My goal is to support expats in many ways. Arriving in a new country is such a change, and how to feel ‘’at Home’’ can be a challenge. How can an expat integrate easily? Each month’s I reveal a new story, with new tips included.
This month I introduce you to Laertis. A true entrepreneur coming from Greece to the Netherlands. Being an Expat, was it easy or challenging? Why did he leave his native country? How did Laertis adjust and integrate?
Just sit down, relax and enjoy this month’s true story 🙂
Interview with Laertis Antonios Vassiliou
From Rhodos (Greece) to The Netherlands…
Who is Laertis?
Laertis: ‘’I come from Rhodos, Greece. After my studies in Athens, I finished my army services and lived in Athens with my fiancée, who is currently my wife, Xanthippi. We just had a baby together. And I have my own business OPA (Open Platform for Architecture).’’
When did you move and why the choice of The Netherlands?
Laertis: ‘’In 2010, at the age of 26, I arrived with my fiancée. We both wanted to move out of Greece, that was certain, and it had to be Europe, for family and distance reasons. ‘’
Why the choice of moving out of Greece and into Nederland?
Laertis: ‘’ I had the chance to travel to Netherlands in 2006, while being an Erasmus student in Brussels, and was amazed by atmosphere, people, architecture, welcoming people, and landscape. So, my decision to choose for NEDERLAND was quickly made!’’
‘’I wanted it for long, especially after being there in 2006! And my current wife, she lived in the UK for 8 years. So, we both had a problem staying in Greece, as if we felt a cultural shock.
In sum, we both were sure to move out, before we met, and so when we got together we had no discussion at all to move abroad.’’
Deciding it is one thing, but then what steps did you take?
Laertis: ‘’ The good news was that my wife got a job right away, working at the National Cancer Institute. She got that job as a post-doc researcher right away when she applied.
However, I needed a job!!!!
And so I did choose the location but without having a job…but we HAD to move as she had to start her work.
Back in Greece I had some projects for which I continued working here through internet and I continued applying for jobs and asked around everywhere by talking to everyone.
Finally, while visiting some friends at the University of Delft, I met a teacher in architecture, who advised me that I should apply for a Master program at TU Delft and ask for a scholarship.
And so I did, and started in Sept 2010 and travelled from Amsterdam to Delft daily.
At the same time, with my fiancé we registered our relationship ‘’partnerschap’’ (living together officially) and this allowed me to receive the, ‘’the student financiering’’, including a student OV chipcard, (public transportation card). I studied for 2.5 years.’’
What was your first impression of The Netherlands?
‘’We first lived in Amsterdam and at first, we felt excited. It was a great house, great environment. We had no kids, there were lots of events. It was fantastic. We moved to Haarlem after 1,5 years.’’
Did you integrate and adjust smoothly with the Dutchies?
Laertis: ‘’It felt good at first, they seemed very open, nice people, and we felt welcome.
Sometimes though, I admit feeling awkward by the roughness or their lack of sensitivity. People you don’t know may lack social tact, for small things so to speak. Sometimes it’s hard to hear sorry while passing you by, not holding the door for you or offering a seat to elderly or pregnant people. Apart from that, as Greeks we are also seen as ‘’the ones with Debt’’, something that often generates the same, cliché jokes, concerning payment, tax-evasion etc.
But we remained very open as it was our decision to move here. We didn’t expect great friendships right away, though we were lucky to have great neighbours in Haarlem and some good Dutch friends from the TU and NKI.
It was hard to make real friends, as they hang out with each other and not really let you integrate with the local culture.
What was your biggest Challenge moving to the Netherlands?
Laertis: ‘’ The BIGGEST challenge was to work in my branch and manage to get employment by the biggest architectural offices I used to admire as a student.
Second challenge came when we wanted to start a family and have a baby. Not knowing the Health System here and the language barrier that goes along.
Third challenge was starting my own business here.’’
Please tell us your Number ONE TIP when coming to The Netherlands.
Laertis:’’TOP tip 1: language!!!! Arriving in the multicultural and highly international Netherlands can be tricky; eventually you will find yourself in comfort due to the commonly spoken English everywhere and you will skip the opportunity to learn Dutch. Yet, if later you want to seek for a job which is not in a big, international office or you want to seal a deal with local clients it’s going to be hard without knowing Dutch. Therefore, learn Dutch as soon as possible and be persistent and confident in talking your first words, even if gently locals will turn into English to make dialogues easier for expats.
When I first arrived I used to speak German and Dutch was an easy turn. Then I took up some first lessons but stayed in that level since it got busy with work and studies. Ever since I keep regretting for not getting better.’’
Thank you very much!
Photo: Laertis at his home in Haarlem with his Greek cat ‘’Honda’’!
As an expat myself, I have been living and working in various countries, speak 6 languages, and experienced many challenges that I learned to turn around into new opportunities.
Workshops in cultural diversity and keynote speaking is what I enjoy doing.
I love to inspire people and help them to become their best selves! Life changes, and so can you!