A day in the life of an American abroad

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Good Sunday morning vibes everyone!

I wrote a peek into my expat life for my college's alumni magazine and I thought I would share it here too. I talk about how I found my current position, what my day to day routine looks like and what I enjoy doing on the weekends in Amsterdam!
Check it out, and if you have any other questions you'd like me to answer, drop them in the comments and I will get back to you.

A Day in the Life....

What do you do?

I am a business development rep for a Silicon Valley startup hospitality tech company. Our company works with over 35,000 hotels worldwide, helping them generate more direct bookings and lessening their reliance on OTA websites like booking.com, hotels.com etc. We find that most hotels have about 50-60% of their bookings coming from OTA websites. For each of these bookings, they must pay a 15-20% commission fee!
We have created a solution to fight these OTA websites which are taking over the hospitality industry.
I am based in Amsterdam in their EMEA office.

How did you get into this line of business? 

I always thought that I could be good in sales, but it was a jump into the unknown for me. I have a marketing and public relations background, working in the hospitality industry for The Ritz-Carlton before my Mountbatten year. While working at The Ritz-Carlton, I worked closely with the sales teams there and always thought to myself how interesting the entire sales cycle was from start to finish but put it in the back of my mind because I was on a digital marketing track and was excelerating my career by taking an internship in marketing for one of the best investment banks in the world. (UBS!) After my Mountbatten year, I moved to Amsterdam to pursue starting my own digital marketing company, which I did. I learned quickly that the biggest skills that are lacking for most entreprenuers is the ability to sell and the ability to pick up the phone and ask for what you want.
I decided to take a stop back and look for a position in sales to do just that. I went to a start-up tech fair in the city and met my current boss Pedro who I instantly clicked with on a business level. He has taken me under his wing as a sales rep for the Middle East and Africa region. The hiring process was incredibly quick, I went from meeting Pedro to my first day of work in just under 2 weeks.

What made you decide to live abroad again? How did you make this happen? 

I fell in love! I don’t like to say that that’s the reason for me staying in Europe, but it was a big factor. I met my current partner while I was on a bank holiday trip to Amsterdam. Another factor for me staying abroad was that The Netherlands has a treaty with The United States called the DAFT Treaty that allows Americans to pursue entrepreneurship visas so it was the perfect opportunity for me to start my own freelance company. The visa process was relatively painless and easy, the only sticky thing for me was how much capital I had to invest and have available for proof of viability. I wrote a blog about my visa process and my continual adjustment to living abroad, check it out! (aprilinamsterdam.blogspot.com)

Have you experienced any culture shock as an American living and working in Amsterdam?

Um yes, definitely. It is the first time I have lived in a country where I do not speak the language! Living in Haarlem (right outside of Amsterdam) there is a stronger Dutch culture with less expats and less tourists. I learned rather quickly to stop being embarrassed anytime someone spoke to me in Dutch not realising I had no idea what they were saying. All Dutch people (or 90%) can speak English, but there is an inherent guilt that expats have for not being able to speak the mother tongue of the country that they are now living in and having to force people to speak English around them. There are a lot of times when my friends or co-workers just forget that I am around and that I don’t understand and just have conversations in Dutch. I either need to snap them out of it or wait politely to be included in the conversation at hand.
I ride my bike everywhere in all weather conditions and so does everyone else. It was such a shock to see a mom riding with 3 kids on one bike and seeing old grandmothers 80 years of age hop on and off of bikes with ease. There are bike lanes everywhere!
Also, Dutch people do not refrigerate eggs or milk but I think that that may be a European thing.

What's your home environment like? 

I currently live in Haarlem, a 20 minute train ride just outside of Amsterdam. It’s a beautiful family city also known as “Little Amsterdam”. It’s a well known Dutch saying that when you live in Amsterdam and you’re ready to have kids and a family, you move to Haarlem. That’s not why I’m there though! The rent is not as high as Amsterdam but I can still get to work in under an hour. It’s just me and my boyfriend living in a one bedroom so it’s perfectly cozy. I try to come home from work and decompress at home with lots of candles around and we have a big terrace where we like to sit outside on days when the sun is out. My home life is not very crazy, we’re simple people.

Describe a "typical" albeit interesting work day. What's the breakfast and lunch culture etc? 

I work with Middle Eastern and Africa hoteliers so I am calling Lebanon one minute and South Africa the next. So in the morning I come in to work and line up my day with where my sales leads are coming from and how I want to attack them. Usually in the morning I am focusing on the Middle East because their time zone is 2-3 hours ahead. Right now, Qatar is building like crazy for the upcoming World Cup so I am focusing on building relationships with those hoteliers. All the while I’m picking up little bits and phrases of Arabic.
I’m sitting in on meetings for maybe two hours a day- one at the end of the day with the America’s team. My office is in the middle of the city on the Herengracht, one of the main three Amsterdam ring canals, so there is plenty to eat around here! I am lucky to be best friends with my boss so we try to get out of the office at least once a day for a walk because sales can be stressful! We get food delivered to the office from Albert Heijn twice a week to make food there, but if I don’t feel like a sandwich/soup combo I go out for pizza. I get in to work around 8 so that I can capitalize on the time zone difference in the Middle East and that way, I will leave the office around 4:30-5PM.

How would you describe the culture of your place of work? 

We like to describe ourselves as a start up company even though the company is 7 years old and has had two rounds of fundraising raising over 45M. It’s an American company so there are 4 of us Americans and the rest are from around the world. Cyprus, Turkey, Italy, Brazil, Germany just to name a few. There’s so much diversity in my office that at any given time, if I take my headphones off, I can hear German, Spanish, English, Dutch and French being spoken all at the same time! It can be too much sometimes.

We are such a laid back office that sometimes it doesn’t feel like we work in sales! We have 25 days of PTO per year and I’m pretty sure everyone takes every single day. Because it is so rare for the sun to come out in Amsterdam (it’s rainier than London) Dutch people freak out and it’s like an unofficial day off where you can find people sitting outside at cafes, no matter the temperature during work hours.

We all like to have a couple beers together and go out on Friday nights. We are a tight knit office of 15 people from ages 25 to 45 and everyone is really social.

What's your experience of the social scene in Amsterdam?

I would have to admit that I don’t go out much! When I first moved to Amsterdam I worked as a bartender in the Red Light District, so although I didn’t go out much I saw the craziness that can be Amsterdam on a Saturday night. During the summer, the bar that I worked at would have all of the windows and doors open to the outside and was directly in the middle of the Red Light District with red window ladies surrounding us on all sides. It was a great people watching location!

I was also a bachelor party tour guide…I think I could write a book about what I saw during some of those tours.

On another note, the Dutch love to make appointments for everything- so it’s not uncommon for me to make an appointment to meet with my friends for a night out three weeks in advance! There are great restaurants with lots of diversity in the city, with Surinamese food being really popular.

Electronic music is really big here so there’s always some kind of good party to go to at Radion or in Westergasfabriek. The Dutch are the masters of festivals so during the summer there was at least 3 different festivals going on every week. My favourite this year was AppleSap which was headlined by FatJoe.

Is there anything else you would like to add?

I’m planning on extending my visa at the end of this year with a partnership visa that will allow me to stay another 5 years and at that point, if I want to, I can take a permanent residence test. If anyone from America has a question about how I got my freelance visa, I’m an open book. :) Also! Check out my blog, Aprilinamsterdam.blogspot.com

1 comment:

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