Expat Centre Leiden is often the first point of contact for internationals moving to the region, but we also offer support throughout their time living here. We spoke to Aizhan, an expat who moved here days before the covid-19 lockdown of March 2020, to find out how Expat Centre Leiden has helped her to feel at home here.
Home country: Kazakhstan
Occupation: Project Manager for an international telecoms company
Time living in the Netherlands: 2.5 years
How has ECL helped you?
Before my move to the Netherlands, my HR explained the many things that need to be done, such as applying for a visa, applying for a BSN and collecting my residence permit. For more information, they referred me to Expat Centre Leiden's website. This explained clearly what documents I needed to bring to my immigration and registration appointments.
I arrived days before the first covid-19 lockdown in the Netherlands. I now realise how fortunate I was to be able to quickly book my BSN appointment with the Expat Centre. I had my BSN 2 days after arrival, which meant I could get a bank account and secure housing very quickly. If I had to wait longer for the BSN appointment, I would have really struggled through the lockdown. My employer would not have been able to pay me, and it's difficult to pay in shops with a foreign bank or credit card.
I also found it very helpful to speak to the helpdesk during my registration appointment. They explained to me the best way to travel to work using public transport, and lots of other helpful information.
Have you used ECL services since your arrival?
Expat Centre Leiden has continued to be helpful. During covid I was living by myself. I came to the Netherlands alone so it was quite lonely, and because of the restrictions I couldn't meet new people, not even my colleagues. The only real interactions I had were with cashiers. I found out about the Meet & Mingles and it was one of my first real social actions in this country. I could meet people in the same position as I was, which helped break the ice. A few girls at the event made a WhatsApp group and we started meeting up outside the Meet & Mingle events, which helped me feel more at home and integrate better in life here.
What do you think of the Netherlands?
I like Dutch efficiency, the way of living, and the way people communicate is very straightforward. I have had 0 bad interactions in the whole of 2 years. In other countries this is often not the case when you are a foreigner and non-European. It feels very safe. And it's nice that it's very easy to communicate in English, there is no language barrier in everyday life.
I also really like the Dutch way of working. You really work to live not live to work. It's a very healthy culture which prevents you from burning out. I'm really lucky with my job. They are very flexible and understanding as opposed to my home country where people do long hours. Here I work hard until 5 and then am free to enjoy my evenings.