Occupation: Lead I&C Engineer at Foundation Preparation PALLAS-reactor
Moved to Alkmaar in: July 2015
Living in: Alkmaar
What does your job involve?
The job consists of carrying out the design control of the new production and research facility of medical isotopes in Petten, ensuring the safety, quality and profitability of the new facility.
Why did you decide to move to Alkmaar?
Alkmaar has all the characteristics we were looking for: it is close to my office, it is a medium-sized city with all of the facilities and services I needed, such as schools for my son and for learning Dutch, a lot of green areas, but also relatively close to Amsterdam and Schiphol airport. One of most important drivers was to minimise commuting time. Being able to travel to the office by bike in 20 minutes and not being affected by traffic jams are big improvements compared with when I was living and working in Madrid. It gives me more time to spend with my family.
What has working and/or living in Alkmaar taught you?
Living in a new country with a different culture and language is an opportunity to grow. PALLAS is a very multicultural enterprise as well, so I have the opportunity to learn from people from all around the world.
Undiscovered gems in the city and Alkmaar Area (food, drinks, bars, clubs, places to visit)?
There are some nice restaurants in the city, but also green areas like Geestmerambacht for having picnics and some beaches that are really close to the city.
There are very interesting places to visit just a little further from Alkmaar: Amsterdam, The Hague, Keukenhof gardens or the Zaanse Schans. I was surprised to find so many facilities for enjoying time with children – they are everywhere.
How is Alkmaar unique to other cities you have lived in?
Before living in the Netherlands, I lived in Spain and Mexico where the lifestyle is very different. Here, the schedule allows you to be at home earlier, so you can spend more time taking part in activities other than work. Also, the cities are designed for biking and there are a lot of open spaces for walking and playing outside, if the weather is nice. Another interesting difference is how pet-friendly the Netherlands is.
What’s your ideal day in and around Alkmaar?
Spending some time outside, playing and walking with my family and my dog, and then going to a nice restaurant to have dinner.
Was there anything unexpected about living/moving here, including any challenges? How did you resolve them?
The initial bureaucratic tasks like banks accounts, health insurance, driving license, etc, were hard to solve, even with assistance from my organisation.
Also, my wife is still struggling to find a job since being fluent in Dutch is becoming more and more important for engineering roles. Regarding that, learning Dutch requires a lot of time and dedication for real improvement.
Another worrying and disappointing surprise is the intention of the Government to apply retroactively the new law about the 30% ruling tax. That has generated a lot of uncertainty about our future here.
Any advice for people thinking about moving here/just moved here, including settling in and making friends?
There are a lot of social media groups for expats which are very helpful and can make the transition easier. Also, the volunteers’ movement is very strong in the Netherlands and it is quite easy to find people willing to help. We have enrolled our son in a Dutch school and some activities that enable him to meet people and make friends. It’s also very important to investigate how important it is to be fluent in Dutch for finding a job in your industry before you come.
What’s your favourite neighbourhood or area in Alkmaar and why?
Geestmerambacht is where I spend time every day.
How do you like to spend your weekends?
Visiting new cities and places in the Netherlands like castles, palaces or museums. Also, we like to attend interesting cultural activities organised in the surrounding area. There are a lot of activities for children which are also an opportunity for meeting people.
What do you like most and dislike about living in Alkmaar?
What I like the most is the better quality of life, which includes the possibility of managing my work-life balance. My dislikes are the typical complaints about the weather and the lack of sunlight during winter.
Photos by Saffron Pape