[thelist] Re: Working in Europe

Peter-Paul Koch gassinaumasis at hotmail.com
Mon Feb 25 08:51:01 CST 2002

>I have quite a few friends who have moved to Holland from
>a number of other countries (UK, Scandinavia, Germany), and
>they all say that yes, you can get away without learning Dutch,
>as virtually all Dutch people speak exceptionally good English,
>and most also speak very good German.

Being a Dutchman myself and having some experience with English-speaking
people in my company, I have some information. Long post, so I owe a

<tip type="innerHTML to DOM tree" author="ppk">
If you rewrite part of your document by using the innerHTML property, be
aware that the DOM tree representation of your changes is not immediately
available. The browser needs some rest and relaxation to change the string
to a DOM tree. During this time no scripts may be executed.
Use innerHTML, then stop the function and set a timeout of about .5 to 1
second, then call the function that does something with the DOM tree.

Although most Dutch people speak English, German is less supported. People
can understand it, sure, the German language is not so far from Dutch, but
when they try to speak it they may make curious mistakes. (The opposite
goes, too, with my former company was one German who could understand spoken
and written Dutch but usually spoke English).

As to hiring people who don't speak Dutch, it is certainly possible and
we've done it in the past. However, very recently I myself have decided not
to do it any more. The reason is, indeed, that Dutch is usually the main
language of the organization and people don't want to translate everything
into English. I myself write English as quickly as Dutch, but that doesn't
go for everyone.

Besides there's a slowly growing feeling that people who stay in Holland for
more than a year should make some effort to learn the language. At the
moment this is mainly aimed at immigrants from Turkey and North Africa, but
it may start to apply to all others, too.

>However, you *will* find life easier if you speak (and more importantly
>read and write) Dutch, especially if you're working for a large employer -
>your colleagues may address you in English, but company-wide
>emails will tend to be in Dutch only. And some of those things
>are important...

Yep. Learning Dutch isn't hideously complicated (especially if you already
know some German), though the fine points of the language usually prove
quite difficult and some vowels and consonants cannot be accurately
pronounced by foreigners. But as long as you understand written and spoken
Dutch the main problem is gone.

As to the job market, I suppose it isn't very different from other
countries. The Internet market has decreased and companies don't hire
newbies any more. Added to the language problem, this means you have to have
a good CV/portfolio to make a chance.

I missed the start of this thread so I don't know where the original poster
comes from, but be warned that there are some cultural differences. Most of
them aren't hard to handle and people will understand that you do things
differently, but something strange always creeps up. Dutchmen are rather
egalitarian (even more so than the Americans, I've been told) so if you
accept a (middle) management position you may find that your underlings can
be rather ruder than you'd expect. (Other peoples usually see Dutchmen as
rude, by the way, because it's considered a virtue to say what you think in
rather strong terms; see the standard Dutchman in English literature)

If you come from outside the EU there are bureaucratic obstacles to be
taken. We've had terrible trouble to get the foreigners police to accept two
of our employees, one American and one Israelian. Everything was in order,
but it took time and time and time. Count on at least two to three months to
get your applications accepted by the police, even when all forms have been
properly submitted and your employer says you are totally irreplaceable and
should be granted a work permit immediately.

Don't know where in Holland you'd like to go, but be warned that finding a
house in Amsterdam, especially, is very difficult to impossible, even if you
can spend about 500 to 1000 euros a month. Fortunately public transport is
pretty much OK, so you can rent a house in one of the villages around
Amsterdam or the other cities for less money and commute.

If you want to work in Holland, go for it, but be sure to visit it first on
a holiday and to have some pretty good chance at a job. Then patiently wait
out the bureaucratic stuff and share your house-finding troubles with other

Hope this helps,


Get your FREE download of MSN Explorer at http://explorer.msn.com/intl.asp.

More information about the thelist mailing list