How Danie Terblanche a South African Chartered Accountant has made Netherlands his new home

  • Have you dreamt about traveling to different countries - getting a chance to live there, know its culture, while working there? While you dream about it, this man is living that life. 
  • Born in South Africa, he moved to the Netherlands to work in the audit industry. He then switched his job and worked for HEINEKEN. He has worked in Namibia and Prague. And is now working in Monterrey, Mexico.
  • This is his story about moving to the Netherlands from South Africa for his first job after qualifying as a Chartered Accountant from SAICA (The Institute of Chartered Accountants of South Africa).
  • Meet Danie Terblanche.

Growing Up in South Africa and Doing CA

I grew up in Wellington, South Africa - a quaint, little, agricultural town known for its wines.

I was an active and outgoing kid, who loved being outside and interacting with people.

An ordinary family with an ordinary life, my parents ensured that their two sons had a strong foundation for life ahead - with commitment, dedication, and honesty in everything we do (school, sports, family, friends, or otherwise).

Years passed. And it was time to decide my career path. I wasn’t aware of the opportunities that choosing a particular career would offer (who knows them at that age, seriously?).

But, I was passionate about finance and business. And in South Africa, anyone who wants to go into Finance or Business chooses Chartered Accountancy. Also, pursuing CA offered the widest range of opportunities and possibilities in the field.

So, Chartered Accountancy it was.

I did my articles at Deloitte, Cape Town, went through the ups and downs of becoming a CA and finally qualified in 2015.

After qualifying as a Chartered Accountant, I applied to EY in the Netherlands. And I got selected! (Woooahhh! yeah!)

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Moving To The Netherlands From South Africa: The Reality

Honestly, the decision to work outside my home country was not a planned choice but rather a couple of opportunities that presented themselves.

After completing my articles with Deloitte, South Africa I applied for an opportunity to work with EY Rotterdam, Netherlands.

applied for this role from South Africa as having a South African passport (and rands) makes it very difficult and expensive to first move to a new country and then find work.

So if you are planning to just get a visa, pack your bags, and leave - it usually doesn't work that way. Find a job first and then make the move!

I was finally selected to join EY, Rotterdam. And I moved there in April 2016. 

As easy and exciting as it looks, things were not a breeze exactly. It was difficult. Why? Let’s get real. It was damn expensive to move to a new country, find a house, settle in, grow a network, go to work, and get used to it all - more so with the finances that I had available.

But, I was steadfast. And I remained firm on my decision and did everything to get through.

When I look back, just saying “yes” to opportunities that came my way took me places (literally!).

How I got a work visa to move to the Netherlands from South Africa? 

The Netherlands offers a “highly skilled migrant” visa, which multinational companies use for employing expats. However, the employer needs to be a “recognized sponsor” by the IND (Immigration and Naturalization Service).

The company that hired me looked after my visa. For more information, visit ind.nl. 

Changing Employers as an Expat In The Netherlands

My first job in the Netherlands was at EY, Rotterdam in the audit industry. Unfortunately, after a few weeks, I realized I did not want to be in Audit anymore. So, immediately after joining EY, Rotterdam, I started looking for a new position outside the audit industry.

These were the main challenges that I faced:

  1. I had moved to a new country (with minimum support and no backup plan) for a job that didn’t give me happiness or satisfaction. I felt helpless and stupid at the same time.
  2. Finding an opportunity that I was really interested in was very difficult. I had to look for another job quickly; and at the same time, ensure that the new job keeps my career trajectory graph pointing up.

I decided to continue my current job as it was better to endure short-term pain till the time I got the right opportunity.

I kept looking.

And I struck gold. I found a fitting role as a Financial Analyst through LinkedIn at one of the world’s biggest companies - HEINEKEN, Amsterdam. 

Truly, I couldn’t have asked for better work culture and colleagues, and an environment that allows its employees to learn, grow and succeed. (No wonder they create the best beer in the world!)

In retrospect, I am happy that I waited for the right opportunity and never stopped looking.

Living And Working In The Netherlands As An Expat

It was great!

Yes, it does take time to get accustomed to everything when moving to a new country - the environment, the food, the culture. Everything is new.

I didn’t know the roads, the way to my home, the public transport or even the local language. I messed up a lot. I used to get lost. Only to discover something wonderful along the way.

People! You can’t get everything right every time. So, don’t be afraid to make mistakes. It is inevitable. I made mine too. But, know that it is all part of a process.

I was open to the change and embraced it with open arms. And I kept learning.

Based on my experiences, it is amazing to live and work in the Netherlands. It has many Dutch companies and even multinational companies offering opportunities to people worldwide.

I was particularly struck by the country’s work culture. Key take-away points:

  • Productivity is more important than working for long hours.
  • Be straightforward and direct in your words and approach.
  • Time is valuable. For you and everyone. Invest it wisely. Respect it.
  • Balance. Take out time for your family, friends, hobbies, travel, etc.
  • Your work is not your life. It is a part of your life. Enjoy along the way. Live.

5 Things You Need To Know Before Moving To The Netherlands

  1. Dutch people can be very direct. Do not get offended. They are just honest.
  2. Everything will be different - right from the weather, to the culture, people or food.
  3. Be open to the change. Embrace it.
  4. Never, I repeat, NEVER think of commuting between Amsterdam and Rotterdam. Find a place near your workplace.
  5. DO NOT GET A CAR.

Living in Amsterdam and Rotterdam

From my experience, living in Rotterdam and Amsterdam are quite different.

I definitely preferred living in Amsterdam as compared to Rotterdam. Although day-to-day living is very similar (groceries, restaurants, transport, etc.), Rotterdam is a bit inexpensive.

Rental prices in Amsterdam could be 20-30% more than that of Rotterdam - depending on your living preferences (downtown or outskirts) and the type of rental (room or apartment).

Talking About Salary At A New Job In A New Country

I moved to the Netherlands immediately after my articles. I was employed as an ‘audit senior’ - but essentially performed the same responsibilities that I did in my final year of articles.

So, in the audit industry, the firms have a strict policy - based on the performance cycle in terms of promotions. And you should consider this when moving to a new country - compare the position you could be offered locally versus what you are offered abroad.

Negotiating salary can be challenging, but please take out time for some research before having discussions over the pay. It is not hit-and-trial.

Each company has its own system of deciding the remuneration. Take into account the industry and the size of the company.

For your first job abroad, it is somewhat difficult to negotiate your salary package in the audit industry. They offer a ‘standard’ package for expats with little room for talks.

However, these are some standard benefits offered in the Netherlands:

  • A holiday allowance of 8% (i.e. double-pay in May annually for the vacation season)
  • Transport costs between home and work
  • Employer’s pension contribution
  • Mobile phone
  • Leave days: ± 25 days (minimum 20)

Rough Salary Guidelines (when looking for a job in the Netherlands as a fresher Accountant):

  • Audit Industry: 40,000 - 50,000 EUR
  • Outside Audit Industry: 45,000 - 65,000 EUR

(This is a gross salary including holiday allowance. Excludes any benefits like Pension, etc.)

To be honest, when I worked in the audit industry, I was not able to save a significant amount of money. I had to choose between - traveling Europe/experiencing my new environment and saving. I chose to travel and experience as much as I could and it is definitely worth it.

Outside the audit industry, you can definitely earn a lot more and save 20 – 40% of your salary depending on your preferences.

Tips For CV And Job Interview In The Netherlands

FOR THE CV:

  1. Customize your CV to suit the Dutch/European standards (1-2 pages).
  2. Always include a cover letter explaining what value you can bring to the company. (The company knows you want the job. So, don’t tell why you want the job; instead, what you can do for them.)
  3. Research the company that you’re applying to, and customize your profile summary accordingly.

FOR THE INTERVIEW:

  1. Read as much as you can about the company and the role that you’re applying for.
  2. Research a list of possible interview questions. Prepare well in advance.
  3. Link the questions asked during the interview with the company and answer accordingly.
  4. Answer positively and enthusiastically. Nobody wants to work with a boring person.
  5. Ask questions about the position in the company. This shows that you’re genuinely interested in the role.
  6. Be ready. Do not show your nervousness. Appear confident (even if you’re not).

NETWORK:

  1. Recruiting agencies can help in the process. Find more details here.
  2. The best job opportunities are readily available on LinkedIn (especially if you are looking for employment within a multinational). And you know what? When I wanted a job change, I was actively looking on LinkedIn every day and contacted multiple recruiters. I landed up the Heineken job through LinkedIn.

In Retrospect…

I got the chance to move abroad, and it is truly amazing. I traveled, experienced the world, and had so many adventures.

Looking back, the only thing I would advise is… BE OPEN to the opportunities and have the courage to say “yes”!

There would be times when things don’t work out as you had wished. But, just go with the flow. Everything cannot be planned. So, let it be and enjoy the ride.

You are in a new environment and a new culture. This is the best opportunity to learn about yourself and the world. Recognize your strengths. Learn to depend on yourself.

Yes, you might be homesick. But, keep pushing yourself. Break your limits, and expand. Gain newer perspectives. Experience. Live. And don’t forget to have fun!

It’s just one life that you’ve got. Make it worthwhile…

Now It’s Your Turn!

Have you visited The Netherlands? Which country do you wish to work in? How was your experience in a completely new environment?

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