Ever wondered what it’s like to embark on an adventure to the land of stroopwafels, King’s Day and bicycles? Discover the expat life in the Netherlands through the eyes of Ivans Mihailovs. In this blog, he shares his thrilling journey of relocating from Latvia to the Netherlands as a mobile app developer. Let’s dive into the interview!
Could you tell us a little bit about yourself?
My name is Ivans Mihailovs, I am from Latvia and currently working as a mobile developer at Mediaan, focusing on developing iOS apps. Additionally, I also do scrum master duties and organize team events.
So, what made you move to the Netherlands?
My wife and I wanted to explore Europe. We both got our master’s degrees in the Netherlands and loved the country’s atmosphere. Because English is widely spoken, it is easy to be a foreigner here. The fact that we have friends here also contributed to our choice.
Why did you choose to work at Mediaan?
It was a lucky coincidence. Mediaan was looking for developers and my friend, who works here, shared the job opening with me. During the interviews, I noticed that the employees at Mediaan and I share the same values. It was a natural decision to join this company. After 6 months, I am still happy with my decision.
What is the difference between working in the Netherlands and in Latvia?
Having a sandwich for lunch is the norm here. That’s the most shocking difference. Just kidding, it just takes some time to adjust. Actually, I have noticed many positive things about working in the Netherlands. There are plenty of mobility-related benefits – for instance, I get a travel allowance, and if I fancy a rental car or a bike, the company’s got my back. And guess what? Around May, there’s some “extra pay” for the holidays – can’t complain about that!
Speaking of surprises, you might find a couple here in the Netherlands. Public holidays aren’t automatically days off – each company decides its own policy, though they usually make it a day off. And as for health insurance, sports activities and prescription glasses aren’t covered, but with a broad benefit package, you can manage those expenses on your own. That would be it.
Did you reallocate alone or with your family? How was your reallocation experience?
I was moving with my family – wife and dog. So, we planned our reallocation in multiple stages. Once I signed a contract with Mediaan, we started looking for an apartment in Maastricht, which took us a few weeks to find. Initially, I moved alone and settled into our rented apartment while taking care of all the necessary paperwork. Then I flew back to Latvia for my wife and dog. We packed up our essentials, hopped into our car and had two days trip to the Netherlands.
What support does Mediaan provide to make your reallocation/adaptation smoother?
I got two extra days off to reallocate. Our HR ladies were very helpful, offering advice on apartment hunting, explaining health insurance rules and assisting with paperwork. My colleagues were also supportive, regularly checking in on me and asking if I needed any help.
How are you adjusting to a new place?
Overall, very good. Moving to a new country is a long process that requires time and patience, but there’s nothing to fear. The first 6 months were mostly to get used to new things – garbage separation, different working hours of supermarkets, convenient routes for public transportation, finding health specialists for us and our dog and things like that. Now we enjoy our new routine. We go into nature for walks with our dog. We cycle a lot, the infrastructure here is incredible. We get to know our neighbors. There are still ongoing things in our “integration checklist”, like learning Dutch and making friends.
What is stereotype about Dutch people that you found out not to be true?
Contrary to the stereotype that it’s challenging to make friends with Dutch people, my experience has been very positive. Many locals have warmly welcomed both my wife and me. In my view, it’s more about being open yourself and connecting with people who share your interests and values.
What would you advise people who are considering moving, but have doubts?
It’s worth it! New country provides new opportunities and broadens your experience. If you are not sure about a country, try going there for a somewhat longer period of time and see what it is like to live there. If you already know a country and are just unsure, start looking for a job and move. After that, the whole world is open to you and there is always an option to return home.
Good to know!
Here’s a handy checklist for when you want to work and move to the Netherlands:
- Try websites like http://www.funda.nl or http://www.pro-housing.nl
- It’s best to come here and visit apartments yourself
- Pay attention to what is included in the rent price, it can include monthly payment for gas/water/electricity
- Check what things will be available in the apartment, sometimes apartments do not have an installed flooring
- To get your BSN number you must be registered in a municipality, sometimes this can be done online at your municipality’s web page
- If you are moving with your partner, you will need proof of your relationship
- In Latvia, you can apply for a “daudzvalodu forma” (paper-only form) to prove your relationship.
Every municipality has their own rules and regulations regarding waste separation. If you know a bit of Dutch and are a resident of South Limburg, you can download the Milieu App, which gives you an overview of what waste is collected at what time in your municipality. You only need to enter your address and your waste pass number (this pass will be sent to you once your registration with a municipality is confirmed).
To travel by public transportation more easily, I recommend buying an OV-chipkaart. Personally, I recommend getting a personalized one because you can link it to your bank account.
Tips: With the NS seasonal ticket “Dal Voordeel” (for 5.50 euros/month) you get 40% discount on your train trips.
- For the first year, it is important, because you change your tax residence
- You need the so-called M-form
If you’re not in the mood for grocery shopping, you can take advantage of home delivery services offered by many supermarkets. Among them, Picnic stands out as the top choice for the best online supermarket experience with competitive pricing.
Move around by bicycle, trust me it’s very convenient in the Netherlands.
Tips: Choose a regular city bike (second-hand is the best), you can leave it anywhere and city bikes have a lower risk of being stolen.
Are you also a developer looking for a new career challenge in the Netherlands and does Ivans’ story inspire you? Perfect! We have several job openings that might be interesting for you! Check out our job page. We hope to welcome you as the new Medianer!