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Over the years, Paragin has gained customers from various countries in Europe. Our software has expanded with additional languages and over the course of 2020, three international colleagues have joined the organisation! They’ll walk us through their experience with working in the Netherlands after Jeroen Bakker, one of Paragin’s founders, will talk about how the international contacts came to be.
Jeroen: “When we founded Paragin, we didn’t have a specific focus on international contacts. There’s a lot of work to be done in the Netherlands, after all. Still, our software is very capable of supporting different organisations all around Europe. This is shown by some of our partners that have been working very closely with international customers. In addition to that, several contacts approached us themselves, for example a school located in Flanders (Belgium).”
“It’s important to have input from different points of view. It’s great for our creativity and it’s something I personally enjoy. Users in other countries share their thoughts with us and it’s interesting to see the differences. For example, in France and Italy, teachers feel it’s important to use what they are most comfortable with, whereas Dutch teachers are generally interested in trying something new. Another example is Germany, where following procedures is valued highly. Then there’s Latvia, which has… a very similar perspective as we do in the Netherlands! We met our contact there through a SUSTEIN convention and they really like what we are doing.”
Of course, with all these international contacts, the Remindo-software needs additional languages. These are often provided by the organisations themselves. We did hire someone so we could add the German language.
Last year, we hired three international colleagues, which was a first for our organisation! With the help of a recruiter, Huxley, we were able to connect with the right people for our developer team.”
Stefano, Naziha and Aimilia will gladly explain their experiences below by answering a few questions!
How did you find and/or come into contact with Paragin?
Stefano: I was working for a big ecommerce company at the time, but my job was not fullfilling enough and I was looking for a position that would have more impact. I’ve been a teacher in the past, so it would be a plus to be somehow related back to the education field. I found out about Paragin and their field of work, and it immediately looked like the ideal place for me. We got in touch, I had a lot of fun doing their assignment and I think it has been the most interesting assignment that I ever did. And the rest is history!
Naziha: I came into contact with Paragin through a recruiter. My first meeting was with Peter and Remko and afterwards I was hired for the development team to work on the Remindo software!
Aimilia: My first contact in relation with Paragin was initiated via LinkedIn and more specifically through a discussion with a recruitment agency. We were discussing several options and out of those I found the most interesting and intriguing one to be Paragin! My first talk with Peter and Remko was face-to-face, casual with an easy-going atmosphere.
What was your experience in the first weeks of working at Paragin? Was it difficult for you to adjust to talking in English, or did you have a comparable working environment beforehand?
S: I come from Ascoli Piceno, a somewhat small city from Italy, I could say I always had a hard time there to be in a more international environment, so I always looked forward having a more rich experience of that type. I enjoy and am used to talking in English. Other than this I also think that trying to learn Dutch is very important as a way to integrate more and understand about the culture and the social dynamics. Dutch is not easy to learn though, so it takes a while!
N: The first weeks at Paragin were full of meetings and a lot of information to absorb and process. I also remember that my first weeks/months were very tiring, especially because of all the transport I had to take in order to get to the office. Regarding the language, I already had the same experience in my previous job where everyone spoke English as a second language. So no problems there!
A: My first 2 weeks at Paragin in 1 word: fun! To that feeling we have to add a very small amount of loneliness, because my on-boarding took place during corona times so not everyone could be present in the office. Adjusting to an English context was no issue for me, since I have been in the Netherlands for almost 3 yrs now, while working in similar environments. The on-boarding process was by far the best one I have ever experienced! Congratulations to Paragin and the development team for setting this up!
Can you name a few things that are different when comparing the Dutch working-culture with the one in your home country and/or the culture you’re used to? This could be anything, from lunch times to the way of communicating. If you have no obvious differences, perhaps there were things that were surprisingly similar?
S: Of course there are a lot of small but interesting differences and since I have been a consultant in the past, I have the skills to see in between the lines and understand the underlying issues. The biggest difference I see about the working culture is that in Italy it is more likely to happen that you know when you go to the office, but you never know when you go back home. From my experience this always somewhat reflect poor management from the owner of the company, so I appreciate the effort here in the Netherlands to keep a healthy environment with a proper management.
N: Both my student and professional life were in Spain before I came to the Netherlands, there’s a few very obvious differences. Spanish people are much more expressive than Dutch people. They speak a lot more and they’re louder! The different lunch times were a big change, because in Spain, most people take about two hours to go home to eat, relax and then go back to work. This is not done in the Netherlands. And lastly: Dutch people are more organized, in my opinion. Everything is planned beforehand. I think this is one of the reasons that can explain the success of the Netherlands as country.
A: The first thing that comes to my mind is the differences in the way we eat lunches with many colleagues at the same time and in a specific time-slot. In my country we do not seem to appreciate lunches this much, so most of the time we spend only a little while (15 minutes or so) to finish our lunch, sometimes just in front of our computer. There are also communication-related differences. For example in my country we use indirect communication while in the Netherlands direct communication. This took me some time to get accustomed to but eventually I managed to switch. After the switch I think I do prefer the direct way of things.
Do you think that the Netherlands in general does a good job at accommodating internationals/expats? Perhaps there’s also something that you dislike about it?
S: The Netherlands is a great place for expats, especially after Brexit it could really become the new international central hub of Europe. Unfortunately I think the country is just not much aware yet of this opportunity so it’s not properly investing on it. While from one side it is possible to live here while only speaking English, I see a lot of Dutch people not really prepared for such a fast changing scenario, especially in smaller cities. Dutch is a hard language to learn and there is not much other use for it other than in the country itself (like it would be for Spanish or English languages for example, that you can use it almost anywhere in the world) so it would be nice if the Dutch country would be willing to embrace English at a faster pace while giving expat the chance to integrate more easily.
N: It depends on the expat you are and where you are from. It was surprising to experience that someone’s background combined with their name can be a barrier for some people and that was my case.
A: Accommodation in the Netherlands is fine in my opinion. English is almost like a 2nd language here for most people and facilities can be found everywhere. However integrating can be daunting sometimes especially if someone is not familiar with the Dutch language at all.
Can you think of a funny or otherwise memorable situation you encountered at Paragin or in the Netherlands?
S: Coming from Italy, I can’t help but feel that “food culture shock” could be behind the corner at any time, like the way lunch and breakfast are handled here, and understanding the difference between Italian coffee and Dutch one!
N: Maybe not exactly funny, but it is something I heard a lot before and could realize now: the cultural influences can be really important to understand jokes of other people!
A: I remember having some funny moments in the 1st face-to-face interview, normally we shake hands but in covid times we felt awkward for not being able to shake hands or come closer.. we had some fun there 🙂