Evangelos lives in The Hague. He explains what changes he has experienced between working in London and working in Amsterdam. “Since I live in the Hague, working in Amsterdam involves a considerable commuting. In that sense it’s different to London as I used to be rather close to work there. My work itself has not changed as such, but all these new arrangements, the temporary building and the teleworking make it a little bit different.
I’m an early mover. I have been in the Netherlands since August last year, almost a year now. My family and I moved at more or less the same time as several other colleagues. We all felt a little bit like pioneers who opened the path for others to come. Every time I went back to London for meetings and work I was surrounded by colleagues that all wanted to know how it was to live there. I have been very positive from the beginning. I was probably a little bit biased because before I started to work for the Agency in London, my first ever attempt to apply for a job abroad was for a job in The Hague 17 years ago. It didn’t work out at the time but when the news of the Agency’s seat was announced it felt like completing a cycle. I’m still riding the same bike that I bought twenty years ago in Athens. I was crazy enough to even cycle in Athens. In London I didn’t cycle that much. So coming to the Netherlands and riding that same bike feels like some sort of destiny.”
“I think we may have had a little bit of extra attention.”
A welcoming change
“Both me and my wife really welcomed the change from London to the Netherlands. We were very much prepared and received a lot of support. It went very smoothly. Decisions on where to live were dictated by the available schools for our children. We have three children, early teenagers. Amsterdam didn’t tick many boxes. We took the decision to move sooner rather than later. That suited our family’s needs. I think it also suited the organization’s needs because we created this first wave of experience. We gave feedback to the colleagues and the support office that was constantly monitoring our move. I think we may have had a little bit of extra attention.”
First working day
Evangelos’s first working day in the Spark building was in February. “So that was before the Agency officially moved here. There were pilot meetings scheduled and I attended one of those meetings while my colleagues attended from London. When I started working in the Spark building there were very few people there. We were discovering all the ins and outs of this temporary building together with the delegates. That was exciting.”
“People don’t rush in the Netherlands.”
Living in the Netherlands
Evangelos says that things are much more convenient and easier in the Netherlands. “I think it’s mainly down to the scale of things. I have lived in London for thirteen years and bringing up a family in London can be very demanding. Don’t get me wrong, London is a fantastic city, a unique place, but at the same time it was tiring. When children started to go to different schools and we had to juggle with different locations like work, home, schools, sports etc. It was becoming a little bit unmanageable.
I know the Netherlands is one of the most densely populated countries, but it doesn’t feel like it. London felt much more crowded, and it was. People don’t rush in the Netherlands. They don’t bump into each other on the way out of the train. I was surprised that people greet each other when you enter a waiting room at a doctor’s office or at a pharmacy. In the beginning I thought they were greeting people because they knew them!”
“My children can now cycle to their school or sports club on their own.”
Evangelos explains that the transition to the Netherlands has been more difficult for his children. “I knew I was coming to a place where I kept my job, with all of the same colleagues. Many of our friends came along. For my children, living in another country was a total change. Their whole world was turned upside down. We could sense it. A new school, new friends, a new environment. Even the way of communicating, the attitude, people’s behavior, it was all new to them. They felt like aliens in The Hague. It took until Christmas for things to calm down. They learn Dutch at school but they don’t practice a lot because English is so widespread and so well spoken. I want my children to take their time and to absorb the change and integrate. I think now they embrace this new opportunity because they started to realize that they are allowed to do more things on their own here. They can go to the supermarket, or they can cycle to their sports club. This allows them more independence and boosts their self-confidence.”
“In the Netherlands there’s more human contact.”
Right place and time
“London is a big part of our lives. It was the right place and time back then. It’s where the children were born. We certainly had a good time there and we would not be considering leaving London if there wasn’t the opportunity to follow the Agency. But once this opportunity came up we had no hesitation at all. London is a very open and tolerant city but in the Netherlands there’s more human contact.”
“I want to get that feeling of belonging.”
There are many things Evangelos is looking forward to. “Apart from exploring the country, I‘d like to enjoy more the beach and the sea in my routine. I come from a coastal town in Greece and I grew up next to it. Then there’s the move to the new building.
Importantly I would also like to integrate more in order to really be a part of society and to make local friends. In London it was easier to “hide” and go unnoticed and be seen as a Londoner, maybe not as a British but certainly as a Londoner. Here I feel like an expat. I feel a bit cut off now because if I turn on the television I don’t understand what people are talking about. I would like to know what people think about current issues. It starts with speaking the language, I know it will take time. I already understand Dutch a little bit but I don’t feel like I belong here yet and I want to get that feeling of belonging.”