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With roughly 60% of our tax placements being cross-border relocations, we naturally get asked a lot about living abroad. And whilst Harvey John can share plenty of advice, there’s so much more to be gained from hearing the personal journeys of those who have taken the leap themselves and moved abroad to advance their tax career!
So every fortnight, we’ll be releasing a new edition of ‘The Tax Expat’, where we dive into the personal stories and experiences of a tax specialist. We feel it’s extremely important to keep this varied, so these insights will come from those across all levels – from Tax Analysts to Partners! No matter the level of tax discipline, it’s about bringing unique insights to those who are toying with the idea of relocating.
So with that said, we’re very pleased to be sharing the story of our first ‘Tax Expat’, David Rito, who relocated from Portugal to the Netherlands back in 2016…
David, thanks for joining us to share your experiences for The Tax Expat. Can you start by telling tell us a few words about yourself?
I’m David, 24 years old, and a proud Portuguese who has recently found The Netherlands to be the perfect place to take the next step in my career. I work for DHL as a VAT Analyst and I hope my experiences will help others to take the leap and move abroad!
So, your big relocation story Where does this story start & why did you consider relocating abroad?
The story starts in 2015 when I did the Erasmus scheme in Zagreb, Croatia and got to experience life in brand new culture and meet people from all over Europe. I gained so many new experiences, like:
- Recognising how others think and question my beliefs.
- Adapt my lifestyle to the local lifestyle.
- Testing myself to see if I can handle the differences between Portugal and the country where I was living.
I soon realised made it my goal to move abroad. And in 2017, I was attending a Taxation Masters in Lisbon and I found it very interesting what I was learning about VAT (its background and its potential). At this time, I was also looking for a new opportunity since in PwC Portugal I didn’t feel challenged enough. As I wanted to have another international experience, I felt this would be the moment, particularly with the cross-border nature of working in VAT. Then, I decided to apply to VAT vacancies across Europe with the help of Harvey John and DHL appeared with the best offer!
Why did you choose to move to The Netherlands?
It has the best work-life balance among OECD’s countries (OECD Better Life Index), the Dutch have great respect for employees by the management, and it’s a country which welcomes ex-pats with good wages and a great standard of living. Also, during my research, I found out that The Netherlands as a country is always looking for improvement daily and that matched my personality.
And how are you finding this experience so far?
Amazing! The Netherlands and DHL immediately met my expectations, so I feel completely fulfilled at the moment. My team is always supporting me when I face difficulties in my tasks, I feel people believe in my potential and they give me challenges according to that. In The Netherlands, the people are always willing to help (give directions/advice) and they have a very active Expat Center which helps the ex-pats in their first months understand what they need to do.
For me, the differences between The Netherlands and Portugal come in four areas:
- You’ll find higher salaries in The Netherlands due to it having a much stronger economy than Portugal.
- Dutch cuisine, for me, almost doesn’t exist… A slice of bread and cheese doesn’t count!
- The weather is completely different since Portugal is the European country with the most sun hours and in The Netherlands, we usually say that “summer is the most beautiful day in the year!”
- And last but not least, the lifestyle. For example, you start working earlier (normally at 8 am), have just half an hour for lunch, and shops close at 6 pm.
Can you share the biggest struggle in the whole process?
Fortunately, I didn’t have any problem until now. But the biggest concern ex-pats face in The Netherlands is finding a house. Since many expats are willing to work here and few houses, prices are very expensive.
What’s the most important thing you’ve learnt about yourself since moving abroad?
To achieve what we want, we need to make sacrifices. I want to be a successful tax specialist and I moved abroad to enhance my prospects. That means being far from my home and my loved ones, which was (and still is) a huge sacrifice for me.
David, if you had your time again, what would you have done differently?
Learning the local language as soon as possible. Yes, the Dutch speak English perfectly (they’re even considered the best non-native English speakers). However, this advice is more about feeling included in society and the daily tasks (going for groceries, rental contracts, taxation topics, news). Also, it’s my opinion you can only fully understand a culture when you understand its language.
So living life in The Netherlands as an ex-pat; is there anything that you miss in particular?
In the beginning, I missed my routines in Portugal. Sunday lunch with my family, going out with my friends, and going for a walk on the beach are some examples. But I saw this not as an obstacle but as an opportunity to create new hobbies. Now, I have friends here who I make plans with during the weekend and have the opportunity to live in one of the most beautiful cities in The Netherlands which allows me to walk and appreciate its beauty.
I still miss my family, friends, food and the weather but it’s a sacrifice I am willing to make.
How would you rate your relocation experience overall? If you could turn back the time – would you have made the same move?
10 out of 10. It was one of the best decisions in my life!
What advice can you share for other tax professionals who are considering a relocation abroad for their careers?
During the first weeks/months, get out of your place as much as possible to meet new people (other ex-pats and locals) and get familiar with your new city. It will help you a lot in the moving abroad process.
Finally, don’t be afraid and just go! I won’t say it’s easy (it’s completely the opposite) but it’s worth it! If you want to know more about yourself, take the opportunity to work and live abroad. One day I will come back to Portugal, but I will never say I regret having this experience!
David, thank you so much for your time – it was great to hear your experiences and to be able to share them with our network of tax professionals!
Are you a Tax Expat? If so, we’d love to hear about your experiences and share them with our global tax network. For more information, please contact Alex Mann.
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From boutiques to the Big 4, and start-ups to multinational corporations, Alex manages a diverse portfolio of clients worldwide which has enabled him to develop a vast global network of indirect tax and tax technology professionals in 40+ countries.