- Tatiane Aguirres Nogueira
Last Friday, I completed one year that I'm living in the Netherlands. That was very quick, and it made me very thoughtful about what this whole process of change was like for me, the things I gave up, and the things I gained from all of it.
How was your moving process? Why did you leave Brazil? Are there many opportunities for Front-end Developers in the Netherlands?
These are the top questions that I most hear, especially from Brazilians. And to celebrate my first anniversary in the Netherlands, I decided to answer these main questions about my entire moving process. And if your question is not answered here, feel free to add it in the comments. I will be happy to answer it!
Why leave Brazil?
But why did you leave Brazil? It's such a beautiful country! It has wonderful beaches, tropical climate, carnival, incredible parties, friendly and warm people! How can you leave it all behind?
Believe me, it was not easy, not at all. I miss everything every day. But I had to put everything on a balance, and the reasons for leaving the country were infinitely greater than the reasons for staying:
- Security: Brazil is a very dangerous place. I've lost count of how many times I've been mugged. Burglars have stolen my cell phone, my purse, my car, and I was even held hostage when I was 16 and worked as a receptionist. And my greatest fear was not of being mugged, but of being raped. Because Brazil is one of the countries where women are most raped and killed in the world. I rarely went out for a walk alone, I went out in a car even if it was a block away.
- Purchasing power: I was born into a poor family, and I've been working since I was 15 to be able to buy something I need or want. Taxes are very high in Brazil, which makes it much more difficult for us to acquire even a cell phone, which you can lose to a burglar the day after you buy it. Today an iPhone 11 costs R$ 4.999,00 in Brazil and € 809,00 in the Netherlands. The difference is that the minimum wage in Brazil is R$ 1.045,00 and in the Netherlands, it's € 1.680. With a month's salary in the Netherlands, you can buy two iPhones 11.
- Travel conditions: Plane tickets are also very expensive in Brazil, and with a very devalued currency it's hard to travel to Europe or the USA if you are not rich. When my husband and I traveled to Paris and London in 2016, we spent a year without dining out to save money for this trip. And we know that if we didn't leave Brazil, we would never be able to visit many countries, which is our dream.
- Corrupt government: Brazil is a huge country and full of wealth, consequently it's a very rich country (yes, you didn't read it wrong), but all the fortune it collects in taxes (extremely high and abusive) goes into the pockets (or underpants) of politicians. The money we pay in taxes does not return to the population. I studied my whole life in a public school and I spent the last three years of high school without a math teacher! And when there is a big construction, as a bridge, for example, it costs 10 times the normal value to be built and takes 10 times the normal time to be ready. it's too much corruption.
My husband - who is a software engineer as well - and I already talked about moving to other country, but we still didn't have any plans, because neither of us thought we were ready.
So we went to a big IT event in Brazil, and there was a Dutch company hiring Brazilians. We were suspicious, but my husband agreed to talk to them and left his contact. We didn't think they would actually contact him. But they did! So he did the selection process and a month later they sent him a proposal.
I remember our euphoria, we asked ourselves: what now? Do we accept it? Yes, we accept it!
Why the Netherlands?
I had never heard of the Netherlands before, I knew nothing about this country. I just heard the name "Amsterdam" a couple of times I think, - and it was not for the right reasons.
When we received the proposal, I remember googling for the recommended city name for us to live: Utrecht. I saw the first two photos and said to my husband at the same time "accept!". Utrecht is a very beautiful place, well located and full of history. I love to live here.
In the end, I say that the reason for being the Netherlands was just luck. It's a country where people have a great quality of life, the IT market is on the rise and pays very well, and has quality health and education for those who want to have children or already have them.
The only two things that made my adaptation difficult were the weather (6 months of cold, rain, and wind per year for a Brazilian is hard) and the language. Dutch is a language completely different from Portuguese, English, and Spanish. Sometimes I find some words similar to English, but just sometimes.
If you do not have a European passport, there are few cases in which you can apply for a residence permit in the Netherlands. The most common are partner or family member of a Dutch, an employee of a Dutch company, a student of a Dutch university or school, or an au pair.
The company that hired my husband was responsible for sponsored our visas. He applied as a highly-skilled migrant and me as a spouse/family member. The company did the whole process. It took about a month, and we had to go to the Dutch consulate in Brazil to apply. A week later we received our passports with the visa.
If you have any further questions about the visa process for the Netherlands, I advise you to consult the page Residence permit in the Netherlands from iamexpat.nl, which has the most complete information on the subject.
This was the hard part. we had, in Brazil, a fully furnished house, a car (purchased 0km two months before my moving) and a cat. So We had 4 months to sell everything we had. And this was the worst for us because we acquired everything we had with a lot of hard work, and we had to sell everything for a very low price.
I remember my mother helping me choose things to put in two suitcases, and she kept saying "You can donate this, God will give you double" and "There you can buy things much better". It helped me very, very much. And she was right. After all, it was just material things.
Leaving my cat was never an option.
I'm not judging who moves and abandons their pets. I understand that each person has their reasons, and that is none of my business. But from the beginning, if there was no possibility to take our cat with us, we would not have accepted the proposal. So we paid more than R$ 3.000,00 to take our little monster with us. Yes, 3 Brazilian minimum wages. And she doesn't even let me hug her! haha
The life of an expat
Being an expat - in my case, a Brazilian and Latin expat - is having to learn to live with stereotypes. Most people only know what they see in movies and news, and it may not even be their obligation to know everything about all countries. But everyone is surprised that I am blonde (Brazil is a very diverse country) and that my mother language is not Spanish (Brazil was colonized by Portugal, so we speak Portuguese). It's not the end of the world, but I'm offended when someone asks if I live with monkeys. So this is always an opportunity to break stereotypes.
Learning, respecting, and living a culture different from ours is a unique opportunity.
Every day I learn something new. And that makes me fall more and more in love with the expat life. I live with my cell phone in hand using Google Translate, sometimes I take the wrong train, or I order strange food and I regret it, but each experience like this is unique and enriching. Everything is learning.
Recommendations for those thinking about moving countries
If you are thinking of moving to another country, regardless of which one, think first: What stops you?
- I'm not ready - Nobody is. And that's fine. My tip is to research the vacancies of your dreams, see the requirements, and then start studying them now!
- My English is not good - Mine wasn't either, and it's still far from perfect. The secret is practice. You will always have the accent of your home country, and this is totally acceptable. What you need is to know how to communicate. So let's start practicing daily! 15 minutes a day and you’ll start to see the difference.
- I'll miss my family and friends - Now I can't help you. Unfortunately, people who are very close to their families and feel the need to be together often will not have a happy life if they move to another country. I see this very often, and many people end up going back to their home countries.
After that, do you consider yourself ready? Yes? Great! So now I recommend you:
- Find the country that suits you - Research the possible countries very well, everything is relevant for choice (climate, economy, IT market, quality of life, purchasing power, quality of education and health, and more). So put the positives and negatives on a scale, and then see what weighs the most for you.
- Get ready - Prepare yourself technically, study hard, practice the country's language, invest in a portfolio, and on GitHub. Go training for the interview too, practicing interview challenges is a great way.
- Save money for the move - Moves are expensive, and even if the company helps you, there will always be things you will have to pay by yourself. And remember that you will only receive your first salary after a month of work. The first month is always the most difficult. The good thing is that it goes quickly.
- Understand what you will be missing - When my husband and I decided to leave Brazil, we knew that from then on we would miss all the important moments with our family and friends. Until then we only missed graduations, birthdays, and Christmas, but we are aware that we can also miss weddings, births, and funerals. If a loved one dies, we know that we are unable to return to Brazil in time for the funeral, and we have to live with that choice.
- Find a company that sponsors your visa - If you need a visa, be aware that not all companies are willing to pay for these costs, so it's good to make this clear in the first contact with the company. Here in the Netherlands, many IT companies hire foreigners and sponsor the visa and moving costs, because the market is on the rise and there are more vacancies than qualified people.
It's not an easy decision, nor an easy process, but it's also not impossible.
During my moving process, I had help from many other expats from the Netherlands, I had a lot of questions and was afraid of something going wrong, and they helped me a lot.
So if you are also in need, I'm available to answer your questions. You can write here in the comments or by message on any of my social networks (available at the footer).