Have you ever thought about moving abroad? Check out Donielle, the featured traveler this week who is currently living in Amsterdam. Can you imagine being able to have a fabulous career in another country? She does and is doing it well!
Donielle Johnson is the Senior Manager of Regulatory Affairs at Philips Healthcare. She received her B.S from Howard University and did her graduate research at the University of Southern California. She has over 10 years experience in the medical device field working in global clinical and regulatory affairs in the cardiovascular field. Donielle loves to travel and her favorite vacation to date is the month she spent in South Africa back in 2006. The spirit of the people of South Africa combined with the culture, history, food and wine make South Africa Donielle’s must visit vacation recommendation. In 2014, her passion for travel, scientific innovation, and her desire to submerge herself into a different culture led her to an opportunity abroad.
1. What do you do for a living?
I am a scientist who manages clinical and regulatory strategies for a medical device company
2. How did you end up with a career in Amsterdam?
I was actually looking to move to London and an awesome job opportunity came up in the Netherlands so I moved to Amsterdam (which I had never visited before). I thought this move would allow me the opportunity to truly step outside my comfort zone. London was a safe choice because English is the official language and it is easy to get the comforts of living in the US (i.e. whole foods). However, I had never visited the Netherlands so I knew very little about Dutch culture and I don’t speak the language. It has definitely been an adventure.
3. How long have you been there and how long will you be there?
I have been here since January 28, 2014 so I am coming up on my first year here. I am on an indefinite contract (permanent job) so I don’t know when/if I will return to the US. My goal is to evaluate it on a yearly basis. I am enjoying the adventure and I will see where this journey takes me.
4. What are some of the biggest differences working in Holland?
The biggest difference is Work-Life Balance is a real thing here and not a slogan that companies just use. Standard vacation time is 5 weeks (I get 7 weeks because I am in management), maternity leave is 6 months paid, and people actually leave the office at a reasonable hour, enjoy their vacations without being connected to their blackberry or email, and family time is very important in Dutch culture.
5. What is it like being a Black American in Amsterdam?
Amsterdam is an international city so there are people from all over that live in Amsterdam, so I just feel normal. Most of the black people I know that live here are Surinamese or from Curacao so the only difference between them and I is that I don’t speak Dutch. I have a group of young friends that are American (black and white), Canadian, and Black Dutch. We all like to listen to music, go to nice restaurants, museums, concerts, and talk about current affairs. There are definitely a lot more commonalities amongst us than you would think.
6. Have you been able to travel since you moved abroad?
Since moving to Amsterdam, I have traveled a lot in Germany (Hamburg, Cologne, Frankfurt, Dusseldorf, Melsungen, Kassel) on business and I’ve done London and Florence on holiday. When I first moved here I actually was going back to the US on business and looking for a house (the house hunt was brutal) so I didn’t travel as much. Now that I am settled in my new place and my new job role, I plan to use all of my vacation this year and travel to Lisbon, Madrid, Milan, Reunion, Singapore. I also will be doing a lot of travel in Asia and the US for work.
7. Is it difficult to be away from your family?
I am originally from New Orleans and I left home in 1997 to attend college at Howard University and I haven’t lived at home since then. After my mother died in 2006 (my father died in 1993), it was harder to be away from my sister and nephew so I used to travel home at least 4 times a year. Since being here I have gone home once and I am heading home for Mardi Gras in a few months. I do think it is hard on my nephew with me being so far and the fact that we can’t talk everyday. I am going to buy an ipad so we can facetime daily and I am planning to fly him here this summer and take him to the Harry Potter experience in London. I feel like this opportunity will give them a chance to see the world.
8. Was taking public transportation easy to get accustomed to?
Public transportation in Amsterdam is GREAT! The train and tram system connets easy. Most people bike everywhere, but I’m not a great bike rider so I have not purchased a bike yet. I will say I do miss having a car to run errands, but I do enjoy exploring the city by just picking a direction and walking.
9. Are there any customs you appreciate that you plan of continuing once you move back to the states?
I’m not sure I would call it a custom, but eating fresh and in season. In Amsterdam there are farmers markets 6 days a week (closed on Sundays). I love the fact that I can get fresh organic food at reasonable prices. I eat better and I am healther because I eat fresh. Also refrigerators here are much smaller and most people don’t have freezers.
10. How has living overseas changed you?
I will say living here has definitely made me work on my patience. I have never been one that has patience; especially for bad customer service. However, things are done differently here so it doesn’t make any sense to be upset when things don’t go as planned. I will say it still bothers me just a tad bit that people have no sense or respect for time and customer service in restaurants is non existent.
Have you ever thought about moving abroad? Which country would you want to live in?