We find that it's exciting to know about what motivates our volunteers, what brings them to the Netherlands, how they adapt to life here, and what they’ve learned from their experiences in a country that's become their new home. Read on to discover more about what David thinks about being an ACCESS volunteer and his life in the Netherlands.
Where are you originally from?
I am from the United Kingdom (UK). I was born and raised in the county of Surrey in South East England (south from London) and I spent the last sixteen years in the UK living in Hampshire (which is also in southern England) after I was married.
How did you come to be in the Netherlands?
The reason for why we moved to The Netherlands was to allow my wife the opportunity to progress her career (and follow her dream) by joining an international company whose commercial headquarters is based near Schiphol airport. At the time that my wife was presented with the job offer, I was feeling slightly disillusioned by the perceived lack of career path progression at my place of work and considered that my professional skills were not being fully appreciated. Therefore, we decided to take the plunge into the unknown and make the move to The Netherlands. This is the first time that I have lived outside of the UK since my late teens (thirty years ago).
What do you do at ACCESS?
I undertake a variety of roles for ACCESS. I continue to work at the help desk and I am now part of the information guides editing team and one of the trainers for new starters to ACCESS.
As a native English speaker, I was originally asked to help as a proofreader for updates to the official ACCESS guides. I have since expanded my role to include carrying out comprehensive updates to several of the ACCESS guides, including: “Banking, Taxation and Personal Finance”, “What to do when leaving TheNetherlands” guide and “Winter driving” guides.
What is your favourite part about being an ACCESS volunteer?
I guess that my favourite part about being an ACCESS volunteer is that I get to feel that I am appreciated for the contribution that I make. This gives me a sense of worth and great satisfaction, as I am no longer just a “House husband” and have a role to play outside of the family sphere.
What is your educational and professional background?
I obtained an honours degree and a Doctorate (Ph.D) at Imperial College London. Whilst I was at university I met my wife, as we were on the same degree course together.
After leaving university, I initially applied my scientific and engineering academic background in metallurgy to work in the steel industry in South Wales. After getting married, I relocated back to southern England and became a scientist at a large research laboratory.
However, to enable me to progress my career, I took the decision to move away from being a technical specialist to become a full time project manager. For the last thirteen years (before moving to The Netherlands), I have worked for two different companies in various project management roles of increasing seniority. I ended up managing technical projects with budgets of seven figures.
What do you like most about living in the Netherlands?
Compared to living in England, I feel that the area of Den Haag to be very safe. The city is very accessible by the excellent public transport system and I have not witnessed any drunken youths in the streets looking to cause trouble at night. My wife and I also enjoy walking along the extensive sandy beach which runs along the coastline of this part of the Netherlands during the summer months.
Do you speak Dutch and do you think it's important to speak the language?
I think I should answer this question in reverse order.
I consider that it is important to learn the language of the country that you are living in. It is more respectful to try to communicate with the native population in their own language, rather than expecting them to speak to you in English or your own native language. I believe that in mastering the language, it provides you with the benefit of understanding what is going on around you and makes it easier for you to integrate and becoming settled in your new country.
Having said all that, I have failed to learn Dutch beyond the basic elementary level. I spent approximately one and a half years attending Dutch lessons, but my progression in widening my vocabulary and in understanding spoken Dutch was painfully slow. In mitigation, I think that part of the problem for me has been that Dutch is the first language that I have ever attempted to learn (typical Englishman I hear you say!). Consequently, I have found that I am not a natural linguist.
What are your top 3 tips for anyone planning to move to the Netherlands?
1) Whilst I am not a good example, I would recommend that anyone moving to the Netherlands should be prepared to learn Nederlands taal. From my experience, I would suggest that it is probably more effective to learn Dutch on an intensive course (with lessons more than once a week).
2) Leave the car at home and either get a bike or use the public transport system. Get an OV chip card and enjoy the freedom it brings to travel anywhere in the Netherlands.
3) If your husband/wife is at work all day, don’t remain isolated at home. If you can’t find paid work yourself, try to find a voluntary position. Alternatively, take up some sort of sport or join a fitness club (apart from swimming, it is a good way to meet people).