Sunday, November 15, 2009

Nicola McCall in the Hot Seat - Interview with an Expat

Nicola McCall is a British expat based in the Netherlands. She is an expat entrepreneur, running a coaching and Human Resources solutions business that specialises in helping fellow expatriates cope with change overseas. From language and social skills to bike riding and the rain, Nicola shares her feelings about life in the land of the Dutch.

How long have you been living in the Netherlands?
We arrived in 2004, went to US in 2006, came back in 2007. So 5 and a half years in all which I can’t believe some days!

What brought you initially to the Netherlands?
My partner works for a Dutch bank and was on 2 year expat contract initially. We’d previously been in Dublin for 2 years.

What is your profession?
I am a Human Resources professional who since 2006 has used my HR knowledge, combined with expatriate experiences to run an Expatriate Coaching service for English speaking expats internationally. I undertook a professional accredited Coaching course in the UK and have a Post Graduate Certificate in Personal and Business Coaching from the University of Chester.

Why do expats need coaching I’m often asked? It's about being able to feel like you are being seen and heard for the first time in what feels like a long time and to come away feeling that you matter again. This is particularly true when coaching non-working spouses. My main focus in coaching is about finding fulfillment that fits with the coachee's needs and values for the time that they live abroad. I see this in so many expat women entrepreneurs like ourselves. Women such as Jo Parfitt and Robin Pascoe who then inspired me to find a role for myself in a life that at times isn’t really a life I had planned!

What is the main difference between your country of origin and the Netherlands?
Language of course is the big difference. Also shopping and customer service here, although it has improved, does at times leave me wanting to go to the UK. Otherwise, there are subtle differences on the whole and I may have been here long enough now to not notice them so much anymore. What I really miss is the changing geography of the countryside in the UK - especially hills.

What was the most surprising adjustment you needed to make when moving to the Netherlands?
Riding a bicycle again after 20 something years and finding I really enjoyed it!!!

What would you miss most about the Netherlands if you were to leave tomorrow?
The sense of safeness here – everything in order and in place on the whole, you are safe in your home, walking on the streets, things seem to come back to you here if you lose them – although my Dutch friends have assured me I was very lucky to have gotten my bicycle back after it was stolen.

What do you like least about the Netherlands?
Rude people and drivers…..I know, I know, they are anywhere and I lived in the Middle East where roads and personal space are bad, but its just so inherent in social behaviour and infringing personal space here – WHY? I’m also going to have to mention the RAIN too.

What is your favourite Dutch word?
Knuffel! My son, when he was small, went to a local kinderdagverblijf and this became a word that represented exactly what he needed from me at that time.

How would you describe the Dutch people?
A conundrum! They are incredibly outgoing and sociable in the International World and speak languages and enjoy living life to the full, but put them all together back home in the Netherlands and they are tough nuts to crack – they hide away or prefer to go home, make appointments to visit, stone-faced and self centered, want you to speak Dutch which when you try you’re told they won’t waste their time and/or just switch back to English. This is obviously my perception and by no way forms a real picture of anyone I know personally!

Do you have any blogs or websites that you find enjoyable about the Netherlands for people living here? - this group has been important part of my life here in the Netherlands - Tiffany’s view on life in NL, as she builds a new life here after leaving the USA and marrying her Dutchman. - Robin Pascoe’s informative site and book links - Inspiration and sense!

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