Why I moved to the Netherlands

Former Mindset Network COO/CTO Johan Els moved to Amsterdam in January 2017 to head up Mindset Network BV and manage their international IT infrastructure.

He joined thousands of South Africans, which include many IT professionals, who have moved to the Netherlands over the past few years.

The country has become a popular emigration destination for South Africans, especially among Afrikaans speaking professionals.

To find out what makes the Netherlands so popular, MyBroadband caught up with Johan about his life in the country.

He is currently serving as a team manager engineering at VodafoneZiggo, where he manages an onsite team of engineers.

Johan lives in the Dutch town of Hilversum with his family, which gives him good insight into the lifestyle and education system in the Netherlands.

What makes the Netherlands attractive to South Africans?

The Netherlands offers a highly skilled migrant (HSM) Visa which is a quick way for a Dutch company to employ strong candidates from around the world.

This process is surprisingly quick – it can be done in 30 days and the requirements are not difficult to meet.

“Some of the perks of having a HSM Visa include a 30% tax rebate on net salary for 5 years and a Dutch driver’s license,” he said.

What makes the Netherlands even more attractive for South Africans – especially Afrikaans speaking professionals – is the close relationship between Afrikaans and Dutch.

He added that seeing people walking in the roads, cycling around the city, and kids playing in parks makes the country particularly popular among families with children.

What makes the Netherlands better than South Africa?

Working and living in the Netherlands has many benefits, including earning Euros and making international travel easy and affordable.

The country’s excellent public transport system and rich cultural heritage make great experiences very accessible.

The biggest benefit for Johan, however, is the general safety of the country, which changes the way his family lives.

“My kids are now growing up how I did in the 80s and 90s. They can now go out on a Friday night with their bicycles and hang out in a city park or go to a movie,” he said.

He added that the education system in the Netherlands is excellent. “Kids graduating from school (not university) have been educated to be able to do something, not just pass a subject,” he said.

The quality of education citizens receive means everyone can make an honest living and be part of society.

What is worse in the Netherlands than in South Africa?

He said there are a few things he misses about South Africa, including being away from his friends and family, and having a braai.

“Something can be said about a quick braai and how South Africans can come together around a fire and solve all their problems over a few drinks and steaks,” Johan said.

He also misses the large open spaces and big houses which are commonplace in South Africa, but hard to find and afford in the Netherlands.

The Dutch language also proved more difficult to pick up than what Johan thought. “It is close to Afrikaans, but I battle to build sentences in Dutch,” he said.

“I can read and listen to Dutch and follow the conversation, but to respond in Dutch is more challenging than expected.”

Will you consider returning to South Africa?

With so many skilled professionals leaving South Africa, it raises the question of what it will take for a valuable IT professional like Johan to return.

He told MyBroadband that before he will consider returning, his children must be finished with school and have the opportunity to make their own choices in life.

After this happens, he will look at the safety and security related to living in South Africa.

“We cannot return to a place where we must have burglar bars and alarms systems, and where I am worried about the safety of my family,” he said.

“This is not how it should be, and we cannot return to that.”

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Why I moved to the Netherlands