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Knowledge - Employees tell

Working at Wesselman | "Great things never happen within your comfort zone!"

Four women, two striking similarities. Nicole, Ger-Mari, Casné, and Mieke decided to move from South Africa to a new life in the Netherlands and a career at Wesselman. A brave decision. I spoke to them about this leap of faith and asked them all about it. Curious about the biggest cultural differences, special moments during their first week at work, and the expectations they had about life in the Netherlands – and Wesselman as an employer? Read on to find out.


What was it like taking the leap?

“For me, it was amazing,” says Nicole excitedly. “It was a fresh start. My husband and I were ready for a new adventure. But, of course, we’re not doing it just for ourselves. Also, for our children. Dutch culture is similar to our culture in South Africa, so that was a good fit. Looking back, it’s been a great adventure thus far!”

“I found it stressful but at the same time, very exciting,” says Ger-Mari. “Exciting because you’re starting something new, but also stressful because you don’t know what to expect. Great things never happen within your comfort zone. A change like this gives you the opportunity to grow personally and professionally. I started  working at Wesselman two days after my arrival in the Netherlands, so there was little time to overthink things,” she says with a laugh.

What stood out during the first week at work?

“There’s flexible hierarchy here,” says Mieke. “Everyone chooses their own workspace and makes coffee for each other. The first time one of the partners asked if I wanted another cup of coffee, I was pleasantly surprised. Such small gestures are very normal here.”

“The workspaces are great,” adds Casné. “The adjustable desks are so nice. The Thursday afternoon lunch also stood out for me. It’s not only very enjoyable but also well catered. On other days, colleagues like to go for walks during lunch. It’s great for clearing your mind!”

“This way, you achieve a better balance. Colleagues get some fresh air and have a good break. You also don’t feel guilty doing this because it’s so normal here. This is very different compared to our lunch breaks in South Africa and it is very refreshing!”

Is learning the language challenging?

“The Dutch language is harder than I expected,” admits Mieke honestly. Ger-Mari nods in agreement. “Our Dutch vocabulary could be better. We understand some of the words because it is close to the Afrikaans language, but it’s difficult to express yourself in a foreign language. Colleagues speak Dutch to us on a daily basis and this helps to learn the language faster."

“In South Africa, the business language is English, so in a professional setting, I rarely spoke Afrikaans. My English vocabulary is extensive, but not (yet) in Dutch. During meetings, I’m sometimes surprised by how much I understand, but I find it harder to express myself well.”

Does this lead to funny moments?

“Absolutely,” the ladies chorus in unison. “We all have stories about situations where we used the wrong words,” says Casné. “Recently, someone asked if I was almost done with my tasks. I confidently replied that I was 'amper klaar’. In Afrikaans ‘amper’ means ‘almost or nearly’, but in Dutch, it’s the opposite. When I saw the surprised look on my colleague’s face, I realized this wasn’t quite right. We mix words from the different languages. We can laugh about it together. Ultimately, it’s about valuing and respecting each other. We try to communicate in Dutch, and our Dutch colleagues in English. Most of the time, it works great, and occasionally, it leads to very funny moments.”

“Sometimes I talk to someone and think my Dutch is brilliant but because the accents and dialects are so different per region here, there are other conversations that I feel completely lost in” says Nicole with a laugh. “The dialects and accents are indeed very different,” confirms Mieke. “My friend works in Belgium. They speak three different languages there. That’s even more challenging!”

Which image you had of Wesselman turned out to be very different in practice?

“I was very open-minded when I came here – I didn’t set too many expectations,” says Mieke. “If you set high expectations, it can also disappoint. It can be challenging to adapt, so it’s best to take things as they come.” The other ladies nod in agreement.

“It has been a pleasant surprise to experience your employer being so incredibly concerned about your work-life balance and personal well-being. It's not something that is just spoken about but something that is actively encouraged and supported,” admits Nicole. 

What makes Wesselman a great place to work?

“It's a very welcoming environment, and there is open communication due to the flexible hierarchy. Everyone is friendly and willing to help," says Ger-Mari. "There are high levels of trust and we have freedom to operate with regards to work. In one-on-one conversations with my coach, she asks how work is going, but she is also genuinely interested in me as a person. She asks how I am settling in the Netherlands and adjusting to the changes.”

“I agree with that. I also appreciate that it’s a learning environment. I have a completely different legal background. There are similarities between the work I used to do and what I do now, but I want to develop within the field. The fact that this is possible here is great,” says Casné. “I’m naturally very curious and want to understand why things are the way they are. Here, time and effort is taken to explain things when the situation calls for it. It makes Wesselman a great place to work.”