It’s in my nature to seek out new experiences and always be eager to try and learn new things. I get bored easily when doing the same thing over and over again and the feeling that I get when I manage to break out of an old habit, lately has become my addiction. This is mainly because in the past few months I’ve done some really bold changes in my life. One of them – and probably the biggest one – was relocating to Amsterdam!
Definitely not the easiest thing to do. Especially when you have kids! I’ve heard so many and different comments about moving to another country that at some point I blocked them all. However if I had to categorise the feedback that I got before making up my mind, I’d say that everything boils down to two kinds of people: The super excited ones who see everything easy just because you’re moving to an “expat friendly” country and the ones who are so attached to their daily habits that they can’t think straight and consider everything hard without actually weighing the benefits of such change.
One thing is for sure: Relocating to another country is not something that you can plan in fixed steps. There are too many variables that you cannot foresee, things that won’t work the way you’d expect and situations where timing and patience are truly essential!
The idea of moving to another country has been in my mind for many years, mostly due to the nature of my work. I was always keen on moving to the UK and more specifically in Cambridge, but an email from a recruiter presented an intriguing opportunity that quickly changed my mind. It took me one interview over Skype before I landed in Amsterdam for the first time, and after a couple of face to face interviews at the headquarters of Booking.com, I was certain that this will be my next step! Some might think that a good job offer can make any country look perfect, but that’s far from true. If you don’t take the time to consider every little bit of your life that you’re about to change, you might as well book your return ticket!
It’s been three months already since we moved and my friends are still asking whether the Dutch language is a barrier for certain things like daily shopping, socialising etc. The short answer is: No, almost everyone in this country speaks English. However setting up a life here, taking the kids to a Dutch school, dealing with all sorts of paperwork, renting a house, monthly bills etc. at some point makes you wish you knew, at least, some Dutch. Overall, even in situations where English wasn’t an option, I did manage to do what I wanted.
I am used to moving houses but my experience was limited to the greek domain. More specifically, I lived the majority of my life in Rhodes which kinda spoiled me with not having to deal with extreme weather conditions, traffic jams or various other large city problems. That said, life in the Netherlands is definitely different! From a financial point of view and considering that we’re a 4 person family, any outside activity comes with a pricey consequence. On the other hand, we are still in “tourist mode” and every weekend we’re discovering something new and exciting. The whole country seems like a well thought iPhone app. Everything is scheduled down to the minute, there are rules for simple things that people actually follow and generally there is a very happy vibe that you get throughout the country.
Coming from an island that relies heavily on tourism, I was familiar with Booking.com before I even imagined that someday I’ll have a desk at their headquarters. Throughout my whole career as a UI / UX Designer I was a remote worker, and even though I’ve been involved in many large projects, switching to a company this size is something that requires quite some time to get used to. I was blown away by the number of designers in the company and I’m still getting used to their way of coordinating. Not to mention that whenever I need to find a colleague who’s desk is on another floor, I feel like I’m going through a maze. It seems hard… and sometimes it is. But the amazing company culture and the time that everyone is taking in order to teach you anything you don’t understand is genuinely priceless!
Relocating is definitely not an easy task! Especially when you have children, there are unimaginable things that you need to coordinate. Small details that you end up spending too much time and effort to work out. We are still adjusting. And it looks like we’ll need a lot more than three months to figure out if this was a permanent move or if we’ll be looking for something else in a couple of years. So far the experience was well worth it though and our “Netherlands to do list” still has a lot of pending things!