A year in the life of an expat
Moving to a different country for work is always a life-altering experience. There are many challenges one has to overcome, including finding appropriate housing, learning the language, and understanding the culture. These challenges become especially daunting when you are moving for someone else, in most cases a partner.
To dive deeper into the experience of an expat, we interviewed Ines Komic, an English and Croatian teacher, who moved to the Netherlands from her native country of Croatia. She moved here 18 months ago with her boyfriend Jakov Videković, who works at SALTO KS as a Mobile Developer for iOS. Ines recently wrote an article named ‘365 days as an expat’ that described her experience of her first year living in a foreign country, her hardships and successes, and the importance of appreciating every step along the way.
Read on to find out how she overcame the challenges of her first year and what she learned on her journey so far.
Could you please introduce yourself to our readers, and describe your connection to SALTO KS?
My name is Ines Komic and I have been working as a teacher for around 10 years, teaching both English and Croatian. Besides teaching I love casual writing, working on the school’s social media and organising interesting school-related events. I love researching how languages are learnt. Currently, I’m focused on adult learners of the Dutch language because I am surrounded by them, as I am learning Dutch myself. It’s very interesting to see what influences us, how we respond, what makes us progress and so on. I love motivating people and helping them in their learning process from a language teacher’s perspective.
I have very strong ties to SALTO KS. Not only because of my boyfriend Jakov but also because of my friend Darjan, who works as a Software Developer at SALTO KS. Jakov, Darjan and I have known each other since high school, 16 years and counting!
Relocating to a different country is a big adjustment. Did you encounter any challenges due to your relocation? How did you overcome these challenges?
Relocating to the Netherlands was a huge adjustment! From the wind and the rain to Dutch houses and language, there was a lot to adapt to.
Finding a job has been the biggest challenge I have had to face. It takes time and patience, as well as an employer who decides to take a chance on you. I am still in the process of overcoming this challenge. For me, that means learning Dutch and integrating into the Dutch society.
How long did it take you to adjust to your new reality in the Netherlands, such as finding a job or an apartment?
We were a lot luckier than most in regards to finding an apartment, as we had the advantage of having a friend in the Netherlands who could go to viewings for us which helped tremendously. We were still looking for apartments when the date of our arrival was fast approaching, as we hadn’t found anything. We had even paid for temporary accommodation when we finally managed to get an apartment. It had no agency fees, it was furnished and almost ready to live in! We hadn’t seen it with our own eyes, but Darjan sent us videos and photos of it, and we trusted it would be fine for our first year. It was a huge relief being able to arrive in the Netherlands without having to worry about accommodation.
Finding a job was a completely different thing. I managed to find a part-time job in a clothing store pretty quickly, but it took me around 6 months to find a part-time job as a substitute teacher in a Dutch school.
What would you say is the greatest cultural difference between the Netherlands and your native country of Croatia?
One of the greatest cultural differences is freedom. Freedom to change jobs, move cities, and share your opinions. In Croatia, there isn’t as much freedom and you can get stuck. It’s difficult to find a job as a teacher and if you get a good one, meaning permanent and full-time, you usually stay there until you’re 65. Moving to a different city or a different country is seen as a huge thing and isn’t always well received. Sharing your opinions, if those aren’t the same as the majority's, is often controversial.
In your article which inspired this interview, you said “We are not our jobs. We are people who have a job.” Can you please elaborate on this statement?
I realised that I have focused so much on finding a job that I forgot to enjoy the city and the change itself. I felt that I had to find a job immediately and I felt that my worth was measured by my ability to find a job. I realised that my job defined me. That’s because I started working when I was 18 and I hadn’t stopped working until I came here. I was used to working. When I moved to the Netherlands, I was very enthusiastic, hoping to find a job soon.
Then I realised I got it all wrong.
I’m so much more than my job. There will be a moment in which everything will change. I cannot force it, I cannot make it happen overnight.
I’ve met so many hard-working and ambitious people here who would like to work, but simply cannot make it in the competitive market. It’s difficult to stand out, especially with so many Dutchies as a competition.
My job is still a big part of who I am. I love working and being productive, but now I’m a bit more aware that it’s a process that takes time. I’m happy with what I’ve achieved.
Do you have any advice for others that are considering relocating to the Netherlands from another country?
My advice is to learn the language. No matter the profession, language is a huge part of the culture. Also, get familiar with the process of language learning, that makes learning much easier!
Another advice is not to listen to anyone telling you that it won’t work out or that it’s not worth it. Listen to yourself, and you’ll get there. Day by day!
Lastly, now that you have settled a bit more into the country and your new lives, what do you look forward to in the upcoming future?
Since I still haven’t found one, finding a full-time job would be great progress.
Additionally, I look forward to being able to go to the theatre and actually understand the show. I look forward to all the cultural stuff, that’s something I wholeheartedly enjoy.
Finally, I’m excited to move into our own home one day and to everything our “Dutch adventure” will bring.
Thank you, Ines, for sharing your valuable insights and experiences with our readers. Integrating into a new culture is a long and demanding process, but a rewarding one as well. The most important part of this journey is to enjoy every step of the way.
Do you want to find out more about the ‘Bricks’ and how they’ve managed to move to the Netherlands? Take a look at our Instagram account for stories such as the one below. Looking for a challenging job? Visit our career page or LinkedIn to see if there’s a job opening that suits you.
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