearts to welcome me as more than colleagues. Not as friend, though, but surely more than colleagues. Fortunately this happens mostly to older people, younger ones are easy going and quite open hearted.
  4. Meetings meetings meetings. Dutch people are famous for their endless meeting and strict agreement leevel. Each and every one must agree upon something otherwise it is not a deal. Just one person and the deal can go sour. If that happens, surely they will held another meeting and yet another one, and another, until all person in attendance agreed.
  5. Decide or order a drink at all time. Each time we have a meeting or just a small 2-3 person discussions, I will be offered for drinks. Please say yes, and pick any, if you’re not in the mood or unsure, just pick water. If I said, no thanks, no drinks, then I had just unintentionally put an awkward theme for the meeting.
  6. Sell yourself, any small achievements or involvement in a successful projects, are worth to be bragged around.

February 2011

I went to my first ever team meeting and it was held in Dutch, all day long. I think my decision to stay in the meeting had risen some pitiful thoughts of the management level, they decided to give me a private Dutch lessons afterwards. At first I only got 20 hours, then extended another 20, 40, and finally in total I have 100 hours of private one-to-one Dutch course, all paid for. Apparently, sitting 10 hours straight looking like a fool (I was) did profit me, somehow.

However, I found out what to do and how to get things done

  1. Establish and embrace the fact that you are the expert. People here are quick to judge if someone is an expert for this and that. This is in line with the way people here like to boost themselves up. They think each and everyone has a bragging rights and they should use it.
  2. Always ready for questions. Well, this is only natural since you are the expert.
  3. Finish work within schedule.
  4. Speak up, ask questions, discuss, and own the work.
  5. Create a work environment which best suitable for you. People here are quite aloof but I am lucky most people in my group are still young and dynamic. They like to communicate, which I like. I might as well put the fact that I am a talker kind of person. I like to talk and talk and talk. Not happened when I was in Indonesia, but I think as I matured, I realized what I want and what makes me comfortable and excel. I realized that I like to talk, to share, and to gossip. And that’s exactly what I do when I’m socializing with colleagues.
  6. Build trust. Make people trust you and go to you for questions or help.
  7. Never bring home work. When I am at the office, I mostly put on my turbo mode on, and I do make small recess time, for lunch, coffee break, and any of my talking sessions.
  8. Trust yourself, be confident. Because you’re worth it.

May 2011

My daughter was born, and I brought my Mother to The Netherlands. I paid for her flight tickets. I was so proud of myself and I hope my Mom was too. I was also busy looking for daycare or creche for my daughter. Apparently, most creches here are fully booked and we have to register in advance (some said 9 months in advance, woot?) With my pregnancy, I was introduced to Netherlands’ health system and especially maternity care and services. It was totally new experience for me, since I have not seen some of what I got here, in Indonesia. I got freebies, discover some baby basic necessities, and finally the labour process itself. I was most excited about the 16 weeks maternity leave period. This was way better than Indonesia’s 3 months leave.

July 2011

Me and my family moved into a new, bigger apartment nearby my office. It was a great change because before I had to travel 12 km and now it is only 2.2 km! Nice. The process of finding the apartment was not a smooth one. We had been discussing and planning to move to a new apartment before my daughter was born. Our old apartment was less than 50 m2 and it is a studio. It will not work with a baby and especially if we have friends or family coming around. So we decided to move out. Our old apartment was then rented to a colleague of mine, but she has since moved out as well.

It was a bit tricky and tough, because the old apartment is a fully furnished type. We pay the rent inclusive gas, water, and electricity bills. It has all necessary furnitures and appliances. Curtains, carpets, balcony flower pots, all was already there. I had an incident with the door and we had to pay 150 euros from our deposit to fix it. We had been to at least two apartments for rent, but unfortunately we did not get them. Somebody else outran us and got them. But we then went to our third open house, and got it.

December 2011

My 1-year contract had come to the end, and the company decided to give me permanent employee status. This was good news, because with my new status, I can plan and set my career movement towards the top. I went home to Indonesia during this month. This was my first time ever flew to Indonesia together with my husband, and not just that, we also brought along our daughter with us.

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